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Fiorucci, Elio

designer milan clothing shop

B. 1935

Birthplace: Milan, Italy

Award: La Jolla Museum of Art, Italian Re-Evolution , 1982

Elio Fiorucci was the very first designer/entrepreneur to recognize and implement what is today the driving force behind so many of the fashion world’s greatest successes: the total retail concept. In the late 1960s, however, his ideas were considered outrageous and even subversive by many adults, who cringed at the very mention of his name. For teenagers, however, he was pure inspiration.

Shopping for clothes at a Fiorucci boutique in Milan, London, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, Chicago, or anywhere else was the ultimate in stimulation. Every Fiorucci shop was not only filled with the newest items, including clothing by Ossie Clark and Zandra Rhodes, woven bags from Morocco, and fluorescent plastic shoes or jellies , produced by Manolo Blahnik, but was designed and decorated somewhat like a circus set, with employees encouraged to dress in carefree costume. Employment opportunities at a Fiorucci shop were advertised as “auditions,” and securing a job was equivalent to winning membership in an exclusive club.

While Mary Quant was defining the “swinging 60s” with her miniskirt and other youth-oriented looks in London, it was Fiorucci in Milan, who took the shoe store he inherited from his father and expanded to include the latest looks in clothing, accessories, makeup, and blue jeans. He is credited with inventing the concept of designer denim, a direction which continued with Gloria Vanderbilt, Calvin Klein, and virtually every other designer who recognized the value of the label. By the 1970s, when Fiorucci opened his first store in America, New Yorkers like Bianca Jagger and Diana Ross were clamoring for his Buffalo ’70 jeans—skin tight and not available in any size over 10.

The popularity of Fiorucci shops declined in the 1980s, although the company continued licensing its name in various men’s, women’s, children’s, and nonapparel categories through the early 1990s. A virtual visionary, Elio Fiorucci pushed aside the parameters of what was considered acceptable and offered young people a fun and funky, all-encompassing shopping experience. From his hot pink plastic rainwear to the chunky cherubs on his whimsical sunglasses, Fiorucci’s timely and innovative concepts set the tone for the balance of twentieth-century retailing.

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