Born in Florence on March 26, 1881, Guccio Gucci founded the eponymous house with his lover Aida Calvelli in 1921 specializing in leather goods for the equestrian set, luggage and handbags. As the family grew, their sons eventually joined the business helping to open and manage shops in Milan and Rome and expanding into New York, London, Paris, Palm Beach and Los Angeles. Gucci’s evolution has grown from a niche luxury shop in Italy to the hottest and most searched for brand of 2017. Truly one of the most iconic brands of this century, its storied attributes are instantly recognizable as well as its most fashionable leaders. Let’s breakdown the major components of the Italian luxury brand’s DNA.
The intricate commissioned print that interlaced plants, flowers and insects together with 37 brilliant colors was first developed as a special gift for Princess Grace of Monaco, according to Gucci: The Making Of. Rodolfo, one of Guccio’s sons, wanted to give the princess a gift but she was unimpressed with Gucci’s collection of scarves. The inspirational flora designed has resurged several times throughout the brand’s history in its women’s clothing and accessories and is used as a name of a house fragrance.
The iconic bamboo handles and closures were an innovative response to supply shortages during the warring ‘40s. The sturdy bamboo handles could be attached to the bag with four small metal hoops, according to Gucci: The Making Of. A slouchy hobo-style bag with a bamboo accent was named “Jackie” in the ‘50s and ‘60s as it was favorited by first lady Jackie Kennedy. More current styles of the bag have been refashioned with a piston lock that mimics the shape of bamboo.
The patented Gucci crest contains a wheel on the left, a warrior in armor in the middle, a flower to the right and a ribbon across the top that says Gucci. The crest has been used to brand bags, buttons and even cars.
Originally introduced in 1953 on a pair of loafers, the horsebit bit design is another nod to the brand’s equestrian roots. It migrated over to women’s accessories as a decorative closure on handbags with much success. The horsebit has appeared across collections even appearing as a signature print on fabrics.
THE TOM FORD ERA
Tom Ford was appointed creative director of Gucci in 1994 and subsequently hired Frida Giannini as the handbag design director poaching her from Fendi where she was hailed as the it bag designer of the time. Together they led the charge to bring acclaim back to the brand that was no longer owned by the family who built it and plagued with scandal. Ushering in the Gucci revival, sexy tailored apparel and coveted bags made Gucci hot among celebrities and the elite. No longer a brand for equestrians, aristocrats and heirs, Gucci became the designer choice of young Hollywood and their fans.
GUCCI’S MONOGRAM CANVAS & GUCCISSIMA
Gucci’s monogramed canvas dates back to the 1960s and is one of the most renowned monograms in the world. The iconic GG diamond pattern has been used to brand everything from bags to clothing to cars (sometimes paired with a blue-red or red-green web). Due to a widespread counterfeiting problem, Frida introduced Guccissima in the 2005-2006 fall-winter collection when she took over as creative director after Tom’s and subsequently Alessandra Facchinetti’s departure. Guccissma denotes the special process which includes stamping the signature monogram into soft leather, hand-dying the hide and treating it with natural waxes for durability.
THE ALESSANDRO MICHELE ERA
Alessandro Michele joined Gucci in 2002 under Tom Ford’s leadership and took over the brand in 2015 following Frida’s nine-year stint as the creative director. His eclectic, quirky and vintage aesthetic propelled the brand into a completely different direction making the forthcoming collections less slick and sexy and more otherworldly fantasy.
FROM GUCCI GHOST TO GUCCI GANG
Luxury labels have always intersected with street style. From the grandeur of nightlife purveyors to musicians both reppin’ and rapping about luxury wares, Gucci is riding the wave of the streetwear revival from GucciGhost to Gucci Gang. The Olympic snowboarder-turned-artist Trevor Andrew collaborated with Gucci after developing a cult following with his DIY Halloween costume and his graffiti-style GucciGhost tags. Working with creative director Alessandro Michele, Trevor collaborated on a GucciGhost capsule collection in 2016. The following year, rapper Lil Pump popularized the term “Gucci Gang” in the title track of his single.
This year, Gucci paired with infamous bespoke designer Daniel Day aka Dapper Dan to open a by-appointment-only atelier in his old stomping grounds of Harlem. Dapper Dan was renowned among rappers, gangsters and hustlers throughout the east coast for his custom apparel (and car treatments) constructed of knockoff designer fabrics until his shop got shaken down by Fendi in the 1990s. His legacy resurfaced when his fans cried foul when Gucci recreated one of Dapper Dan’s design in its 2018 cruise collection. Now, Gucci by Dapper Dan is a three-story outpost full of authentic Gucci textiles and master craftsmanship endorsed by the Gucci brand and designed by the original Harlem Dandy himself.
Gucci is surely ascending in the luxury marketplace. Brands such as Fendi and Dior are reviving their classic monograms and silhouettes and cashing in on street style influences, nostalgia and the brand awareness that technology now brings to a new segment of shoppers. Could it overshadow Hermès and fast fashion powerhouse H&M on this year’s Forbes list of the most valuable fashion brands in the world? We shall see.
Shop Gucci’s greatest hits.