Giuseppe Lancetti, known as Pino Lancetti was one of the most prestigious creators of high fashion in Europe, and creator of the Lancetti bran.
Pino Lancetti began his career in high Roman fashion in the 1950s, when it was designed by artists, made by craftspeople and worn by a minute coterie of the grand; by the time he departed from couture in 2001, his name was a brand and fashion was a major Italian export industry.
Lancetti's first and last interest was painting; he was called the artist couturier. He was born in the Perugian town of Gualdo Tadino, famous for its ceramics, and intended to work in that business after studying at the art institute in the city of Perugia. But as a student he also had a quiet and serious gift for clothes, which he used when he moved to Rome in 1954. He set up a small atelier, sold freelance sketches to the salons of the Fontana sisters and Contessa Simonetti Visconti, and designed for the house of Carosa.
Italian fashion had first been exhibited internationally in the early 1950s through shows in Florence, organised as an extension of the local arts and crafts heritage. But by the end of the decade, Rome had become the dolce vita city - and a destination for the jet set and American department store buyers on the hunt for non-Parisian glamour. The Roman couture houses, the alta moda, decided to stage their own shows.
Lancetti opened his House in Rome in 1961. He put on a collection in the Pitti palace in Florence, with the enthusiastic endorsement of senior fashion editor Irene Brin and the director of Rome's Modern Art Gallery, Palma Bucarelli. Then, for more than a decade, he joined Fabiani, Capucci, Mila Schon and Valentino in the Rome shows. He stopped showing regularly as the alta moda season disintegrated in the 1970s - and later admitted, of the catwalk shows of the 1990s, that the cost and melodrama of supermodel display were not always balanced by income from sales.
When he realised in 1963 that women wanted fewer formal clothes, Lancetti "put away the crinolines" and produced a successful collection based on military details, albeit rendered in supersoft stuffs and leathers. He never did take to the subsequent era of T-shirt and jeans. He was not approving of extreme youth, either. Girls lacked elegance, he used to say.
Pino Lancetti is the only designer who in recent years has brought the most famous models in the world to present his collections: from Naomi Campbell to Carla Bruni, from Yasmeet Gauri to Karen Mulder, from Kate Moss to Veronica Webb. For the moment this activity has been abandoned, considering the high cost and disorganizzation of the semi-annual collections.
Lancetti restructured his company in the 1990s; those golden hands responsible for craftwork were getting harder to find and keep in Italy. He made licensing deals and set up new labels for, among other items, cashmere knits and bridal dresses. The Alta Moda gave him a lifetime achievement award in 2000, and he presented a final collection, elegant as ever, before selling his name and company to a Tuscan industrialist, Ugo Paci, who briefly, between 2003 and 2005, brought in the brilliant baby Brazilian Icarius de Menezes as creative director. His prints were almost up to the master's standard, although the master was by then painting quietly in retirement till his dead in March 2007.
Pino Lancetti was murdered in Roma on 8 March 2007, at the age of 78.
Lancetti is survived by his sisters, Edda, Nanda and Lorena.
Lancetti designed memorable textiles based on the paintings of major artists (his own favourites were Kandinsky, Picasso, Modigliani, Matisse and the designer-abstract painter Sonia Delaunay); with them, he temporarily challenged, in the 1960s, Emilio Pucci's dominance of Italian prints. His work was especially venerated in Japan. Art influenced his cut and construction, too - themes from great gallery shows, which he visited repeatedly, turned up in his work to the end of his career. He also borrowed from oriental and folk decoration, and from movies.
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