As part of my series of articles dedicated to Italian fashion history, this week we will explore the journey through time of one of the most famous Italian fashion brand: Gucci.
In case you missed it, in my previous post, we learned about the history of Italian fashion and the worldwide affirmation of Made in Italy.
The rise of Gucci to the world of fashion stars in Florence, which is the city where I currently live in.
What I find so interesting is that Gucci and Florence are so strictly related, that it’s impossible to think about one of them, without citing the other. This great partnership between the territory, the history and the man who founded the company can now be explored in the wonderful Gucci museum in Piazza della Signoria.
I’d love to talk about the brand, because not only Gucci is one of the most important trendsetter in the business and aesthetic of contemporary fashion, the only fashion show that’s “worth a visit to Milan Fashion Week” (in Anna Wintour’s own words), but also because it’s one of the best symbol of Italian craftsmanship.
The exhibition of the Florentine museum takes us through 90 years of stories and cult products of Gucci’s history, allowing us, room by room, to retrace the steps of how Gucci became the brand we love today.
Are you ready to come with me?
Guccio Gucci founded the brand in 1921 in Florence, selling exquisite high-quality leather luggages, inspired by the English aristocracy.
Gucci used to work as a liftboy at the Savoy Hotel in London and for a long time he was able to observe and touch the fabulous luggage of the richest people in the world.
He had the idea to combine the great craftsmanship of Tuscan artisans and the elegant taste of the European elite.
And he succeed.
The first label we find on Gucci’s products said: “G. Gucci traveling goods Florence.”
Hundreds of gentlemen and their wives, spending their holidays in Florence, payed a visit to Gucci’s boutique, searching for luggage, bags, trunks, gloves, shoes and belts, inspired by the equestrian style.
This style was successful because a lot of Italian Gucci’s customers had a passion for horse racing.
During the ’70s Gucci started for the first time to produce ready-to-wear collections, selling GG logo’s printed shirts, with engraved buttons and leather jackets with fur embellishments
The innovative allure and the high-quality of the items were the key factors, that contributed to expand the empire of Gucci’s business. In 1981, Gucci organized the first ready-to-wear fashion show, in Florence, where it all started decades before.
In 1994 Tom Ford became the new creative director at Gucci. His sense of style and femininity played a strategic role, defying the new aesthetic of the brand, awakening sensuality and audacity, giving the brand a luxurious appeal.
Killer heels and tight jersey dresses, with irregular and provocative cuts, immediately caught the attention of the press and celebrities. Tom Ford reinvented in an extraordinary way the glamour of Gucci, contributing to create another iconic trademark in the history of the Fashion House.
The evening dresses displayed in the Museum of Gucci show visitors the beautiful gowns, worn on red-carpets by the most influential people of the jet-set.
The DNA of Gucci was also shaped by hostile situations.
During the 40’s, as a result of the Italian government strategic and economic decisions, Gucci suffered of a lack of materials, which were usually imported into the country to produce high quality bags.
It was impossible for the artisans to continue working, satisfying the needs of voracious customers.
So they decided to experiment.
Hemp, linen, jute made their first appearance as luxury products.
“La necessità aguzza l’ingegno” we say in Italy (Necessity is the mother of the inventions).
During this decade another iconic creation of Gucci had been invented: the bamboo bag.
It was 1947 when this bag was first designed with pigskin (wild pig, which are presents even nowadays in the Tuscan region).
In Sardinia bamboo was cultivated and to save leather for the bag, Gucci’s artisans came up with an unexpected way to replace the handles, using burnished bamboo.
The rounded silhouette of the bag was designed to resemble the shape of a saddle.
Jet-set people and aristocrats adored this new style and contributed to make it a symbol of Gucci.
The ’50s also saw the introduction of the iconic green-red-green ribbon, which was inspired by the saddle girth.
The best customers of the time were the celebrities and VIPs. Among them Jaqueline Kennedy, wearing the famous shoulder bag Jackie O’, Liz Taylor, Peter Sellers and Samuel Beckett, who made the soft Hobo bag an eternal symbol of unisex elegance.
In 1977 the company founded a Private Gallery at Beverly Hills, where only selected people were allowed to shop exclusive handbags, with diamonds and gold chains, made of exotic and rare leathers.
Gucci was meant for the elite and luxury was the best way to express the incredible quality of its production.
It’s 1966 when the poetic and delicate Flora pattern came to life through the talented hands of Vittorio Accornero.
The designer and illustrator of Gucci created the famous floral and enchanted pattern exclusively to pay tribute to the visit of Princess Grace Kelly, with her husband Ranieri Di Monaco, to the Gucci shop in Milan, in Via Montenapoleone.
The original and unconventional pattern was declined into the four seasons.
Berries, butterflies, insects and dragonflies found place in an enchanted and multicolored graphic, with a powerful evocative spirit.
The pattern made its appearance on fabrics, porcelains, bags, gloves, on silk scarfs and jewels, giving the name to an iconic perfume of the brand.
In 1953 Guccio Gucci died and the four sons, Vasco, Aldo, Ugo e Rodolfo inherited the company.
Aldo decided to expand the business, creating a collection of shoes.
So 1953 is also the date when the first pair of loafers were crafted.
The loafers are the only pair of shoes exhibited in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Aldo’s idea was to combine a comfortable and effortless pair of shoes with one of the symbol of Gucci, the iconic clamp.
Used in multiple ways, the clamp is the trademark that makes you say “This is Gucci” and it was firstly introduced in the 30’s.
The shoes’ aesthetic was so innovative and sophisticated, that it made Gucci one of the most contemporary brand of the time.
Guccio Gucci was one of the first businessman and designer to spot the need to create not only simple products, but to surround these products with a defined lifestyle.
Items of common use were turn into cult pieces, such as thermos, glasses, dishes, picnic sets, board games, musical instruments and cars.
Gucci’s products became a must-have, a desirable gift, never abandoning the traditional quality of materials and craftsmanship, which made the company succeed.
In his vision, Gucci’s products were meant not only for travels, but also for a spoiled everyday life.
In the middle of the ’60s Gucci introduced the GG logo, creating another iconic trademark for the company.
The logo was created to pay tribute to the founder of the Fashion House, Guccio Gucci.
The GG logo was initially applied to bags and in the following years was covered in gold, silver, precious leathers, velvet and silk. This endless experimentation contributed to strengthen the power of the monogram, that became the signature of the brand.
The original Diamante pattern were revived with the GG logo and was used to craft luggages, bags and garments.
The iconic GG of the brand were continuously reinvented, printed or impressed on leather, changed into different shapes and colors and applied to expensive and rare materials, such as crocodile leathers and silver pins embellished with engraved snake heads.
In the 70’s the GG Tondo, GG Diagonale and GG Mignon were best-sellers, as the pattern with a single G and the G Quadro version, printed on suede bags, luggages and jackets.
Now the logo, which is applied to most of the products of the brand is called and known as “La Pelle Guccissima”.
With “La Pelle Guccissima” the tour of the Gucci museum comes to an end.
Contemporary art displays are always presents in the upper floor of the palace, creating an incredible connection between the ancient palace, that was home to the court of guilds in medieval Florence, and the futuristic and avant-garde vision of the company.
Now Alessandro Michele is in charge to reinvent what the vaste archives of Gucci have to offer.
I think that Gucci historic treasures have always been well preserved and the visitors of the museum have the extraordinary chance to observe what the family was able to produce in almost a century.
So if you’re taking a trip to Florence, stop by the Gucci Museum, because it’s a rare and fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of Italian fashion.
If you’d like to live and touch the story of Made in Italy, well, it’s all about Gucci.
Piazza della Signoria 10, Firenze
As a side note, the nice people at Gucci created an outstanding experience for your visit of the museum, including an icon store, bookshop and coffee shop/restaurant.
Everything is obviously stunning and there’s nothing better than a GG logo in your cappuccino for a truly multisensory experience.
Do you want to discover with me this museum on your visit to Florence?
Check out my Italian Fashion History Experience and book your fashion history conscious tour of the city!