Business Class with Laudomia Pucci

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Over the past 18 months, we’ve profiled some of the most influential and accomplished businesswomen in the world in our Business Class feature, bringing our readers invaluable insight and business advice on a monthly basis. As such, we couldn’t think of a more interesting subject than Laudomia Pucci, Deputy Chairman and Image Director of the iconic Italian brand she shares her last name with, for our February installment. The powerhouse that is Mrs. Pucci, daughter of the late Emilio Pucci, has seen the brand through its most important transition, from a family-owned business to one of the most successful labels on LVMH’s portfolio.

Laudomia Pucci was in town this month to visit the brand’s newest boutique in Abu Dhabi and spend some time getting to know its patrons during an intimate event held at the Ritz Carlton JBR. I sat down with her the following morning, eager to learn more about her childhood as the daughter of a famed designer, her role in the company, and the most valuable lessons she’s learned over the years.

It’s not your first time in Dubai, is it?
No, I’ve been coming to Dubai for over ten years, but I don’t come regularly enough. And when I do come, I tend to go to the same places, see the same people. I told my husband that we should come more often.

Did he travel with you this time?
No, unfortunately not. But we’ll be back soon. We really like the energy of this city. I like the fact that it gives off the impression of a city where people live, not just where they come to do business and then run off. Last night I was having dinner with some friends, and Monday I was having lunch with a girlfriend, so it’s no longer just a city where I come for business. I now have friends here, and they tell me all about Dubai; it’s charming. You start having your points of reference, and that’s nice.

It’s great that you find time to socialize on business trips.
I try to. I hate going to places where I only do market visits and leave home with just pictures and figures. I like talking to people. The other day I was on my way from Abu Dhabi and we drove past the big mosque that was being built last time I was here, and I wanted to go back and see it finished. You know, these things leave you with good memories. You want to come back and see things.

Did you end up visiting the mosque?
Yes, it was gorgeous. The proportions were beautiful. The sun was going down, so the light was yellow and pink. These are the things that make you happy to come back, because you have to discover more. If you are just running through malls, it’s just another mall.

And you went to visit the new Galleria mall in Abu Dhabi. Were you happy with the Pucci store there?
The store is beautiful. I’m very happy with how it turned out. I like the proportions, I like the light, I like the windows. The mall in itself is very interesting. It’s kind of surreal how in such little time everything changes here. It’s so different from Europe where nothing really changes.

Your father, Emilio Pucci, was one of the most remarkable designers of his time. What was it like growing up as his daughter? What was life like for you as a child?
I can ask you exactly the same question, because your father is your father. In those days, I didn’t really realize who he was. When I think about it now I realize how privileged I was and how much he protected our privacy and our lives. I feel that it was very right of him. He believed in something that I’ve been trying to set as an example for my children too: it’s not because you are lucky or privileged that you are in a different situation than other kids. He was a very humble man and at the same time very curious and full of energy. He was a very hard-working man and very demanding. He had a great respect for women, for me. He worshiped me even as a child. It gave me a big strength in life.

How old were you when you joined the family business?
I was 23. I remember that when I started working with him he pushed me very hard because he believed in the youth. This is something that I try to do myself now, because the youth today – at least in our Western society – have no voice, no jobs. The older generations are blocking everything. I consider it very refreshing in Dubai to see the power that the young people have. In Russia and Asia, you see young people already very empowered. And he empowered me when I was very, very young. That allowed me to do what I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I think it is a great blessing. So beside the glamour, the images of fashion, the fun of seeing sketches lying around the house everywhere, being his daughter taught me great lessons about life. I am very grateful for that, and I’m trying to teach them to my children too.

I consider it very refreshing in Dubai to see the power that the young people have.

How do you balance being a mother, a wife, Deputy Chairman and Image Director at Pucci, and heading countless boards?
To be honest, there are moments when I wonder if it’s too much. I worry that it’s too much for my children – one is 17 and the other one is nine. Sometimes, I turn to them and say, “Is Mommy too exhausted? Should I stop my job?” And they say, “No, Mommy, never. You shouldn’t because it is you.” My kids and my husband always wanted me to do what I am doing, and I am very grateful for that because otherwise it would not be possible. My office is in my home, so when my kids are sick, they come to the office with me. They’ll sit there and cut the pieces of fabric, or color, or do something. When my son had a very bad accident a few years ago, I took him with me to Japan at the age of ten for castings, and he loved it. He was saying, “Mommy, that girl doesn’t know how to walk.” Last spring, I took my youngest child to New York with me. They know they are always welcome. They are my first priority.

You’ve always said that Pucci is about family. You sold a majority stake to LVMH in 2000, but the company continues to run with a strong sense of family. How important it that to you?
In terms of business model, I think it’s very interesting and innovative. The challenge is to pass it on to another generation. Are the second and third generations strong enough? Talented enough? Does the balance between family and management work? Can family work with management? These are questions that come up all the time in all of the great luxury legacies. I was probably one of the first to build the second generation in a luxury fashion house. When my father asked me to carry on the brand, to take it to another level, I took on the challenge and thought, “Let’s try.”

How have things changed since the LVMH acquisition?
It’s been very different, because I am not the owner any more; I am the management. So my role has changed. I have to convince the others, I have to manage the company, and so on. It’s been great. You still have the imprinting of the family – the emotional aspect, the knowledge, the talent – but you now have strong management, strong backing. If it all manages to come together it’s a plus, because you have big shoulders and you have a persona. This kind of model will ensure that companies don’t become all the same, because they respect that individual identity. For me, brands are very much like people; they have their history, they have their personality, they have their ups and downs. You need that attitude, because if you don’t then we are all doing the same thing and it all becomes a bit dry.

This rich history and sense of family probably made you very attractive to LVMH.
Perhaps. I have a lot of respect for the Arnault family. They are remarkable professionals and wonderful people at the same time. They have a similar story to ours in the sense that it is a family business and the children are very involved. I can relate to that. So congratulations to them!

Do you hope your children will join the family business one day?
I am trying to give them the opportunity, but it’s up to them. They are not obliged. I was kind of obliged, but they have a choice.

Can you tell us what a day in your life looks like?
I thank God that no two days are the same. I am very undisciplined and get bored very quickly. I am not very good at doing the same thing. I think it is also my role to constantly bring new ideas, to understand what is going on. I try to feed myself as much information as possible. I try to bring new points of view to the company.

How do you do that?
Some days you have to catch details between a million things, and some days you are totally free to look for more ideas. The other day, I saw something on TV about the amazing advances in technology. I don’t know anything about technology, so I am curious to learn more about it and see how we can apply it to Pucci. I’m interested in always adding something new to the business. What can I bring to the company that I haven’t already? At the same time, it’s important to cultivating the heritage, the craft. I’m always looking for new ways to blend the past and the future.

Speaking of the future, Peter Dundas has done a great job of ushering the brand into a new age. Do you think your father would have approved of him and his designs?
You know, my father would have approved of everything to be honest. The world has changed so much since my father founded the company and since he left us. He would have been enthusiastic to know that he was a part of it. I always say that it’s not about the plans, but it’s about the vision.

I always say that it’s not about the plans, but it’s about the vision.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered in your professional life?
Being in the office everyday when my children were very young. I never took maternity leave. I kept traveling around when I was pregnant with my first child, and I went back to the office three days after leaving the hospital. It was hard, but I did it. Voilà. My doctor wasn’t happy about it, but I reminded him that women used to be out in the fields working even when they were pregnant. I had an event in Florence one week before one of my children was born, so I was running around in 12-inch heels. Everyone was so worried, but I told them I was fine. And I really was fine.

Do you have any parting advice for our readers who may be starting their own businesses?
You have to find a balance between your personal life and your professional life. It’s all about balance. There are moments when you have to push, and there are moments when you have to step back. Finding your own pace is very important. I personally am very grateful to my family, my children, and especially my husband, because he has allowed me to do what I do. That is so important. If your husband allows you, helps you, and inspires you, that’s great. Without him it wouldn’t be possible.

One last question. If you were stuck in an elevator, who would want to be stuck with?
One of my kids. To be very honest, it’s all about family.

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