FLORENCE, Italy — While most luxury goods companies find themselves searching for brand narratives to lend authenticity to what they sell, Laudomia Pucci has more back story to work with than she can possibly use. After all, she lives above the shop in the family palazzo at an address that has not changed in 600 years.
“We needed to look at the heritage with a fresh eye,” said Ms. Pucci, image director of the Florentine fashion house founded by her father, Emilio.
A succession of designers — most recently Peter Dundas and Massimo Giorgetti — was brought in to energize the label since it became part of the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton stable in 2000 but have proved to have little impact on a house that few associate with innovation anymore.
This is too bad, as many are aware of the brightly colored and boldly patterned prints that Ms. Pucci’s aristocrat father originally introduced more than half a century ago but few know of him as a bold experimentalist with an eye for unorthodox materials like raffia or stretch jersey and a marketer whose knack for self-promotion long predated social media and the internet.
“My father was monstrously innovative and bold,” Ms. Pucci said. All the same, if you are born and live among the trappings of any trade it becomes hard to see it with a fresh eye, she added: “Maybe it becomes just Daddy’s things.”
The solution Ms. Pucci arrived at is one that would be familiar to any headhunter: bring in the millennials. “We needed to have 22-year-olds that don’t have any nostalgia about all this,” said Ms. Pucci, standing in a chamber of the family’s 18th-century palace painted a century later with fresco scenes from “The Odyssey.”
“Send me the kids,” she said, referring to their help with a newly created “heritage hub.”
All around her frenzied workers put final touches on “Bonaveri, A Fan of Pucci,” an exhibition of designs displayed on dummies — from eight inches to 30 feet tall — constructed by Italy’s premier mannequin maker. It was being installed in the palazzo’s salons and courtyards and on broad stairs whose niches are adorned with the usual statues of mythological characters. (Open to the public until Friday.)
And, darting in and out of a room containing not only Emilio Pucci’s desk and chair but also his original passport and an address book filled with eccentrically spelled, hand-penciled entries for serene highnesses, American socialites and international nightclubs was his longtime assistant, Anita Capitano.
Brought in especially for the project, Ms. Capitano was instrumental in assisting Ms. Pucci and two young women recruited from the ranks of international fashion schools to mine the archives. What Ann-Marie Voina and Giulia Binotti offered, Ms. Pucci said, was an unbiased approach to a research gold mine and the excitement of discovering afresh such things as a pearl bikini or floor-length toweling beach capes to wear over bikinis or hats inspired by straw-wrapped Chianti bottles or 1960s turbans that look suspiciously like those featured in Marc Jacobs’s last show.
“There is so much narrative, in a certain sense we who lived it don’t know how to see it anymore,” Ms. Pucci said.
What Ms. Capitano brought to the effort was institutional memory and the knowledge of where things in the vast palace were stored.
A historical display of women’s clothes put on during Pitti Uomo, the biggest men’s wear trade fair in Italy, seems distinctly counterintuitive unless framed within a larger Italian context.
With well more than 20,000 visitors, Pitti Uomo imports to Florence for three or more days a highly particular population, one heavily representative of Asia and its coveted markets. “Five planes a day come to Paris from China and we get one per day in Milan,” Ms. Pucci said, with none coming directly to this Renaissance city. Even on one of the country’s high-speed trains, Milan still is two hours away. “The problem with Italy is always the same: infrastructure,” she said.
Adaptability usually outweighs functional liability in this country. And, when thinking about what made Emilio Pucci, born in 1914, a compelling enough designer that the brand he created lasted well into the 21st century, it is worth remembering that his ancestors were twice ruined by their enemies, the Medici, before switching sides and becoming trusted councilors. Both history and innovation are deeply worked into the fabric of Florentine culture and so, too, a certain pragmatism.
It was by no means a certainty, Ms. Pucci said with a shrug, when she took over the design reins from her father in the late 1980s that she possessed the ability to drive the label forward into an uncertain future. That responsibility lay heavy on her, as did an obligation not to dishonor an aesthetic heritage anyone would find daunting.
“We are in the middle of a mile that has the greatest concentration of culture in the world,” said Ms. Pucci, whose palace is a stone’s throw away from the Duomo with its sublime dome by Brunelleschi. “My father always said that, in this palazzo, you couldn’t create something ugly.”
She left ambiguous whether this was an assurance on his part or a dare.