History of Gucci: a century of fashion and family

by Marzia Parmigiani
12 minutes read
history of Gucci

The story of the iconic Italian fashion house Gucci is one filled with glamour, drama, tragedy, betrayal, passion, and of course, beautiful luxury goods. For over 100 years across three generations, the Gucci name has been synonymous with high quality leather goods and cutting edge fashion beloved by celebrities and jetsetters alike. In this article, we’ll discover History of Gucci: a century of fashion and family.

 “Gucci is not a fashion or a design house, it was always a trademark”.

Maurizio Gucci

History of Gucci: the origins

Guccio Gucci was born in 1881 in Florence, Italy. As a young man, he worked at the Savoy Hotel in London where he was inspired by the elegant luggage he observed the guests carrying. In 1906, Gucci returned to his hometown of Florence and opened a small leather goods company selling saddles and luggage items. He drew on his experience in England to incorporate British motifs and styling into his designs. Business started slowly but soon picked up. Gucci focused on quality craftsmanship, hiring the city’s most skilled artisans to handcraft each piece. His bags and suitcases quickly earned a reputation amongst wealthy, international travelers who passed through Florence. In 1938, Gucci expanded operations and opened his first retail location in Rome. The company might have remained just a small family-run leather workshop if not for Guccio’s sons, Aldo, Vasco, Ugo, and Rodolfo. After their father’s death in 1953, the brothers took the helm and expanded the brand globally with their unique strengths and visions.

History of Gucci: expansion and innovation under Aldo Gucci

Aldo Gucci took over as company president and was instrumental in bringing the Gucci name to international fame. He opened the brand’s first New York store in 1953 followed by dozens more boutiques in glamorous spots around the world throughout the 60s and 70s. Aldo also made several innovations that became Gucci icons and have remained staples in the collection today. These include the Bamboo bag with its distinct bamboo curved handle and the Flora print, a colorful, flowery canvas that was used on scarves and bags. He also popularized Gucci’s double G monogram logo. Gucci became synonymous with movie stars and jetset luxury during Aldo’s leadership. Fans of the brand included Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Samuel Beckett, and many other rich and famous figures of the era.

 History of Gucci: family feuds and decline

Behind the scenes, tension was building in the Gucci family. Disagreements over creative control and family succession plans led to infighting and lawsuits throughout the 1980s. After Aldo went behind his back to cut his son Paolo out of the business, Rodolfo’s son Maurizio allied with Paolo and ousted Aldo from power in a legal coup. Maurizio took over in 1983 aiming to restore Gucci’s reputation for quality and scale back some of the company’s cheaper licenses and products. However, he soon left the company himself following disputes with investors. Without family leadership, the brand floundered, losing relevance and profitability over the next several years.

History of Gucci: murder, betrayal, and scandal 

The drama reached its peak when Maurizio Gucci, head of the company at that time, was shot dead by a hitman on the steps outside his office in Milan in 1995. It soon came out that his ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani had organized the murder, enraged over his leaving her for another woman after 12 years of marriage. Their divorce and the aftermath made international headlines given the iconic status of the Gucci name and wealth. Reggiani was dubbed “The Black Widow” in the media and served 16 years in jail for arranging Maurizio’s murder. The shocking scandal put an end to Gucci as a family company. However, it also drew immense attention and fascination to the brand’s history and intriguing backstory involving passion, betrayal, and cutthroat competition amongst the once tight-knit Gucci family. 

Maurizio Gucci and Patrizia Reggiani

House of Gucci: the movie

Released in late 2021, the highly anticipated Ridley Scott film House of Gucci depicts the shocking true story behind the famous fashion empire. It stars Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani, the ambitious wife of Maurizio Gucci (played by Adam Driver) who orchestrates his murder after he left her for another woman. The movie follows their whirlwind romance, wedding, and Reggiani’s thirst for wealth and status as a member of the prestigious Gucci family. It portrays the company’s infighting between Maurizio and his uncle Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino) over business direction. Jeremy Irons also appears as Maurizio’s father Rodolfo Gucci. Reggiani grows increasingly unhinged and bitter as Maurizio divorces her and plans to marry his mistress. She colludes with an occultist and her friend to hire hitmen to kill Maurizio outside his office in 1995. The film climaxes with this vivid murder scene. House of Gucci has garnered mixed reviews from critics but enthusiastic public interest in the lurid scandal. Lady Gaga’s showstopping performance as Patrizia has generated Oscars buzz. Fans of luxury fashion and true crime can’t seem to get enough of the drama, betrayal, and violently vengeful romance at the heart of the famous family brand.

History of Gucci: revived Gucci under Tom Ford 

In the wake of Maurizio’s death, Gucci suffered from directionless leadership and declining sales. Investors brought in American Dawn Mello as creative director ready to revive the brand’s fortunes. She hired young designer Tom Ford in 1990 to work under her in the ready-to-wear department. The move proved savvy as Ford quickly rose up to become chief designer. His sexy, provocative aesthetic and runway shows packed with celebrity fans like Madonna breathed new life into Gucci, captivating the 90s fashion world. Sales tripled by 1995. Ford modernized classic Gucci motifs like the Flora print and Bamboo bag while also introducing popular new items like satin shirts and moccasin loafers. By the late 90s, Gucci was again a fashion force, this time with a daring, sensual image that perfectly aligned with the mood of that decade. Ford is largely credited with saving Gucci from ruin and obscurity after the family’s downfall threatened to sink the company. 

History of Gucci: life under the Gucci Group

After Ford’s departure in 2004 to focus on his own label, Gucci styles became more subdued and refined for several years under designer Frida Giannini. Behind the scenes, big changes were happening as global luxury giant LVMH mounted a takeover attempt, sparking a worldwide corporate ownership struggle. Ultimately, the French company Pinault Printemps Redoute emerged victorious, acquiring full ownership rights to Gucci with the goal of building a new multi-brand fashion group. They formed the Gucci Group which now owns not just the Gucci fashion house but also Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, and other top luxury brands. While no longer a family company, this new corporate ownership brought stability plus the financing and portfolio of brands to strengthen Gucci positioning amongst stiff luxury goods competition today from groups like LVMH.

History of Gucci: Alessandro Michele and the new era

In 2015, relative unknown Alessandro Michele was elevated from director of accessories to creative director of the whole Gucci operation. His eclectic, vintage-inspired designs quickly won critical acclaim, generating long waiting lists for the brand’s upcoming seasonal collections. Michele has led a resurgence of Gucci’s iconic floral patterns, introducing fresh takes on the blooming motifs across ready-to-wear lines and leather goods. Fans love his gender-fluid styling that borrows glamorous touches from the 70s and 80s. Michele also fostered innovative collaborations with contemporary artists and brands like Dapper Dan and Liberty London. Gucci today feels both nostalgic yet modern at once thanks to Michele’s unique vision. He has created buzzworthy items like embroidered denim jackets, Ace sneakers with floral appliques, Beloved bags, and tons more coveted items that have restored Gucci’s cool factor. Michele continues to serve as creative director, keeping the brand at the forefront of luxury fashion.

History of Gucci: new Gucci creative director Sabato De Sarno

In January 2023, Gucci announced that little-known Italian designer Sabato De Sarno would be taking over as creative director following Alessandro Michele’s departure. De Sarno has worked behind the scenes at top fashion houses like Prada and Dolce & Gabbana for the past two decades. With no public profile and only a handful of runway collections under his own label, the choice surprised industry insiders. Yet Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri praised De Sarno’s deep luxury fashion expertise focused on tailoring and innovative techniques for reinventing house codes. His appointment signals a new direction for Gucci. While Michele reveled in eccentric maximalism and vintage decadence, De Sarno’s aesthetic skews sleeker and more minimal. He is expected to modernize Gucci’s signature house icons like the Flora print and Horsebit styles in a subtle way true to the brand’s heritage. Analysts predict a shift away from streetwear and logo-mania back towards Gucci’s roots in skilled Italian leatherworking and craftsmanship.

History of Gucci: a century of influence

From small Florentine leather workshop to global fashion phenomenon, the name Gucci has endured over 100 years of shifting styles plus epic family drama thanks to quality craftsmanship and alluring design aesthetic. The double G emblem remains a status symbol instantly recognizable around the world. Gucci’s reach extends from red carpet fashion to popular culture to political scandal and true crime sagas. Books and films recounting the sensational murder plot have fueled public intrigue in the storied House of Gucci. Today Gucci produces hugely popular sneakers, suitcases, sunglasses, dresses, loafers, and of course, those famous floral patterned bags, scarves and canvas items. The label operates over 500 directly operated stores plus e-commerce sites bringing in over 9.6 billion euros in revenue in 2021.

Through Gucci’s long, winding, and always entertaining history, the iconic Italian house has become more than just a luxury brand but a captivating legend sitting at the crossroads of fashion and pop culture. Gucci continues to inspire obsession from its devoted, fashion-loving fans who can’t wait to see what the next era will bring. Keep following us to discover more about Italy fashion and to discover the new LCN App.

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