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Emilio Pucci, the Italian marchese who gave the international set its uniform of Pucci pants, Pucci shirts and Pucci silk-knit dresses, and Jeanne Essig, a New York designer whose coordinated sports clothes sell at modest prices, are the winners of the sixth annual SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Design Awards. More than 500 retailers and fashion writers voted in the annual competition. Pucci will receive the Sporting Look Award and Miss Essig the Designer of the Year Award at a ceremony in New York June 8.
Pucci, the first foreign sportswear designer to be honored, is as colorful a personality as anyone working in the field of fashion. The scion of a Florentine family that dates back to Renaissance Italy, he has created clothes that are worn all over the world. Women who buy one Pucci garment usually become collectors of them, particularly the tight tapered pants that he introduced in dozens of colors and fabrics. They combine the pants with the brilliantly patterned silk shirts that also are a Pucci specialty.
The current rage of Pucci collectors is a silk jersey tube dress that weighs only ounces and can be folded up to handkerchief size. According to Lord & Taylor, one of Pucci's biggest retail outlets in the U.S., many women own. 12 to 15 of these dresses (they sell for about $100) and wear them as a status symbol of international travel.
Pucci's success—he grosses about $3 million a year—can be accounted for in part by the fact that his designs are simple and, once they are established, don't change. Pucci's way of fitting tapered pants made them feminine and flattering. He felt that the feminine hipline was neglected in fashion, and developed a girdle that lifted, instead of flattening, the buttocks. Pucci feels that this girdle, made by a U.S. company, should be worn with Pucci pants and with his form-revealing knitted dresses. His newest interest is stretch fabric, of the sort used for his "capsulas," one of which is shown at left. "These are the fabrics of the future," Pucci says.
A gentler trend
The famous shock colors—pink, turquoise, acid greens—that Pucci introduced to the sportswear world in the past decade are now softening into muted pinks and grays. His bold geometric prints are gentling into blocks of color separated by curving, entwined lines. Pucci's new romanticism is based on a conviction that mankind has had a surfeit of perfect mechanical forms. "When a man has seen the aerodynamic shape of a Caravelle jet at an airport," he says sardonically, "he doesn't need aerodynamic furniture."
The marchesc was one of Italy's most highly decorated pilots in World War II, is a crack skier and a sports car enthusiast. Pucci's friends believe that he is strongly influenced by his wife, Cristina, whom he married in 1959. She is a handsome blonde, who presented him with a son 15 months ago and is now expecting a second child.
Designer Jeanne Essig, whose clothes are produced by a sportswear firm in New York called Majestic Specialties, Inc., operates in the hurly-burly of Seventh Avenue but has a cool and collected approach to design that is not unlike Pucci's. Miss Essig is the darling of American retailers and of the customer who likes to put together her own look in sports clothes. The Essig designs are simple and uncluttered, and can be worn in almost endless combinations of the wearer's own choice.
To provide retailers and customers with the variety of clothing types and weights needed for different seasons and climates, Miss Essig produces five different collections a year, with 150 pieces in each colection. The ingredients she provides include sweaters, skirts, blouses, pants, shorts, jackets, coats, playsuits, play-dresses and even such specialized designs as tennis dresses. A sweater in an Essig collection is designed to go with any one of five different skirts, three different pairs of pants and the tennis dress.
Until she started working with Majestic in 1953 all of these items were produced by different manufacturers and the job of putting complete outfits together was left to the department store buyer and the women who wanted to wear them. Now Majestic's coordinated groups are carried in 3,000 stores, and the firm is listed on the American Stock Exchange as doing a volume of $22 million a year. Miss Essig is vice-president of the firm in charge of design—one of the few designers in New York's garment industry to have this distinction.