Dennis Scully: From our headquarters in New York City, this is Business of Home. I'm your host, Dennis Scully. Every week I'll be talking to leaders and innovators from all corners of the home industry. I hope you'll join me.
Dennis Scully: We'd like to thank our friends at Fuigo for sponsoring this episode. In case, you're unfamiliar or have been living under a coffee table; hey, we don't blame you. Fuigo is the industry's most comprehensive project management software for design professionals. Meticulously developed alongside designers like you, Fuigo is tailored to the way you work and built to foster your success. Learn more at fuigo.com. That's F-U-I-G-O.com. And now, on with the show.
Dennis Scully: My guest this week is Ralph Pucci, founder of Ralph Pucci International. Ralph, thank you so much for joining us.
Ralph Pucci: Thank you.
Dennis Scully: I say "joining us," but really we're joining Ralph in that we're actually sitting at Ralph's desk in his office so thank you for letting us come to you.
Ralph Pucci: Very good.
Dennis Scully: Let's take people through the history, not everyone might be as familiar as we are with Ralph Pucci International.
Dennis Scully: Your family in the early 1950s has a mannequin repair business, is that right?
Ralph Pucci: Yes. The mannequin company started in 1954 in the basement of my parent's house in Mt. Vernon, New York. I think it's a terrific story. My grandfather is in the plaster business. He used to make statues that you see on the road side of … The Blessed Virgin Mary or …
Dennis Scully: Sure.
Ralph Pucci: Fun things like that. My father was the salesman, my mother was the wig maker and makeup artist and they would go to the different department stores to pick up the mannequins and repair the mannequins in the basement of their home. Over time, they were able to grow and they took a small place on 28th Street, 2000 square feet and I came in the business 1976.
Ralph Pucci: That's when we decided that they had all the positions. They had the casters, they had the finishers, they had the sprayers, they had the packers. They had all the positions expect the sculptor. We had to hire a sculptor and that's when we started to do our own mannequins.
Dennis Scully: They had all of the positions meaning all of the tools and different work stations that you would need to create mannequins.
Ralph Pucci: Exactly. Yeah.
Dennis Scully: Except they didn't have a sculptor, someone with a vision to articulate what the look was going to be.
Ralph Pucci: Well, yeah. The vision would come from us. The sculptor would execute the vision.
Dennis Scully: Okay.
Ralph Pucci: That's when I came in. my father was very open to ideas and we decided that the first collection of mannequin … Everyone at that particular time was doing mannequins that were very elegant and very, very sophisticated and very cheek.
Ralph Pucci: Mannequins back then always came with the wigs and were very stylish. They were really good. They were really good so how do you differentiate yourself? We went the absolute opposite way. We decided to do mannequins that were in athletic poses. Mannequins that did handstands. Mannequins that were jogging. More lifestyle. Now it's very common but back then it wasn't.
Ralph Pucci: Instead of painting the mannequins out in realistic skin tone and putting wings on them, we just spray them out high gloss black, high gloss red and it became more of a sculptural element to a store. In repetition, if you see the joggers and you do three or six or even joggers running down a walk way of a store or in the window, it became very powerful and was very successful.
Dennis Scully: This was what? The late 1970s or early '80s?
Ralph Pucci: Yes. This is probably around '78.
Dennis Scully: Okay. Who were some of your customers at the time? Who were some of the retailers that were buying mannequins from you?
Ralph Pucci: One of the first to buy is Barneys Downtown way before they became Barneys Uptown. Barneys was a good customer of ours. There were Gimbels, there was Macy's, there were so many stores in the '70s. It was boom time for retail. It was an exciting time. Saks Fifth Avenue, you know, all the stores were actually …
Ralph Pucci: The great thing about the visual merchandizing industry and retail in the '80 is they were always open to new ideas and they always embrace new ideas. I think it's really great that they were able to do that. That gave me the confidence not only to do the mannequins but even to take the gamble many years later to go into furniture with Andrée Putman.
Dennis Scully: Right. Let's talk about Andrée Putman and for our listeners that might not be familiar with who Andrée Putman is, would you just explain a little bit of her background because she's just an extraordinary …
Ralph Pucci: Sure. Andrée is a designer from Paris. She passed away around five years ago. She had her career. She was a visionary, there's no question. She championed the workers you Michel Frank, Eileen Gray, Pierre Chareau, way before that whole style was being accepted. She was one of the first in Paris to have a loft. She did some of the very cutting edge stores that were opening in Paris. I think she did Thierry Mugler. I think she also might have done Yves Saint Laurent stores.
Ralph Pucci: Her big claim to fame in United States was doing the Morgans Hotel with Ian Schrager which he invented, I think, the way a hotel is looked at. She did the interior of the France Concorde. She had style and style and style.
Dennis Scully: She was an extraordinary figure.
Ralph Pucci: Extraordinary and she always dressed in Azzedine Alaïa. Back then smoking was fashionable and she smoked and smoked.
Dennis Scully: Non-stop.
Ralph Pucci: Non-stop and she had this very deep voice that was just so dramatic and what she walked into a room, everyone looked. She demanded the attention. She was just a true visionary. I was very lucky to meet her when I was young. I think I met her like I was 28 years old. We did a mannequin together for the Downtown Barney store when Barneys first started to show women's clothing.
Dennis Scully: She came to Pucci and wanted to commission a mannequin or a series of that?
Ralph Pucci: Well, what actually happened Mallory Andrews from, at the time, Barneys publicist and Gene Pressman, at the time, Barneys owner came to me and said, "Would you do a mannequin exclusively for us for the Downtown women's store that was opening," I think in the early '80s like '85, maybe.
Ralph Pucci: We already had a reputation of working with edgy people because in the mannequin business, as I said, we always … If everyone went right doing those classic mannequins, I always went the other way. When you go the other way, you opened up to so many different possibilities. We were doing all these abstract ideas. The mannequins had to be dressed when you did a show and so we were always using young fashion designers. We were using Isabel Toledo in the early '80s and Stephen Sprouse, the great fashion designers.
Ralph Pucci: All these really edgy people who were living in New York at the time, we were utilizing their talent whether they were illustrators or photographers or a fashion designer. Barneys knew I was doing that. They love that I was doing the action mannequins and so we were the always choice at that point in time.
Dennis Scully: They wanted a groundbreaking new look for the Downtown store?
Ralph Pucci: Yup and they pretty much did not give … Which is also great. Andrée came with very, very fresh eyes. She had no experience with a mannequin., years later she told me she was even intimidated by doing it but she loved the process. She loved the process because you're touching the clay, you're working with the sculptor, you get immediate results whereas when you're designing the hotel, it takes years.
Ralph Pucci: An idea that could be presented for the hotel, a year down the road it's actually [inaudible 00:07:55] with us. She had an idea with the clay, five minutes later it was executed so she loved working on the project and she came into it with a totally fresh set of eyes. She didn't have-
Dennis Scully: Because she had never done that?
Ralph Pucci: She had never done it which is so, so important. Even though I grew up in the business of the mannequin world, I didn't spend that much time. Saturdays, I would come to Pucci and pack the bases or go with my father to deliver the mannequins but I also came into the business with fresh eyes. That's why I had the vision, if everyone is going right I went left. I said, "Well, that's pretty good. We can't do that. Let's go somewhere else."
Ralph Pucci: Andrée was the same way. Overtime, I think we thought alike and that's why I think we got along so well. She was if something had been done, there was no reason to do it again particularly if it had been done well. Why? Just … It's not a commodity that we're doing at Pucci. She wasn't doing … She was always looking for something new.
Ralph Pucci: The whole Andrée Putman mannequin story was the beginning of everything for me. When we did the mannequin it was sort of art deco, it was Amazonian. That's when, as you know, [Lyle 00:09:04] was just breaking, that's when Thierry Mugle, Claude Montana with the big shoulders.
Dennis Scully: Yeah.
Ralph Pucci: She wanted a combination of all that feel and we also spray that mannequin in in deep golds and silvers and it looked like it had come out of the earth which was very, very new at the time as well because again, people were still doing the realistic mannequin and here comes this Andrée Putman Olympian goddess mannequin that … Where did it come from?
Ralph Pucci: It was big success for Barneys. When we did the opening launch, it was incredible success because of we had her audience. Her audience was Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Basquiat. We brought in all the top stores from United States, all the stores from Europe and the fashion designer was Isabel Toledo so she brought her crowd in who are all the up-and-coming fashion people of the United States. It was just a real mix of-
Dennis Scully: This was the most extraordinary opening party ever, right?
Ralph Pucci: Yes. Yeah. Yes.
Dennis Scully: It sounds like it was … Andy Warhol, as you say was there. All of the big department store people where there, the big fashion designers-
Ralph Pucci: Right, yeah. A thousand people, which had never been done in the mannequin business before and which was great because it was a mix of power people, downtown people, funky people. It was a great, great, great mix of unique and an important people.
Ralph Pucci: They put this on the map of. I think the next day Page six wrote about it. Nina Hyde at the Washington Post, the legendary writer journalist, she gave it a page and a half, The Olympian Goddesses Now … The Changing of the Mannequin World and People, Pucci is Taking Chances. Andrée is Taking Chances and it's All Going to Change.
Dennis Scully: Right. Exactly. It's all going to change. It seemed to somehow signify that there was this new wave coming.
Ralph Pucci: Yeah, yeah. Now the rules were broken. No longer did you have to do the realistic mannequin. Anything could go and that's when … It was just an avalanche of ideas then I started to work with Ruben Toledo, the illustrator, the painter. I started work with Kenny Scharf, the artist. I started to work with Mara Calman.
Ralph Pucci: We started to do mannequins with orange hair and green hair and green noses. It just became this fantasy world and it was all accepted because the stores were really begging for newness.
Dennis Scully: That's what they thought would catch people's attention, draw people in and so they used the mannequins as an art and sculpture, right?
Ralph Pucci: They used the mannequins as art, sculpture and obviously to create a unique environment.
Dennis Scully: You had this incredible party at Barneys.
Ralph Pucci: That party was at Pucci not at Barneys.
Dennis Scully: It was at Pucci?
Ralph Pucci: Yeah.
Dennis Scully: Okay. The party was here for the mannequin?
Ralph Pucci: For the launch.
Dennis Scully: Okay. Everybody came here, was it this space that-
Ralph Pucci: No we were at Downtown at that time. In the '80s we were at 578 Broadway which was also new. SoHo is not SoHo of today. It was lot of galleries then. A lot of the artists lived there. All the important artists actually lived down in SoHo at that particular time.
Dennis Scully: Shortly thereafter, and you tell me, Andrée Putman approaches you about representing her furniture line, yes?
Ralph Pucci: Right. It's a cute story because then she invited me to go to one of her furniture openings. I love to tell the story. I was like, "Wow. This is going to be some opening and who's going to be there? It's going to be the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and everybody else." It's going to be incredible.
Ralph Pucci: We get there and there's like 30 people
Dennis Scully: You got the D&D Building?
Ralph Pucci: Yeah, which is-
Dennis Scully: Which is where her furniture?
Ralph Pucci: It's at the D&D Building and there's like 30 people and it's like … I hadn't been to the D&D Building before and it's incredibly typical type of building. We were in the loft in SoHo and now we're going up to a very standard type of store.
Ralph Pucci: It had no magic. It was lacking spirit and Andrée was always about spirit and uniqueness and so I was like, "Wow. This is really not what I expected." When I saw the crowd, it was all one type of person. Only the people from the furniture world.
Ralph Pucci: There's nothing worth at best being with one group. It's so much more fun to be with a total mix of unique people who have unique talents and unique vision.
Ralph Pucci: I was pretty disappointed and so Andrée said, "Would you like to have dinner after?" I said, "Sure." She said, "What did you think of the opening?" Now, also the presentation it's not just the lack of attendance. The presentation at Pucci we try to curate everything. If it's a still life, we give it a lot of room. You walk around, you see the pieces whether it's the mannequin or whether it's a piece of furniture.
Ralph Pucci: At this particular gallery that she was showing, the showroom that she was showing in, it must have been 500 pieces of furniture. There was office furniture, there was outdoor furniture and then there was Andrée's pieces which were Eileen Gray, Jean-Michel Frank, Pier Sheroe. Just mixed in.
Ralph Pucci: It was visually not exciting and these were all things that at dinner Andrée mentioned to me. She says, "Why don't you sell my furniture? Why don't we work together?" I said, "I don't know anything about furniture, Andrée. I don't know anything about the furniture industry." She's, "Oh, you have a lot of passion and you're intelligent and all you have to do is try and you'll be successful, I guarantee you." I basically said, "Well, thank you for thinking of me and we'll see."
Dennis Scully: Thank you but no.
Ralph Pucci: Yeah, thank you but no. I didn't actually say no. You don't say no to Andrée Putman.
Dennis Scully: Right, right.
Ralph Pucci: But I didn't say yes.
Dennis Scully: You just didn't follow up?
Ralph Pucci: Yeah, right. Right. Exactly.
Dennis Scully: Okay. From what I gather, she was somewhat insistent and so she kept coming back to you.
Ralph Pucci: Well, she was coming to New York because she was doing the Morgan Hotel and we decided, with the great success of the first Andrée Putman, The Olympian Goddess, we needed to do the husband, the male mannequin.
Dennis Scully: Okay. That's what was missing, it was the husband?
Ralph Pucci: She did the husband. When she was coming to New York in such a regular basis and now she's doing the husband for me, she would have the opportunity to say, "Have you thought about the furniture?" She was able to keep at it.
Dennis Scully: Eventually, you say yes to something. What did you ultimately say yes to?
Ralph Pucci: What happened was retail was changing dramatically at that time. It was a very down period. Macy's had file Chapter 11. A guy named Campeau bought all of federation … All federated stores went into Chapter 11. You have basically half of the United States in Chapter 11. When stores are in Chapter 11, they're obviously are not buying mannequins and looking to reinvent the image of the story.
Ralph Pucci: I said, "We have to be very careful here so why don't I take a chance and show Andrée's work?" I did it in a way that really was not a big financial expenditure. I had a mannequin show coming up and I said, "Why don't we use the mannequin and use the furniture as sort of the prop as if it was in a window?"
Ralph Pucci: We would take the Eileen Gray transat chair and have it shown with maybe a mannequin in front and maybe a mannequin behind it, a beautiful still life image of that. "Why don't we take the Lartigue table which was black and white and have a mannequin near it?"
Ralph Pucci: Just through these beautiful vinyets utilizing the furniture so it created an environment, it created a spirit for the showroom and at the same time, if someone wanted it, it could be sold. You could get it done very simply and it wasn't that big of an expense as I said.
Ralph Pucci: What happened was we had Dayton-Hudson's come in, one of the gigantic, legendary names in retail visual merchandising, store design was a man named Andy Markopoulos from Dayton-Hudson. He had incredibly fine eye. He walked in and loved the showroom and he started to point. We love pointers.
Ralph Pucci: He says, "I'll take six tables of Lartigue. I'll take 24 Eileen Gray transat chairs. I'll take 24 Jean-Michel two seat sofas."
Dennis Scully: My goodness.
Ralph Pucci: "I'll take Jean-Michel Frank club chairs and I'll take 24 Mariano Fortuny floor lamps." I called him to the side because he always traveled with a big entourage. He's there with 15 of his assistants. I said, "Andy, this is not display furniture. It's a little on the pricey side." Even back then, it was a little on the pricey side. He said, "No, I know Ralph, I know. The Lartigue table $15,000-"
Dennis Scully: More of those.
Ralph Pucci: He went on to name almost everything very, very close to the-
Dennis Scully: He understood? The price-
Ralph Pucci: He totally, totally, totally understood.
Dennis Scully: Okay.
Ralph Pucci: I called Andrée up on a Saturday because the show is back then used to either be Saturday and Sunday. They went from Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. I called Andrée up on Saturday and said, "Andrée, you won't believe this but Dayton-Hudson's just bought 500 pieces of our furniture." She said, "Oh, Ralph, you have to get the money because it's a different kind of industry."
Ralph Pucci: I said, "No, it's different I tell you because Dayton-Hudson is a very big department store in the Midwest and they want to utilize the furniture." She goes, "What do you mean utilize it?" I said, "Well, they're going to use it in a way that is a whole new lifestyle is starting to happen in the United States that you can come into a shop and the husband could sit down, read the Wall Street Journal and … Or the wife could come in and seat down and read a Vogue magazine while the other one tries on their clothes and shops. They're creating these environments and this is the environment for the designer shops so bingo. We were lucky." That was the beginning of the story.
Dennis Scully: Incredible.
Ralph Pucci: Yeah.
Dennis Scully: Incredible.
Ralph Pucci: Great story, right?
Dennis Scully: Yes. It's a great story and it's probably hard to repeat that success once you really got going but this, at least, helped you to take the leap and say, "Yes, we're going to try furniture."
Ralph Pucci: Absolutely. That was the beginning. That was the very, very beginning. Then we have one more lucky situation happened with retail and my furniture. We had The Limited, the department store … The specialty store, The Limited which was a very hot store in that time, that was Les Wexner's baby, they came in and bought a ton of furniture as well.
Ralph Pucci: We got out. We started out really, really successful in the beginning and then, reality set it.
Dennis Scully: Right. What was the reality after that?
Ralph Pucci: The reality, then we had to meet the architects and the decorators and it was whole new world. We were selling the furniture to my audience whereas I had to develop a whole new audience if it was going to be really a business for me.
Ralph Pucci: We started at ground zero. We just sent invites and little by little through Andrée's name. There were some big name people. She was friends with a lot of important people. They would come to the opening and then beginning the openings would be 150 people and then over time it grew up to be a very big happening.
Dennis Scully: Well, and as you were saying earlier, you had this incredible mix of people that come to your events, right?
Ralph Pucci: Right, right. So important.
Dennis Scully: Yes, yes. It's not a singular crowd and you've got-
Ralph Pucci: She loved that.
Dennis Scully: Yes. I'm sure.
Ralph Pucci: In fact, because I remember Stephen Sprouse, used to come to the openings and her friend David Seidner so it was a really fantastic important … People who now are legendary names but back then, they were working on great projects, doing innovative work. It was always really exciting at a Pucci party and they continue to be but when you look back who did attend our openings, it's just pretty great.
Dennis Scully: Yeah, it's really … I'm sure that's part of what helped to attract new artists and furniture makers and lightening designers and so many people I'm sure came to you as a result of-
Ralph Pucci: Absolutely. I always say, "Talent surrounds themselves with talent." Jeffrey Fulvimari, David LaChapelle, they all hang out together…
Dennis Scully: Right.
Ralph Pucci: Ruben and Isabel Toledo hangout with all these fantastic … Stephen Gan and James Kaliardos, all those great names who then went on to create Visionaire Magazine and then the Visionaire People. James Kaliardos would tell me someone I should check out, Cecilia Dean who is part of the Visionaire group. They would recommend … "Go check out the photography of Josef Astor. Go check out …" It's just a snowball. There's so much creativity particularly in New York at particular time. If you have your eyes and ears open, you really could find some incredibly talented people.
Dennis Scully: What was the time when all of these started to really happen with the furniture for you?
Ralph Pucci: Well, I met Andrée, I think in '85. We started doing the furniture probably in '89 and then, little by little … I think once we moved to this location that I'm at now, 44 West 18th Street is when we really took the furniture to another level. We had more space. They were still mannequin/furniture shows but we started to eliminate the mannequins when it wasn't season. In the mannequin world, there was two or three shows: Two in New York, one in San Francisco.
Ralph Pucci: When it wasn't show time for the mannequins, for the stores to come to the United States, we would remove the mannequins and the floors would just become furniture. That's when I think people started to take us very serious.
Dennis Scully: Okay. That it wasn't just about mixing the mannequins in with furniture? There was that-
Ralph Pucci: No. I think when we stopped mixing is when I think they started to really take us serious
Dennis Scully: Right.
Ralph Pucci: Yeah. The first person we signed up was Chris Lehrecke.
Dennis Scully: Okay.
Ralph Pucci: That's when, as I like to say the soundtrack or the piece of the puzzle that he would put in his puzzle together what we want this to be. The first person I had …
Ralph Pucci: Actually, what had happened was Andrée had sold her business and I hit it off very, very well with the new owner. Andrée stayed on as Creative Director but I started to think, "Wow!" I said, "Now, that we were making some headway in the furniture business, now it's time for me to create my own story," because if Andrée had left and the new owner of Ecart International didn't hit it off with me that would have been the end of my career in furniture.
Dennis Scully: Right.
Ralph Pucci: Short lived. But what happened was I saw that there was an opportunity in the furniture world as I saw there was an opportunity in the visual merchandising world and I think my idea of, as I say, "Everyone goes right," follow the sheep and go on with the realistic mannequins. In furniture, we went the other way. All the pieces that Andrée was promoting at that time was very, very new and differen.
Dennis Scully: Yeah.
Ralph Pucci: That's what I said Pucci Furniture has to be. It has to be new and different and if it's out there already, there's no reason for me to do another piece like that. I love the hand pieces, the hand work of Chris Lehrecke. I loved his wooden pedestals, think of Brancusi. I love his very shakerish coffee tables and I love the whole spirit and I love the hand of the artist.
Ralph Pucci: Again, the hand of the artist is very consistent to the mannequin world because the mannequins are sculpted by hand. It's very old world. I love to say our heroes are Brancusi or Giacometti and Henry Moore. Those are our heroes and Chris Lehrecke's heroes were the same. Andrée's heroes were pretty the same.
Ralph Pucci: Chris was the first one to come in and it was a really nice play. You had the very minimalistic, sleek furniture that Andrée surrounded herself with and promoted and then you had the rustic, earthy pieces, the handmade pieces of Chris Lehrecke. It was beautiful mix and it worked really well.
Ralph Pucci: He was the first designer that I took on after on Andrée Putman and then, it became a snowball. Then I became very, very good friends with Patrick Naggar.
Dennis Scully: Okay, yes.
Ralph Pucci: Patrick was from the Andrée Putman world, right? It just kept going.
Dennis Scully: It just kept coming to you. It seems that part of the magic of what happens in this space is that you create really a gallery-like environment rather than a furniture store or a department store feeling. That was very important to the setup of all of this.
Ralph Pucci: Exactly. Again, that started from my mannequin visual merchandising days, roots. We always had to put together a really great presentation. You walked in and the spacing of mannequins, the visual element that accommodated the mannequin. You created almost like a theater set or a movie set.
Ralph Pucci: When we did the furniture, I kept the same idea to create something that was exciting visually and at the same time, you're able to walk around the furniture to see the quality of it, which was very different from the people who used to represent Andrée. As I said, you walked in and there was 500 pieces of furniture where we're showing 30 or 40 pieces. A store in the D&D, maybe showing 400 pieces and you don't really understand it and you don't get to see the quality and what the spirit of the furniture is about.
Dennis Scully: The pieces are in very limited supply, yes?
Ralph Pucci: Well, Andrée, at that particular time, Andrée's pieces were not limited edition but it was so new that we were not selling thousands of anything-
Dennis Scully: Right. They weren't being mass produced.
Ralph Pucci: They were not being mass produced. Overtime, we started to go into more limited edition pieces with the one I started to showcase, the work of Herve Van der Straeten, Eric Schmitt, Elizabeth Garouste and Patrick Naggar. We started to do more limited edition wow pieces. Pieces that, again, that are cherished and kept and that they're passed on to the family.
Dennis Scully: Right, sort of creating heirloom pieces that-
Ralph Pucci: Yeah, exactly.
Dennis Scully: Okay. Tell me for you, how you started to juggle both your retail-driven mannequin business and now this designer and architect driven furniture business? How to do weave in and out of those two?
Ralph Pucci: Yeah. You need a lot of energy.
Dennis Scully: Well, I would assume.
Ralph Pucci: Yeah, yeah. You need a lot of energy, you need a lot of passion and you need to keep your eyes and ears open and opportunities. Opportunities were just coming at us left and right in both worlds and it was exciting, exciting times and it's still very, very exciting. It's not simple. I can't say what I actually did, it's just … When an opportunity came, we just run with it.
Dennis Scully: The opportunity meaning, there were partnership opportunities?
Ralph Pucci: Well, yeah.
Dennis Scully: There were-
Ralph Pucci: you needed a photographer. You need a Josef Astor, he's a fabulous photography. You get all jazzed up when you work with someone so fabulous and so new and so different. You meet someone a Paul Mathieu or you meet a Jim Zivic. There's so much creativity, there's so much of a vision, there's so much uniqueness that you know you're doing something different that someone else isn't doing.
Ralph Pucci: Again, it's so important to do something different to be successful in business in my opinion. I just saw this as what an opportunity and what an exciting time.
Dennis Scully: We're going to take a quick break for a word from our sponsor but we'll be right back.
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Dennis Scully: Music is a big influence in your life. You played music as a child, yes?
Ralph Pucci: Yes, I did. Yup. I think I started in third or fourth grade playing drums and I played into college.
Dennis Scully: You thought at one point you might go into the music business in some way?
Ralph Pucci: Well, think everyone has a dream. Who knows what they wanted to be when they're young. Music was something always interested me and I was fortunate to for somehow always find some interesting and creative … Miles Davis, Chet Baker and Milt Jackson when I was in late high school so … Thelonious Monk. The soundtrack at Pucci is jazz.
Ralph Pucci: It's so important that it's always playing. I think it's an elegant form of music. It's a sophisticated form of music and I think that sums up what Pucci is. That's what we're trying to exude.
Dennis Scully: Well, it seemed that a soundtrack it is an important part of all of this, as you say, and it seemed as if you were putting together furniture pieces and art pieces and the music somehow seemed just as important to creating the setting as all of the other elements that were in the space.
Ralph Pucci: Very, very much so. I'm not a designer so therefore, we try to put together a visual picture of what we're trying to accomplish here and music is obviously the exclamation point to it all but it is so, so important. Downstairs right now, it's a little bit of a different vibe like from the 12th floor, the penthouse floor we're showing Herve Van der Straeten, James Brown, Richard Meier and it's a little bit more of an elegant feel and a very sophisticated feel.
Ralph Pucci: Downstairs, it's a little bit more of a fun feel. We're showing Pierre Paulin, India Mahdavi, John Koga and we're playing more rhythm and blues. I think it's really important to go to the two different floors and to have a totally different visual experience and also the music to create that experience.
Dennis Scully: You bring a lot of passion to it. You're pushing yourself constantly to do something very different than what the design world is doing. You've got these galleries spaces. How many floors are here that are gallery spaces?
Ralph Pucci: We have two floors here which is 30,000, a little bit more than 30,000 square feet just for the gallery and then, we have 15,000 square feet which is our mannequin factory/sculpture studio and it's also where we produce our new fiber glass furniture collections.
Dennis Scully: Yes. Let's talk about that because I had the pleasure of sitting on some of that and it's fantastic. Who helped you usher in the outdoor of fiber glass furniture collection?
Ralph Pucci: Well, again, I am businessman and I am someone who really likes to always work with new people, some sort of a mix, right?
Ralph Pucci: As years ago when the mannequin business was everyone was in Chapter 11, I had my eyes and ears open and Andrée had asked me once or twice, I knew, "Okay. Let's try it."
Ralph Pucci: The fiber glass furniture came about retail, I don't think it's a surprise to anyone is really going through major, major changes and I do think in time, it's all going to come back to be an exciting vehicle, and a successful vehicle but it's gone through some rough-
Dennis Scully: Retail?
Ralph Pucci: Retail.
Dennis Scully: Okay.
Ralph Pucci: Retail is really … has gone through some very, very rough times. A lot of department stores and specialty stores have closed. They are not putting their best foot forward sometimes because they're being cautious how much money they're spending.
Dennis Scully: Is that part of what you think that the challenge is? They're being cautious, they don't seem confident or they don't seem really-
Ralph Pucci: Well, it's being follow the leader. It's like if everyone wants to pullback, everyone pulls back. If everyone wants to say, "It's the internet." Everyone … No one's marching … Again, my thing, if everyone goes right, they're all going right.
Dennis Scully: Right, yeah.
Ralph Pucci: They're just following. They're all followers. What's happened is, the mannequin business, the visual merchandising industry took a big hit. I have this mannequin shop. I have a fabulous sculptor. I've some fabulous workers who have been with me forever and we thought we have an opportunity to create some interesting fiber glass pieces of furniture.
Ralph Pucci: One of the first projects we did utilizing my sculptor and my factory was to do a chair with a Vladimir Kagan.
Dennis Scully: Okay.
Ralph Pucci: I just came back from Europe. I had been nice and rested and I came back with lots of ideas and called up Vladi and I said, "Why don't we create a fiber glass chair? It could be a limited edition." He created this beautiful, beautiful piece and it's been successful and we promoted it, had received a lot of attention because we promoted it that it was being sculpted and Pucci. Of course, Vladi was very involved. He loved … Again, as Andrée Putman, he loved coming into my place and working very closely with my sculptor.
Dennis Scully: Yeah, I'm sure.
Ralph Pucci: It had potential. I won't say it was gigantic success but it had tons of potential. Everyone loved it. It was a beautiful piece. Then we did some sculptures together and then we sort of put it on the backburner. Then, we'll fast forward to some rough times in retail and I was sitting with Patrick Naggar and I said, "Why don't we do something in fiber glass, Patrick? Maybe we could do it outdoor furniture because my materials, fiber glass, will work outdoors very nicely."
Ralph Pucci: Patrick, as I said before, I have a fantastic working relationship with him. He has a brilliant mind. He's a visionary and he's also a student of design and he's a classic design. He's not trendy or tricky because we hate anything trendy or tricky at Pucci.
Dennis Scully: Okay.
Ralph Pucci: He came out with this beautiful, beautiful shape for an outdoor chair and we just jumped on it. He had given it to me and I ran downstairs and give it to my sculpture. I said, "Let's get started now," which is the luxury of when you have a sculpture studio. It's not like, "Okay, let me book you. It's going to take two years." By then that idea will be stale and everyone or someone may have already done that.
Ralph Pucci: We started to sculpt immediately and I saw that it was going to be a magical idea and again, we documented the whole process of sculpting the chair in clay and the plaster, the plaster process of making the mold and again, we worked old styles so it's like a Brancusi studio downstairs.
Ralph Pucci: The visuals of capturing this are very exciting. I think Interior Design magazine ran a big story on it. Won all kind of awards for outdoor furniture, it's very different. Everyone is doing the same kind of furniture, not that it's good or bad but a lot of the same is what's happening in outdoor furniture and this is totally different.
Ralph Pucci: We came up with that about a year ago, a year and a half ago and we've continued to build on it. Patrick then went on to create an outdoor bench, a side table and we have other ideas in mind and then just recently to continue to work … What was also nice about the Patrick Naggar collection was that we started to use the fiber glass but used it in with change the colors
Ralph Pucci: We were able to create terracotta, a terracotta look. We were able to create-
Dennis Scully: In fiber glass?
Ralph Pucci: In fiber glass.
Dennis Scully: Right.
Ralph Pucci: We are able to create like a deep, deep, deep black that you don't … You're not sure what the material is, which is pretty fabulous when you at something and you do not know what is it. It's a comfortable chair. It has a unique look to it because of these finishes and of course, the design is pretty fabulous.
Ralph Pucci: With the success of the outdoor furniture from Patrick Naggar, we continued to work with our sculpture studio with the Hawaiian artist, John Koga. There, we came up with a finish called plaster glass. We love plaster. We love that whole era of the Jean-Michel Frank era, utilizing the Giacometti to create works, to coincide with the Jean-Michel Frank.
Ralph Pucci: We wanted to do plaster but we felt plaster was … It's complicated and it could break in shipping. When you're in business, you want as few headaches as possible.
Dennis Scully: Sure, sure.
Ralph Pucci: We created and finished that we called plaster glass. It's a mixture of plaster and fiber glass. The show that is currently up right now by John Koga, the surrealistic sculpture from Hawaii, we took some of his surrealistic shapes, we sculpted them. He did some in Hawaii, we did some in New York and we created lamps and tables and chandeliers in this finish and it has lots of potential.
Ralph Pucci: Again, we feel we're onto something very unique and very few people have a sculptor and very few people have a fiber glass shop that can change the look of the fiber glass. It's not like you're doing the same thing over and over. We were able to create new finishes which makes it very unique.
Dennis Scully: It's all your own facility?
Ralph Pucci: It's all my own facility.
Dennis Scully: Control all of this, all of this production. That's all sort of just getting started and you have showrooms now in L.A. and in Miami where I would assume outdoor big opportunity there.
Ralph Pucci: Right.
Dennis Scully: You've shown it there and it started to catch on.
Ralph Pucci: We've showed the collection in all three places. All three have been well received. Of course, New York has received it the best so far, that's our home audience.
Dennis Scully: Right.
Ralph Pucci: It's been very well received in Los Angeles as well and I feel in Miami, it's going to pick up and … It's different. When you do something different, it takes time.
Dennis Scully: Sure.
Ralph Pucci: Most business people are not patient. Sometimes I have to sit back and say, "Okay. It's going to work. It's different. I know the A people are buying this. I see the reaction of the clients. It's going to work." Everything takes time. It has great potential.
Dennis Scully: Is that part of what has made you successful that you're a patient visionary, if you will, that you're willing to give things time to become known?
Ralph Pucci: Yeah, I'm not really patient. That's the problem. But you have to-
Dennis Scully: Well, I wondered about that because I haven't heard that that's your reputation but you … You tell me.
Ralph Pucci: Yeah, yeah. I'm not really patient but you have to be patient when you can break new product. Like if it's not a blockbuster within a couple of months it's like, "Okay. Let's just keeping marketing it. Let's keep promoting it. Let's keep advertising it because people see something new. They have to digest it."
Dennis Scully: Sure.
Ralph Pucci: I'd like to say that we do not follow trends at Pucci. If someone came up to me and said, "The color of the season is blue," we would not do blue. That's for sure. We like to do things our way and when you do things the way we work, you have to expect it takes a little bit of time before it catches on.
Dennis Scully: Sure. When you think about your way and what is informing your own vision, are you looking at what's happening in retail and on the mannequin side of the business as well as what's happening in the art and design world on the other side of the business? Tell me about it.
Ralph Pucci: I think we get inspired, what turns us on, where we get our ideas from are mostly museums and galleries, music.
Dennis Scully: Right.
Ralph Pucci: Music, a certain music is playing a certain period then you start to think what was happening during that period then you start looking. Like I said earlier in the conversation, we like pieces that are handmade. We like touch your own pieces. We don't typically like things that are too slick, though some of Hervé Van der Straeten pieces are beautifully slick, which is fantastic because he's the best in the world at it.
Ralph Pucci: Typically, I like more unfinished pieces like a Jim Zivic's coal or Chris Lehrecke's pieces that have cracks in them but it's a nice combination of the two. I say we get most of our inspiration from galleries and museums.
Dennis Scully: Okay. You're out and about, you're seeing things that inspire you, you're listening to music, some ideas pop up in your head and then what happens? Because I'm told that emails might be coming through at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning from you. You get these ideas and is an idea for an exhibit that you want to put on? Is it an idea for a piece for furniture that you want to make?
Ralph Pucci: Like for instance, I saw something maybe from Jean Arp and I thought John Koga and then I thought lamp. Let me shoot Koga an email, show him what I just saw on Jean Arp. He loves Jean Arp. I said, "This is sort of … I know this guy turns you on." We're not copying him He's certainly influenced by him though. I said, "Wouldn't it be great if we turn this piece that you did and turn it into a chandelier or turned it into a table."
Ralph Pucci: It would happen like that and then he'll shoot back, "Love the idea." He says, "What do we do next?" I said, "Well, why don't you just loosely draw something for me and I'll give it to Michael," my sculptor, "and we'll start to play with it." I sort of know the scale it should be, if it was a table or it was a lamp or if it was a chandelier, I'll know the floor lamp, I'll know the scale that we should do and we'll shoot you a photograph of what we've done. If it looks good, we'll continue. If it looks good, I suggest maybe you fly in from Hawaii and spend like two or three days with us to fine tune it." That's typically how it works.
Dennis Scully: Michael Everett, your sculptor will start to work on something and then the artist will come in-
Ralph Pucci: Then the artist will come and fine tune it like with someone like Naggar who lives half the year in New York, he's always here and Patrick is someone that has just … He's filled with ideas. He's constantly going to museums. He's just like an encyclopedia of design. He's always sketching. He'll show me something at lunch and I'll tell Patrick, "That's fantastic." That is very applicable to the way we work.
Ralph Pucci: Sometimes some pieces may not be perfect for the way we work. It has to have volume and it has to have a shape. To sculpt and for us to produce, it has to be sort of a Pucci feel and Patrick knows it. Paul Mathieu knows it. All the people that we work with understand what we're capable of doing and it's very much a loose process but at the same time when they get involved, they are here every day.
Dennis Scully: Right. Okay. Then everyone starts to really work on the project and then how long does it take for whether it's a collection or an exhibition to come together?
Ralph Pucci: Right. I think that the John Koga collection, which is I think maybe 10 pieces took about six or seven months.
Dennis Scully: Okay.
Ralph Pucci: Then Patrick Naggar's outdoor collection, we tested just the outdoor chair first. As soon as the outdoor chair was sculpted, then we had to throw the plaster, then we had to make the fiberglass mold and we didn't have a big opening for that. We just decided to visually … Again, back to the mannequin world as I started a conversation much earlier, saying one jogger is effective but 15 joggers is a statement.
Dennis Scully: Right.
Ralph Pucci: Instead of doing one fiberglass chair on the floor, I think we did eight of them in a row in eight different … In four colors but repeated. It's like a real visual statement. People came in and they noticed it. It wasn't just one chair tucked in the corner.
Ralph Pucci: "What is that?"
Ralph Pucci: "Well, that's our new fiberglass chair, outdoor chair created by Patrick Naggar executed at the Pucci Mannequin Workshop."
Ralph Pucci: We had eight of them. That was like they walked in and you had to see it and you had to say, "Wow! That's pretty cool."
Dennis Scully: Yeah. They do really make an impact because it's a very striking form.
Ralph Pucci: Right. Exactly.
Dennis Scully: It does immediately catch the eye. The space is open. One could come in anytime during the day, right?
Ralph Pucci: Yes.
Dennis Scully: Do you get most of your traffic when you've got a big show that's going on or …
Ralph Pucci: Well, we obviously, we still have some big, big opening. When we do have an opening, that week is usually a very, very busy week. People are always coming in but this is a private showroom. It's a very niche market that we're focused on here. There's like maybe anywhere from seven to 10 people a day come in.
Dennis Scully: Right. People are coming by appointment?
Ralph Pucci: Yeah, by appointment. Yes.
Dennis Scully: They want to see things.
Ralph Pucci: Yes. Absolutely.
Dennis Scully: Sometimes it will be very prominent designers and architects and sometimes it's just the clients themselves, yes? They want to come and see things.
Ralph Pucci: Usually the clients, we like it. We like to have the clients come with their designers.
Dennis Scully: Okay.
Ralph Pucci: It's a little bit different in what we do here. It's not mass produced furniture. They have to be educated but I think slowly people are becoming very educated to furniture. I think it's exciting time in the furniture field, very exciting.
Dennis Scully: Why do you think it's an exciting time in the furniture field?
Ralph Pucci: I think the end user is becoming more and more educated. I think everyone is looking to be different. They're looking for unique pieces. The art world started to change that. The art world is obviously booming. Everyone likes the collectibles and people like to attend all those art shows. Now, the line between design and art is blurring. We've been blurring that line since 1985, I think.
Dennis Scully: Yes, sure.
Ralph Pucci: But now it's really it's becoming accepted. Even though we have not done shows in our bazel, we do our own because we have three showrooms. We do them in our showrooms, but I think the line is becoming very blurred and the people who are looking for unique pieces of art are also looking for unique pieces of furniture. These are smart people who are buying this art and they do their research and they are well aware of some of the names that Pucci represents and they want to be on the ground floor.
Dennis Scully: Yes and you're servicing a very high end clientele.
Ralph Pucci: Exactly.
Dennis Scully: They're collecting art. They're collecting furniture. They're doing-
Ralph Pucci: Sculpture. Right
Dennis Scully: Yes. They're somewhat on a different level than the mass production furniture company.
Ralph Pucci: Totally different, yeah.
Dennis Scully: Right.
Ralph Pucci: These people are intelligent people who are looking for what's happening in the art world and … Like I said, that's why I always look at art in museums and so I wanted to blur it into the furniture.
Dennis Scully: Yeah, that's what's keeping you informed of about-
Ralph Pucci: Yes, exactly.
Dennis Scully: -what's happening. New York is your home base as you were saying. It's where you're most well-known but you've been out to L.A. now for some time.
Ralph Pucci: Yeah. We've been in L.A. 12 years. We bought a building in L.A. in Hollywood. It's a fabulous building. It was an old 1920s dance studio. I personally think it's the most exciting showroom/gallery in Los Angeles in any field whether it's art or furniture. It's a sensational place. Truly, truly a beautiful location and we show all our best designers there.
Ralph Pucci: Previously we were at the design building in L.A. which was never really Pucci. We're very-
Dennis Scully: The PDC you mean?
Ralph Pucci: Yes.
Dennis Scully: Okay.
Ralph Pucci: We were at the PDC which we do … It was 10 successful years but we wanted to bring New York to L.A. the way we do it. By owning our own building, being in our own space and it's a great area. It's a up and coming area filled with art galleries, restaurants and some furniture stores so we were very excited about L.A.
Ralph Pucci: Then in Miami we're in the Wynwood Art District. Again, we did not go to the Design District where most people thought we were going to go to or should have gone to. We went to Wynwood which was a little funkier. It's filled with all these, like to say, this heavy metal graffiti all over the place. It's exciting. There's coffee shops, there's … It's just an exciting vibe there. I think that's also important that we go to areas that are exciting and different.
Ralph Pucci: We opened up Wynwood five years ago, I believe, and we opened it up very, very quietly. We just painted the building gray and then you walk into this big, white space. It was a box factory. We just painted it. Over the years, we kept it but just recently we decided that, "Okay. Let's play ball with the rest of the guys in the neighborhood. Everyone's doing murals, we'll do a mural."
Ralph Pucci: We love murals. My entrance to all my shows always have murals. I work with everyone in the art world to create an environment for us. I said, "Let's work with Jeff Quinn who's someone that had done murals for me before and he painted the outside of the building but it was done in sophisticated, sheek Pucci way whereas everyone else in the neighborhood is a little … Like I said, heavy metal murals.
Ralph Pucci: It was really well received and we plan on continuing to utilize this idea and concept in our artists to create the outside of the building. This coming December, the great India Mahdavi is creating the environment on the outside of the building, the mural inside as well as all her furniture.
Dennis Scully: Fantastic.
Ralph Pucci: We're very excited about that.
Dennis Scully: Is it a very different client that's coming to you in L.A.? Are they interested in different pieces? Are they looking at different things?
Ralph Pucci: We took L.A. step by step. We didn't come in there with all our biggest and most unique, expensive pieces. We went step by step in L.A. Now, L.A. basically has the exact pieces that New York has.
Ralph Pucci: Hervé Van der Straeten, India Mahdavi, Patrick Naggar, Eric Schmitt. One of my personal favorites is Jens Risom. That's a great story too because I met him when he was 95.
Dennis Scully: Tell me that story.
Ralph Pucci: That's a good one because I'm very, very proud of that-
Dennis Scully: He recently passed away.
Ralph Pucci: Yes, he recently passed away at the age of 100. I think maybe when he was 85 … And it's funny because when you're doing project, you don't think of age. You just start doing and you start working and then how old are you.
Ralph Pucci: He came to me when he was 85 years old and he said, "Can we work together? I've heard good things about you and I would like to bring back some of my classic pieces. It would be done on the license so you would produce it. You'll produce the upholstery, you'll produce the wood. You'll do everything."
Ralph Pucci: I was looking to do that because at that point I've basically had been Andrée Putman's or Chris Lehrecke's gallery. Now this took us to another level. Now we became a little bit more involved in the creative process similar to how I am with the mannequins and I'm ever used to the process and we like being involved in the entire process.
Ralph Pucci: Jens gave us all these great ideas from his past that he thought to be successful and we had a show and it was very, very well received. He was so into it. He called me out, "How are we doing?" every day. Then one day he said, "When's our next show?" I said, "Jens, we just gave you a show." I said, "I can't give you a show every six months."
Ralph Pucci: He laughed. He's very persistent. I said, "You know what, Jens, it's summertime and I was looking at your archives and I found two pieces: The A-line share and the big chair." I suggest, "You want to do a show?" I suggest that we do those two pieces and he said to me, "Ralph, how can we do a show with two pieces? You need 20 pieces." I said, "Jens, we just did a show of 20 pieces. We have to let that settle in. We had to have that sell. We have to see what the people gravitate towards."
Ralph Pucci: But I have a hunch that these two pieces will be a hit and he says, "Well, I don't know how you're going to do a show with just two pieces." I said, "Well, I want to repeat."
Ralph Pucci: Again, back to the repeating of an image. I'm going to do eight A-line chairs and big chair. I'm going to have the big chair at the center of the room. I want to have Malcolm Hill, this fabulous artist create the environment, the backdrop for mural and we will have all the a-line chairs and sorbet color and we'll have the big chair, your classic big chair done in ... First created in the late, late '50s and we'll have that in white."
Ralph Pucci: He says, "Well, I don't know how it's going to look but if you think it's going to work, let's try it." We showed it. It was a monster hit. It's now and still continues to be Jens Risom's biggest hit for Pucci. It's just a great story to work with someone like that. We worked together for 15 years. He was very appreciative of what we were able to accomplish to bring his name back because he was forgotten, there was no question about it.
Dennis Scully: No, absolutely and he's such an extraordinary figure and how great that so late in his life to have this resurgence. It was a gift.
Ralph Pucci: Yeah, yeah. It's nice to hear because his family tells me that all the time. Here's another cute story. When I started with him, I said, "Jens, how do you think you want to go to the workshops to see the progress of the furniture?" He looked at me with this really strange look. I said, "Did I say something wrong?" He says, "What do you mean?" I said, "Well, I go out every week like every Tuesday or every Thursday, I run out to the factories to see the progress of the furniture and it to go on for six months." He says, "I want to go to every meeting."
Ralph Pucci: That was the kind of passion he had.
Dennis Scully: How great. He wanted to be that involved.
Ralph Pucci: Absolutely. At the age of 85.
Dennis Scully: At the age of 85. Was he getting around well? Was he-
Ralph Pucci: Yeah.
Dennis Scully: Okay.
Ralph Pucci: He was getting around very, very well.
Dennis Scully: Okay. He was mobile and …
Ralph Pucci: Very.
Dennis Scully: Okay.
Ralph Pucci: Very much so and they loved to talk design, loved to talk marketing ideas. He loved the way that we do things at Pucci and he used to say that over the years my mannequin business and my furniture business, I've been known to use many great photographers and he used Richard Avedon to do on of his first ad campaigns. I would show him some of my exhibits utilizing photographers of today.
Ralph Pucci: Actually, I used Richard Avedon for one of my mannequin shoots so it was funny. We had Richard Avedon as a … He used him in the '50s and I used Richard Avedon in the '80s when I did a mannequin with Bob Currie.
Ralph Pucci: A lot of his marketing and his visual ideas were similar to mine which is pretty, pretty great to have someone to the bounce ideas off of who is 30 years older than me.
Dennis Scully: Absolutely and with such talent and such a history.
Ralph Pucci: Right.
Dennis Scully: What has informed your ideas about marketing because you've got very specific notions about marketing?
Ralph Pucci: I don't like anything tricky. I like simplicity. I like edginess. I think Calvin Klein was a master at marketing and advertising. You got to tip your hat to him, he knew what he was doing.
Ralph Pucci: I grew up in visual. I grew up in the mannequin world and Calvin Klein was pretty big in that world. We did a lot of his mannequins. You get inspired by him and you see the simplicity of the negative space and white space on a page and that's something I always gravitated towards and always looking into history books of photography.
Ralph Pucci: As I always say, you got to have your eyes and ears open. You're always looking at some kind of book because that's a lot of ideas. As you see here-
Dennis Scully: They're stacked up very high.
Ralph Pucci: They're stacked up very high here [crosstalk 00:59:35] and they're stacked up even higher in my home in Connecticut.
Dennis Scully: I can imagine.
Ralph Pucci: I just flip through them all the time and if you have one idea, it's certainly worth it.
Dennis Scully: Yeah, then you can run with that.
Dennis Scully: You seem very optimistic about where the industry is going at a time when many in the industry are not feeling overly optimistic. I'm guessing that the 2008, 2009, the financial crisis, I'm guessing that was a pretty difficult time for both the retail side of your business and trade and furniture.
Dennis Scully: Coming out of that, many people feel the interior design world hasn't fully recovered from the financial crisis. Why do you think that is?
Ralph Pucci: I don't know. We are actually having the best years of our lives right now.
Dennis Scully: Right now?
Ralph Pucci: Right now.
Dennis Scully: Okay.
Ralph Pucci: This is my best first six months we've ever had.
Dennis Scully: Is that right?
Ralph Pucci: Yes. We've had some changes here. One or two of my main designers for whatever reason went somewhere else for … They were sold. When you take a hit like that, we had to … We placed a pretty good name and we replace them.
Ralph Pucci: I think if you're doing something different, we're always doing shows. This year I think we did the gigantic show in May. We had a big show in L.A. in April we showed the work of the painter, James Brown with … We're always doing work and we're always showing pieces. We show Pierre Paulin. We had the estate of Pierre Paulin and that's been a major, major coup for us.
Dennis Scully: I'm sure.
Ralph Pucci: You can't get too set in your ways and we were very set in our ways with mid-century modern. We had Jens Risom, we had Vladimir Kagan. It was selling. It was selling. It was selling. You could get into a rut of just letting it all happen. Fortunately for us in a strange way, when Vladimir Kagan passed away they ended up selling to Knoll/Holly Hunt.
Ralph Pucci: At first it's like, "Whoa. Wow. That's a hit." But it was really great. It made you get more focused, it made you not be so relaxed and out of the clear blue, I get a phone call from Benjamin Paulin and said, "ralph, I'm in New York. I hear unbelievable things about you, your company, your showrooms. Can we have lunch?" I said, "Sure."
Ralph Pucci: We sat down and over lunch we decided to work together. We were able to bring in freshness and new ideas. I think the industry needs freshness and new ideas at all times because the mid-century modern as successful as it was for me, it was beginning to be all over. I'm not going to say it became boring but it became predictable. When you do anything predictable, that's the beginning of the end.
Ralph Pucci: Paulin brought in total freshness. It's like, "Whoa. Is this new? This is fresh." We went from … Thinking music. We went from Ched Baker to the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour which is fantastic. It's really different.
Ralph Pucci: My clients who are looking for new and different walked in to see this and they're like, "Fantastic." I remember Charles [Waffie 01:02:58] once said to me … I said, "Charles, thanks so much for always coming into Pucci and thank you so much for supporting out ideas." He used to love the Jean-Michel Frank pieces from Andrée Putman.
Ralph Pucci: I would never forget what he says. He says, "I love bringing my clients here to you because it's always new and always fresh. I'm bringing all these important clients of mine to all the different showrooms and they looked the same and same. They're bored. When I bring them to you, they get all jazzed up and they're excited and then we go for lunch and then we talk then the juices are flowing and they're really into creating a special home."
Ralph Pucci: I always remember when Charles said that and it was a major compliment coming from someone of his stature.
Dennis Scully: Yeah, absolutely. I'm sure that his clients felt the privilege of getting exposed to this space.
Ralph Pucci: I hope so.
Dennis Scully: Something they wouldn't have seen on their own and wouldn't have access to.
Ralph Pucci: Exactly.
Dennis Scully: Right?
Ralph Pucci: Yeah.
Dennis Scully: Yeah. I think it is such an extraordinary space. Everyone that comes through here, my producer, Lauren, when she first got here was just eyes wide open as she walked through everything. It is an incredible space and it's been able to maintain that fresh message. As you say, that people expect from you. You're going to pull them in them in the next direction whatever that is.
Dennis Scully: It's interesting what you were saying about mid-century modern. It seems to be everywhere on the lower end especially, right?
Ralph Pucci: Yes.
Dennis Scully: All of the inexpensive furniture companies are making mid-century modern or what they perceived to be mid-century modern pieces and there's just so much of it. What is going to be the next thing that comes along for people?
Ralph Pucci: I'm never good at telling someone what the next thing is. I'm pretty good at seeing it though. Like I said, right now we're very big on the whole Pierre Paulin thing and my sales for the collection, I think, prove that we are working with the right company, the right family.
Ralph Pucci: What's great about his family is that Benjamin and his wife and Benjamin's mother have a very strong vision that they want to keep the integrity of this Pierre Paulin line and they really want to make this success that that they feel it should. They feel it too. We're having, I like to call the A Plus, the visionary clients buying this. Then when you go to the house and see it, it just looks so new and fresh.
Ralph Pucci: We feel that working with the Pierre Paulin estate, working with Hervé Van der Straete, working with Patrick Naggar, working with Eric Schmidt, working with Chris Lehrecke, we'll find what's next but it's tough for me to tell you what's next.
Dennis Scully: Sure but it's going to come to you whether-
Ralph Pucci: It's going to come.
Dennis Scully: -whether it's through the-
Ralph Pucci: It's going to come.
Dennis Scully: -books, whether it's-
Ralph Pucci: Yeah, yeah. You have your eyes and ears open, it's going to come and we definitely have our eyes and ears open. We like to think we're a sponge. I like to think I'm a sponge. I try to teach my family and my sales team, soak it all in.
Dennis Scully: Right. Speaking of your family, your son, Michael?
Ralph Pucci: Yup.
Dennis Scully: Has come into the business about five-
Ralph Pucci: Five years ago.
Dennis Scully: Yes. Right. You must be very proud and excited.
Ralph Pucci: I couldn't be more proud. He's a businessman. He gets along well with my designers, very, very well with my designers. As I had Andrée Putman to mentor me and to have my eyes opened, I had [Markopolos 01:06:15] and I had Andrée to have my eyes open. You got to museums. Patrick Naggar and Michael have a great relationship. When you listen to a Patrick Naggar talk whether it's about a design, whether I's about film, whether it's about music, whether it's about life. That's fantastic for someone young. Michael is 28 years old. To be surrounded with Patrick Naggar is a gift.
Ralph Pucci: All of my designers like him very much. He has a passion. He has a good way for people. He's a good business mind, he's a terrific business mind and what we're doing right now is I'm always based this company off of creativity, creativity and creativity. I think that's what makes us unique and no one's ever going to change my mind that a business has to be driven by creativity and uniqueness but Michael Pucci is starting to make the company a little bit more professional. Times are changing, the world's changing whether it's department stores, whether it's magazine world, whether the music world, everything is changing with the internet and you got to be savvy and I'm not necessarily savvy in those areas and he is.
Ralph Pucci: He has his mind, he have his eyes open to what's happening. I think the company could become more professional, more effective so with the combination of creativity and the presentation and showmanship with a solid business vision behind it, I think the company is pretty … The expectations and the capabilities are limitless.
Dennis Scully: Okay. You see bright things are in the future?
Ralph Pucci: Incredibly bright. Because I think almost any designer in the world wants to work with us. I don't there's anyone who, if I had called them up unless they … I wouldn't work with someone who's already working with another big company but if there's someone out there that's available and that's looking to have their work shown in America, I don't think there's many designers that would say no to us.
Ralph Pucci: We have the ability to bring in super talent and we are also now focusing on, like I said, the back of the house, I guess just to really make it a more efficient company.
Dennis Scully: Do you have your eye on a designer that you would love to work with?
Ralph Pucci: I have a few but I'm not going to say.
Dennis Scully: I thought you wouldn't but-
Ralph Pucci: That I can't say.
Dennis Scully: But you've got some in your mind that you would love to work with?
Ralph Pucci: I have one or two people that I'm looking at and I wouldn't be surprised if we add someone within the next year. The last ones we've had have been Pierre Paulin which was, I think, a year ago and we've given the estate and Pierre Paulin two shows already.
Ralph Pucci: Then we had [Zavy Ellust 01:09:01] from Belgium. He's had a show in New York and he'll eventually have a show in L.A. It takes a little bit of time to pioneer these people for … A lot of the people is famous as Pierre Paulin is. You'll be surprised how many people do not know who he is. It takes time to present these people.
Ralph Pucci: As I said before, you have to be a little bit patient. You have to do the show. You have to market it. I think both of those designers clear sailing. They're on their way. They're appreciated and they're understood at Pucci. I think it's time to take some new people on.
Dennis Scully: Son, Michael, he's going to help to the pull the company into the future a little bit. What do you think the future looks like for Ralph Pucci International? Where do you think it goes?
Ralph Pucci: Where does it go? We've been, in this location, 25 years. It's an incredible location.
Dennis Scully: Amazing space.
Ralph Pucci: Yeah, it's an amazing, amazing space but I do believe that the in time, the areas are changing. Everything is changing. I think to be successful in business, you have to own your own building. Unfortunately I do not own this building. We own Los Angeles. Our eyes are open. We have five more years here. Our eyes are open to possibly buying a building in New York City. It would be a very unique building. I have no idea. We have not started to look yet but I could see down the road maybe a new location for us.
Ralph Pucci: I possibly see us in Europe and I think the three locations in New York are enough. Having three locations in the United States are enough but possibly a new location in in New York in five years or so and possibly Europe.
Dennis Scully: Possibly Europe? Okay. For you personally, is there another chapter for you personally? Is there that that jazz club is there, is there a next thing for you?
Ralph Pucci: I don't think there's going to be a jazz club even though I like to kid around. We work with the foundation, the jail house kids. We've done two shows with them.
Ralph Pucci: That's Christian McBride, the incredible bass player. The world famous bass player, Christian McBride. We've done fundraisers for them two years. We turn one of floors into a jazz club for the night.
Dennis Scully: Fantastic.
Ralph Pucci: We've had Esperanza Spalding perform last season.
Dennis Scully: Love her.
Ralph Pucci: The season before we had the guitar is John Pizzarelli.
Ralph Pucci: I kid around. I always say this is my jazz club. I think I'm going to continue in this business. I don't know how the chapters, I don't know the ending. I have no idea and it's not probably good to figure out the ending. Let the ending happen in its own as we've let everything happen on its own here.
Ralph Pucci: It was never really a plan for me to go into furniture … It was never a plan if we go to the furniture business. I'm not even sure there was a plan for me to go into the mannequin business. I thought I was your maybe be a musician early then I thought maybe I was going to go to advertising or publicity, I ended up in mannequins and then it turned to be something I loved and I get along well with all the different buyers and then it went into the furniture.
Ralph Pucci: There really was never really a plan so I don't have a plan for the end.
Dennis Scully: Okay. Okay. We'll have to wait and see what happens next.
Ralph Pucci: Yeah. You tell me what it is.
Dennis Scully: Well, we look forward to seeing what does happened next because there's always something new happening at Ralph Pucci. Thank you very much for joining us.
Ralph Pucci: Thank you. I enjoyed it.
Dennis Scully: My guest has been Ralph Pucci of Ralph Pucci International.
Dennis Scully: Thank you again for joining us, this show is Business of Home and I'm Dennis Scully. If you like what you hear, please feel free to subscribe, tell a friend about the show, and most of all leave us a review on iTunes. Thank you again to our sponsors and our producers. You can find us at businessofhome.com or on Facebook or Instagram. We'll see you next week.