Elio Fiorucci - ShoesandDrama.com
Ted Baker KSA

Elio Fiorucci

Commemorating 80 years of pure fashion genius, the vibrant and full of life designer, Elio Fiorucci. Passing away on July 20 2015, leaving the fashion industry vapid and black. 

Elio Fiorucci was born in Milan on June 10 1935.  His flair for spotting trends became apparent in 1962, however, when he came up with the idea of making galoshes in bright primary colours and persuaded a local fashion magazine to do a feature on them. They caused a sensation and soon sold out.

His father ran a shoe shop, where Elio began work after leaving school aged 14. “I was the ugly duckling,” he recalled. “I couldn’t bear [school’s] constrictions, its arid atmosphere. I was a great disappointment to my father.”

Five years later, in 1967, Fiorucci opened his own shop on Galleria Passarella in Milan, where he began by selling fashions by designers such as Ossie Clark and Zandra Rhodes, before developing his own designs, combining the playful spirit of Carnaby Street fashion with Italian taste and tailoring. Stores on the King’s Road in London and in New York followed.

Elio Fiorucci seated in his showroom

Fiorucci in his shop in Galleria Passarella in 1970 (Mondadori)

The clothes at Fiorucci were essentially restyled 1960s basics. Cowboy boots were made in gold Lurex, with higher heels. Button-down shirts were produced in DayGlo colours. But it was jeans that established Fiorucci on the international fashion scene. His were similar to Levi’s except they were skin-tight, sexy, brightly coloured and often made of vinyl. By the late 1970s he was selling more than 3 million pairs a year. In 1982, when Dupont invented Lycra, Fiorucci mixed it with denim, giving birth to the first stretch jeans.

Among other things Fiorucci introduced the monokini and thong from Brazil, causing controversy with the photographs of scantily-clad models used to advertise them. Glass beads from New Mexico, Afghan coats and leopard-skin prints were other hits.

When business was slow the management would select two of the best-looking young employees, dress them up in outlandish outfits, hand them Fiorucci shopping bags and tell them to walk around the streets of Manhattan, talking excitedly about how they had just been shopping at the most amazing store. In Fiorucci: The Book (1980), Eve Babitz described one such pair:

“One is wearing fake snakeskin cowboy boots dyed pale yellow, pale yellow cotton shorts with little strawberries embroidered on them … and … a demure little Swiss-girl smocked cotton blouse in palest aqua. Her colleague is wearing an outfit of scarlet zebra-skin fabric that looks like it’s made out of reconstituted plastic wrappers … Both girls wear the exact same shade of lipstick: Fresh Blood.’’

What Fiorucci achieved, Eve Babitz summarised, was “to capture a kind of international ideal of teenage promise and bottle it”. 

“He wears the finest clothes, the best designers, heaven knows,” sang Sister Sledge on their 1979 disco anthem The Greatest Dancer: “Ooo, from his head down to his toes/ Halston, Gucci, Fiorucci, he looks like a still/ That man is dressed to kill.”