In these challenging times we are all going through right now. I feel like nothing can truly lift the spirit of a human being than a beautifully crafted handbag and some good old gossip or sassy family drama. So, I’d love to tell you about the history of the Gucci brand on this little old blog.
Ah the Gucci brand, known world wide as the eldest Italian fashion house in the business, represented in every big city that means something, constantly fighting over the billion dollar revenue luxury throne ( under French holding Kering since 1999.) with that other French giant Louis Vuitton (LVMH since 1987). But before I start quoting Ophidias and Marmonts, It’s absolutely necessary acknowledge that this Italian brand’s history can’t be seen separate from the family drama that went on behind the bedazzling doors of the Gucci empire. ( Oeh la la).
Our story starts when Guccio Giovanbattista Giacinto Dario Maria Gucci. (Aka, I’ll call you Dario, you can call me Betty). Left the grounds of Florence Italy to meet the mondain city of Paris, to eventually settle in London later on in his life. (I sincerely hope the poor guy didn’t travel by foot like poor old Louis Vuitton did, but hey that’s a story for later down the railroad.) In London Guccio worked as a bell hop at the high end Savoy hotel, loading and unloading rich peoples luggage. There he learned about the tastes and likes of the wealthy. After that experience he works for four years at the Compagnie de Wagons Lits, a European rail company, learning more and more about travel leisure. And after WOI he started working for monsieur Franzi, a specialist in fine luxury.
And then the moment arrives that our story’s hero opens the door of his first boutique “Azziendo Individuale Guccio Gucci” in the Via Della Vigna Nuova in Florence. At that time Guccio sold imported travel luggage and equestrian supplies but opened at the same time a little workshop where he had his own leather goods made. This had to be expanded quickly as Gucci soon had 60 craftsmen working under him.
In 1935 Mussolini invaded Ethiopia and the League of Nations imposed a trade embargo on Italian goods to boycot the aggression of the country against Ethiopia. Leather goods became scarce and Guccio got creative with wicker, rotan, linen and jute. It also was the time the Gucci rombi motif got created. Gucci created cuoio grasso, which became Gucci’s signature style, together with the rombi motif.
In 1937 Gucci launched his handbags.
All of Guccio’s family members worked in the shop but it was his son Aldo who got seriously involved in the business and who convinced this father to open a new shop in Rome ( 1931) and extend his handbag line with accessories.
When World War two embarked, Guccio’s craftsmen made the boots of the Italian infantry. Post WOII materials were scarce and Gucci honed further in on it’s bamboo and canvas goods. The canvas however was distinguished with the GG logo and it had red and green bands running over it. After the war, the Gucci crest, which showed a shield and armored knight surrounded by a ribbon inscribed with the family name, became synonymous with the city of Florence.
Guccio Gucci distributed the shares of the company to his four sons, Rodolpho, Aldo, Ugo & Vasco. His daughter did not get a share in the company, how Italian patriachist of you Guccio, I’d spank you if I could. In 1945 the brand first launched one of my favourite Gucci bags, the bamboo, trés hippie chic. After that iconic moment, Gucci has many other iconic launches, like in 1951, the launch of the Gucci loafer. The Ophidia was launched. No seventies reinvention needed for me since I own the real deal from that period, but can’t seem to find online when it was first made. If anyone can help me out, leave a comment ;). The Jackie was launched in 1961 after Jaqueline Kennedy and the Flora, a collaboration of Frida Gianni with artist Vittorio Accornero in 2005 for their cruise collection. It was very badly received by the fashion critics. I believe this however to be the bags and scarves with the most romantic and feminine print to be found at Gucci. I truly admire the works of Vittorio Accornero who remained a penniless painter until near the end of his career and life, when he collaborated with Gucci. And of course let’s not forget about the incredible Dionysus created in 2015 by Allesandro Michele and the Disco Soho. All these bags are icons, and here to stay for eternity, in my humble opinion.
But I promised you some juicy details, and honestly what you’re about to get is juicier than a cocktail of Bridgerton and Dynasty. The whole Gucci family was living of of the legacy and money that Guccio had built. As I previously mentioned, after his death he divided his wealth amongst his 4 sons, Aldo, Rodolfo, Vasco and Ugo. Aldo had two sons, Giorgio and Paolo, that both tried to launch their own Gucci stores separate from the family. In 1972 they managed to bring the separate stores back under the main wing and they decided to officially form a conglomerate in 1982 to stop the tensions that were running the family dry. Gucci Group SPA was formed. Ugo and Vasco had died in the seventies in the midst of all the family disputes, most likely from a heart attact due to all that family stress…Then Rodolfo died in 1983, and this left Mauritzio, son of Rodolfo, with the half of the Gucci legacy in his hands. Mauritzio started a legal war against his uncle Aldo so he could be president of Gucci. In his defence, he wanted to rebrand Gucci and give it a fresher image. Mauritzio was married to Patritzia, who the family at first did not approve of, but later had a great part in bringing the family closer again.
Mauritzio was lavishly spending way more than he was making in the short years before his death, acting like a crazy rich asian, flying the Private jet to Paris to casually eat oysters dipped in champagne. Aldo went to prison for tax evasion and the company’s art collection was completely liquidated. In the end Mauritzio had to sell fifty percent of his Gucci group to Tiffany’s. After all of this drama, the group was still completely in debt. At the same time Mauritzio’s wife had been unhappy for years in her loveless marriage consumed by greed, as she began to frequent a sort of clear voyant she became best friends with, or that might had become her girlfriend, as the two to this day are still closer than ever. The two started a conspiracy against Mauritzio and hired 4 hitmen to shoot him in front of his office in Milan in March 1995. It took the detectives two years to figure out who was behind the attack but in the end Patrizia was sent to prison for 29 years.
Gucci was doing great despite the family arguments but right before Mauritzio died the sales went drastically down due to mass production. Mauritzio assigned Dawn De Mello who reduced the number of Gucci items produced as the number of Gucci stores globally, making the brand more exclusive again. Dawn relaunched the Bamboo and the loafer. And she hired genius Tom Ford who didn’t get to be his creative self as his strings were still pulled by the company’s legal advisor Domenico De Sole. So after Tom and Domenico resigning and a nasty fight over the luxury brand by LVMH followed, French holding Kering bought the group eventually.
Following Tom Ford the group had 3 designers who were previously employed under Ford: John Ray, Allesandra Facchinetti and Frida Gianni ( The new Bamboo and the new Jackie & also wildly known for her 8000 piece vinyl collection !!!! ).
In 2008 Patrizio Di Marco followed up as head creative.
Alessandro Michele, with whom I not only share my love for the seventies, my long uncombed wild hair, my love for checkered flannels lumberjack shirts and my occasional chin hairs here and there, came aboard in 2015, bless his soul. What the man did for the brand ( Dionysus/Marmont, the new GG) is incomparable and we have so much more to see from him.
Further than that, the brand has launched the Wooster bookstore in no other city than New York, and in 2019 they launched a callcenter network of 500 people to offer the best service possible to it’s luxury clients.
So I went just a little out of my way, and tested their supposedly amazing customer service, made an online appointment at Gucci, on a Sunday. And guess what, they called me back, by phone, immediately, on a Sunday! My friends don’t even call me back on a Sunday, let alone by phone! Honestly shocked, in a good way. So to all members of lonely hearts clubs all over the world. I’m here to say. It’s ok. You are not alone. If you ever feel lonely, forget about 911… Call Gucci.