Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ah, Yes, I Remember it Well...

FIORUCCI. The name still thrills with anticipation. The store was on 59th Street and Lexington, half a block from Bloomingdale's. It might be more scenic to shop on Fifth Avenue. Goods on Madison may be more swoon-worthy, but that little pocket of Manhattan was Trend Central. In the late '70s Bloomingdale's was still the It Gal of department stores. She was surrounded by little chain boutiques, cheap shoe stores and Alexander's, a giant discount retailer. North of Bloomingdale's Lexington turned more residential. The famed Barbizon Hotel for Women was at the corner of 64th. But I digress...

Fiorucci landed in New York in 1976. Studio 54. Disco Fever. NYC. While outlandish garb could be found in the Village or lower east side, Fiorucci was different. It was Uptown Gal meets Euro Trash—affordable, bountiful, fun, and it felt like a trip to Europe.

A young Elio Fiorucci

The Fiorucci in Fiorucci was Elio Fiorucci, who founded the chain in 1967 to bring swinging London and American classics to Milan. By the time Fiorucci opened in Manhattan (1976) it was carrying coals to Newcastle— offering disco style to the likes of Andy Warhol and Cher.

Fiorucci can be credited with the globalization of affordable fashion. Elio gathered Afghan coats, Brazilian thongs and Chinese velvet slippers in one place. In addition he pioneered skin tights jeans by putting the stretch in denim. Camouflage prints and leopard anything were always part of the mix. I would not be surprised to learn if the young Madonna were a salesclerk there. Fiorucci surely influenced her style.

The stores were brightly lit and basically all white walls and fixtures. There was so much color, pattern, music and human traffic it was like being inside a kaleidoscope. The graphics— posters, ads, shopping bags— were outstanding and constantly changing.  

As is the case with most of my shopping excursions, I looked often but bought rarely, only after much contemplation. One of my favorite pieces was an ivory crinkle tunic blouse— slightly A-line with a pilgrim collar and wide, long trumpet sleeves. It was extremely impractical for anything like working or eating, but looked great standing there. I wore it to death and only gave it away years later because I figured it was "time". Never a good reason to get rid of anything you love. I miss it still.

Mine was even more impractical

Fiorucci imploded in 1989 due to mismanagement and over-expansion and has been fighting legal battles since while trying many times to re-launch. Janie and Stephen Schaffer, industry pros, bought the brand shortly before Elio's death in 2015.

Today's Fiorucci jeans

The first to be revived again are the infamous stretch jeans ($250), selling at Barney's. A full-range Fiorucci is due to open in London this year, followed by stores in Milan and Los Angeles. Will it fly? By the looks of the fantasy coming down the runways these current Fashion Weeks, I would say we're all ready for a little make believe.

Long may they watch over


  1. The name is vaguely familiar to me (being in Canada, I might have seen it in an old Cosmo or Glamor back in the 80s). So cool to hear about this trend-setting shop, Michelle! I've learned my lesson about "never get rid of's"! Did they put Fiorucci labels into the imported clothes/shoes? I think I might have seen this name at a thrift store once or twice.

    1. Fiorucci went through several unsuccessful resurrections so evaluating vintage finds might be tricky, but the clothes were made for fun. If you love it, get it!