Design Edits: The Story of Gucci

We all want one….a purse, a wallet, the belt, a pair of sunglasses……The Gucci Brand….a label that stands out….

“The three key rules of marketing are brand recognition, brand recognition, brand recognition.” And you could argue no fashion house takes this dictum more seriously than Gucci.


Have you ever thought about the story that lies beneath the label?

I am one of those series lovers, sitcoms, reality, medical dramas, adventure but best of all, I love crime shows, the CSI series, Body of Proof e.t.c Two of my favourite channels, Crime ‘n’ Investigation and The Discovery. One Tuesday evening, as I settle to watch on of my favourite shows on Crime and Investigation, what comes on…..The Story of the Gucci Empire…..

The Gucci NovelFor years, I have been telling my friends about the Gucci family, about the murder and deceit….but this is the 1st time I ever thought to write about it. While doing my research I stumbled on two mindblowing discoveries. First discovery, a novel based on the Gucci Family titled; The House of Gucci; A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour and Greed written by Sara Gay Forden. The novel is available on though I think I bought the last one (its said it was the last one in stock). Secondly, rumor has its there is a movie in the works that may possibly be starring Penelope Cruz and Russel Crowe.

“Boardroom brawls; executives tossing thousand dollar handbags at each other in fury; boatyard exorcisms; high-speed motorcycle escapes across the Swiss border; a socially ambitious wife; and a hit man who leaves two witnesses to his crime. It could have been a best-selling novel, although people might not have believed it. But The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour and Greed is a true story based on years of reporting and interviews by author and journalist Sara Gay Forden.”

Gucci is on of the biggest-selling Italian fashion and leather goods brand owned by the French company Kerting formerly known as PPR. It was founded by Guccio Gucci in Florence in 1921. As of 2013, the Gucci brand operates about 278 stores directly and it wholesales its products through franchises and upscale department stores.


This book is a real must-read if you really want to know about what happens behind the glits and glam of the luxury brand;

“A board meeting in New York ended in a fistfight. A family member then stomped through the busy store below nursing a bleeding scrape on his face.”

“In another well-publicized argument, family members threw Gucci handbags at each other and out a window at one of the company’s Italian offices. Gardeners found the bags the next morning and called police, suspecting a robbery”

“Maurizio Gucci and his wife, Patrizia Regianni, once summoned a psychic to clear their newly purchased boat of evil spirits.”

“How Maurizio escaped Italian police by racing to the Swiss border on a motorbike.”

All that drama makes for a good series or movie, like a Dynasty/wall street type novel.


How it all began……

Guccio Gucci, (Born in Florence, 26 March 1881 – 2 January 1953) was an Italian businessman and fashion designer, the founder of  The House of Gucci. He was the son of an Italian merchant from the country’s northern manufacturing region. As an immigrant in Paris and then London, he made a living working in Luxurious hotels where he was impressed with the affluent luggage he saw the guests carrying. Inspired particularly by the elevated lifestyle he witnessed in the Savoy Hotel in London, on his return to Italy he decided to merge this refined style of living with the exclusive skills of his native craftsmen. Specifically he utilised the skills of local Tuscan artisans and with the help of his wife Aida, Guccio began the now famous Gucci brand in Florence Italy in 1921. He began by selling leather bags to horsemen in the 1920s and graduated into luxury luggage with the emergence of horseless carriages and non-equine transport. Although Gucci organised his workrooms for industrial methods of production, he maintained traditional aspects of fabrication. Initially Gucci employed skilled workers in basic Florentine leather crafts, attentive to finishing. With expansion, machine stitching was a production method that supported construction. Guccio had 3 sons, Aldo Gucci (1905–1990), Vasco Gucci (1907–1975), and Rodolfo Gucci (1912–1983), Gucci expanded the company to include stores in Milan and Rome as well as additional shops in Florence. Gucci’s stores featured such finely crafted leather accessories as handbags, shoes, and his iconic ornamented loafer as well as silks and knitwear in a signature pattern. However, it was their eldest son Aldo who built the brand into an international powerhouse with major snob appeal. Aldo expanded Gucci to major European cities and then to New York and beyond.

Jacqueline-Onassis-1970s-Gucci-Bag 2With Gucci’s death in 1953 his sons took over the family business. The brothers took the successful luggage business to new heights, opening stores round the world and making the Gucci name synonymous with celebrity and chic. Gucci products quickly became internationally renowned for their enduring style and were valued by movie icons and elite figures in the era of the Jet Set.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis sported the Gucci shoulder bag, which later became known as the Jackie O. Created in the late 1950s, the Jackie O bag was given its name after being photographed numerous times on the arm if its namesake while she was working as a consulting editor at Doubleday. Elizabeth Taylor, Samuel Beckett and Peter Sellers carried the slouchy unisex Hobo Bag.

 After a personal request from the Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly, the now famous Gucci scarf print Flora was created. Flora was immensely popular amongst European women, who held it in such regard that they passed this loyalty onto their daughters. One was Princess Caroline of Monaco who adopted her mothers scarf print into her daily wardrobe.

By the early 1960s Gucci had adopted the celebrated double interlocking G logo, creating yet another trademark insignia for the company. Single or double Gs were squared off and used as fastenings for bags; these were developed and produced at Gucci’s own forge at its historic workshop on Via delle Caldaie in Florence. The double Gs were soon transferred onto the internationally recognised cotton canvas luggage. The GG monogram solidified the company’s fame and the Gucci name was carried around the globe in the much-photographed company of movie stars, aristocrats and socialites. The GG logo became a status symbol and hallmark of high glamour, luxury and desirability.

After the untimely death of one of Guccio’s sons Vasco, Aldo split the company 50-50 with his youngest brother Rodolfo. However, Aldo and his three sons resented Rodolfo’s share. They felt Rodolfo, a former silent film actor, hadn’t contributed enough to the company’s growth. To remedy the perceived imbalance, Aldo set up a perfume subsidiary, and kept 80 percent of ownership for himself and his three sons in an attempt to hoard profits. The company prospered through the 1970s, but from the 1980’s family rivalries and the struggle for ultimate power drifted into obscure boardroom maneuvers, legal battles and all-out warfare. Rodolfo’s son, Maurizio took over the company’s direction after his father’s death in 1983 and dismissed his uncle Aldo. Aldo’s son Paolo tried to start his own Gucci brand, but the rest of family rallied against him.

Maurizio Gucci

Maurizio Gucci

Aldo sued his son and threatened to cut off any Gucci supplier who signed on with Paolo. Seeking revenge, Paolo ratted on his own father for Aldo’s decades of tax evasion and ended up serving a prison sentence. Maurizio proved to be an unsuccessful president; he was compelled to sell the family-owned company to Investcorp, a Bahrain-based company, in 1988. Maurizio disposed of his remaining stock in 1993. Patrizia, Maurizio’s wife came to feel her husband had changed for the worse after he took control of the company. He filed proceeded to file for a divorce from her. This made Patrizia furious especially when he offered her $650,000 in a divorce settlement and discovered that he had dumped her for a younger woman

“I pushed him so hard he became president of Gucci,” the book quotes Patrizia as saying. “I was social, he didn’t like to socialize. I was always out, he was always in the house. I was the representative of Maurizio Gucci, and that was enough. He was like a child, a thing called Gucci that had to be washed and dressed.”

After they divorced, she felt she was the one who had made Maurizio a success and deserved a greater share of their assets for herself and their two daughters. Tragically, Maurizio was murdered on the steps of his office in Milan on the 27th of March, 1995. In November 1998, Patrizia was convicted of taking out a contract to kill her estranged husband. Her four co-defendants — her psychic adviser, the doorman of a seedy hotel, a debt-ridden pizzeria owner and a mechanic — were also convicted the same day. Patrizia had her sentence reduced from 29 years to 26 years this spring because a psychiatrist diagnosed her as having a “narcissistic personality.” A couple of years later, after being offered parole, Patrizia told the board at San Vittore jail:

‘No thanks as it would mean getting a job and I have never worked a day in my life…..I would prefer to stay in my cell and water my plants’

Her decision does not come entirely as a surprise to those that know her as she once famously summed up her lavish luxury lifestyle which included apartments in Milan and St Moritz, by saying: ‘I’d rather cry in a Rolls then by happy on a bicycle.’

Photograph by Raymond Meier. Published in Vogue, February 2009.

Photograph by Raymond Meier. Published in Vogue, February 2009.

Meanwhile, the new investors promoted the American-educated Domenico De Sole from the position of family attorney to president of Gucci America in 1994 and chief executive in 1995. In October 1995 Gucci went public and had its first initial public offering on the AMEX and NYSE for $22 per share. November 1997 also proved to be a successful year as Gucci acquired a watch licensee, Severin-Montres, and renamed it Gucci Timepieces. The firm was named “European Company of the Year 1998” by the European Business Press Federation for its economic and financial performance, strategic vision as well as management quality. Gucci headquarters are in Florence, other world offices are in Milan, Paris, London, Hong Kong, Japan, and New York. The PPR headquarters are in Paris.

The company had previously brought in Dawn Mello in 1989 as editor and ready-to-wear designer in order to reestablish its reputation. Well aware of Gucci’s tarnished image and the value of its name brand, Mello hired Tom Ford in 1990 to design a ready-to-wear line. He was promoted to the position of creative director in 1994. Before Mello returned to her post as president of the American retailer Bergdorf Goodman, she initiated the return of Gucci’s headquarters from the business center of Milan to Florence, where its craft traditions were rooted. There she and Ford reduced the number of Gucci products from twenty thousand to a more reasonable five thousand.

 There were seventy-six Gucci stores around the world in 1997, along with numerous licensing agreements. Ford was instrumental in the process of decision-making with De Sole when the Gucci Group acquired Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, Bottega Veneta, Boucheron, Sergio Rossi, and, in part-ownership with Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga. By 2001 Ford and De Sole shared the responsibility for major business decisions, while Ford concurrently directed design at Yves Saint Laurent as well as at Gucci.

The French conglomerate Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, however, gained ownership of 60 percent of the Gucci Group’s stock in 2003. Women’s Wear Daily then announced the departure of both Domenico De Sole and Tom Ford from the Gucci Group when their contracts expired in April 2004. The last spring collection under the direction of Ford and De Sole was a critical and commercial success. Amid widespread speculation in the fashion press about Ford’s heir, the company announced in March 2004 that he would be replaced by a team of younger designers promoted from the ranks of the company’s staff. In 2005, Frida Giannini was appointed as the creative director for women’s ready-to-wear and accessories, previously joining Gucci in 2002. In 2006, she also became the creative director for men’s ready-to-wear and the entire Gucci label.

If The House of Gucci has any larger message at all, it is probably that even the most successful large family companies can’t survive without professional management and outside capital, said Forden.

But, she added, the family ’s ups and downs have only added to the mystique of the Gucci name.


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Categories: Factual Drama, Fashion & Lifestyle, Freshly Pressed, Media & Entertainment

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