50 years after its launch with a small boutique in Milan, Fiorucci is still a part of our pop culture lexicon and imagery. The iconic brand is even mentioned in Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers’ He’s The Greatest Dancer, as recorded by Sister Sledge:
“Halston, Gucci, Fiorucci / He looks like a still, that man is dressed to kill…”
The man behind the magic was Italian designer Elio Fiorucci.
Fiorucci became famous for its audacious print apparel, high-waisted skintight jeans, colorful platform shoes and the many variations of its Two Angels logo. It wasn’t cheap, but it certainly was covetable. I once went into the flagship store in Manhattan, and I couldn’t even afford a belt, so I opted for a souvenir postcard instead.
The clothing was the least essential element of Fiorucci’s success. Instead, it was the retail ambiance, the branding, and the sense of community at the store that made it all happen in the Golden Age of Disco, and, of course, the outrageous ad campaigns. Fiorucci stickers with sexy, naughty campaign images were spotted around town and the shopping bags were almost as sought after as the clothing. The stickers for one monokini campaign were seized by the police.
In the mid-1970s, NYC’s Fiorucci shop gained the moniker “The Daytime Studio 54”. Among the regulars: Debbie Harry, Keith Haring, Jackie Kennedy-Onassis, Calvin Klein, Bianca Jagger, Cher, Federico Fellini, Divine, Elizabeth Taylor, Sylvester and teenage Marc Jacobs.
The legendary cabaret performer Joey Arias was a shop girl at the store. Andy Warhol set up an office in the store, and 16-year-old Madonna played her first gig there. Later, at the brand’s 15th anniversary party at Studio 54, Madonna jumped out of the birthday cake. The talented artist and stylist Maripol was the store manager. At the Milan store, Haring painted murals on the walls. It launched the careers of designers Betsey Johnson and Anna Sui.
The most significant items were the jeans, made from lycra and vinyl. They were skintight, with an almost spray-on look that Fiorucci claimed he created after being inspired by women in Ibiza in wet jeans; his designs left little to the imagination.
He helped to popularize animal prints in 1970s and early 1980s fashion, although he was a vegetarian and never used leather or fur in his jeans or other garments.
Times changed and Fiorucci shuttered the stores in the mid-1980s and sold the brand in 1990. Elio Fiorucci passed away in summer 2015.
But, relaunching next month, new owners Stephen and Janie Schaffer are reviving the gold lame, cowboy boots and Afghan coats. They have promised to bring back the whole Fiorucci look, along with the vintage ads, at a new Fiorucci store in London’s Soho neighborhood and at Barney’s in NYC. We’re ready for a return to Disco, right kids?
Fiorucci’s inventive graphics with their cool typography and colors, in themes like Electron, Swim, Romance, Dance, Pin-Up, always played up the postmodern American graphic kitsch of 1950s through their quirky Post-Punk, Hardcore and Sci-Fi aesthetic. Here’s a look at those crazy original ads from the Fiorucci archives: