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  • The iconic Fiorucci logo

  • Fiorucci “Wild on you” fashion campaign

  • Elio Fiorucci in his shop in Galleria Passarella, 1970.

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A tribute to Elio Fiorucci

Elio Fiorucci, one of the most influential designers of the last decades, died in his home in Milan last week, leaving behind an important legacy that aims to inspire future generations of fashion designers. Fiorucci was the creative mind behind the same-name brand with the iconic twin winged angels logo that marked the 70s with its playful spirit, bold design and irreverent advertising campaigns. Among Fiorucci’s greatest hits were the invention of the first ever stretch jeans that were inspired by a trip to Ibiza, the introduction of the monokini and thong from Brazil, as well as the popularization of exotic prints and Afghan coats. Fiorucci was an unconventional designer that was not afraid to experiment with shape and color, breaking the fashion norms and creating an evocative visual iconography for his brand.

His disco-inspired creations in fabrics like Lurex, satin and vinyl marked an entire generation, capturing the zeitgeist of his time. He was one of the first designers to employ fashion scouts in order to maintain him informed about the latest street trends, to hire DJ’s for his stores, to collaborate with iconic artists like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, to support young designers like Anna Sui and Betsey Johnson, and to introduce the concept store idea to the broader public. At the same time, he maintained a low-profile throughout his career, being always extremely polite and forming close relationships with his clients.

Elio Fiorucci was born in Milan in 1935 and his first contact with fashion was his father’s shoe store, where he started working at the age of 17. Fiorucci opened his first store in 1967, bringing the spirit of the Swinging London to Milan. The store sold almost everything, from avant-garde pieces from designers like Biba, Zandra Rhodes and Ossie Clark to teapots and fluorescent hair tints. Its success was so big that three years later Fiorucci transformed his name into a brand and opened new stores in London (1975) and New York (1976). The New York store, which was called by many the “daytime Studio 54”, was partly designed by legendary architect Ettore Sottsass and soon became a hot spot for the creative and intellectual community of the city.

Among its clients were celebrities like Greta Garbo, Cher, Jackie Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Yves Saint Laurent, Madonna, Marc Jacobs and Terence Conran. Andy Warhol was also a big fan of the store, launching his “Interview” magazine in its shop window, while Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf often displayed their works at the store’s walls. Its creative directors included Terry Jones, who later created i-D magazine, and Oliviero Toscani, who became worldwide famous for his Benetton ads. “When I was 15, instead of going to sleepaway camp I spent the whole summer hanging out in the store,Marc Jacobs told the The New York Times back in 2001. “I had this wide-eyed glamour about these beautiful young people that globetrotted from club to club dressing in these fabulous clothes. It was like a living, breathing fashion show that I wanted so much to be a part of.

Fiorucci was one of the first designers to understand the importance of linking his brand to a specific lifestyle, creating at the same time a strong visual identity, full of wit and exuberant vitality. Although his brand had a hard time surviving the eighties and was eventually sold to Edwin, Fiorucci’s innovative spirit inspired a new generation of designers, among them Diesel’s Renzo Rosso and Stone Island’s Carlo Rivetti, and still remains as relevant as ever. A vegetarian and animal-rights activist, Elio Fiorucci saw himself as a merchant rather than a fashion personality. He always maintained a simple approach to life, admitting that his biggest desire was to make people happy. “I wanted people to find what they came for, to be happy and spend little money to get exactly what they wanted,” he told i-D magazine. “Because in the end the best thing in the world is to be loved. The greatest need of man is to be loved.