Gucci was founded by Guccio Gucci in the early 1920s. As an immigrant in Paris and then London, Guccio made a living working in luxurious hotels and 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. 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.
Together with his sons, Gucci expanded his company to include stores in Milan and Rome as well as additional shops in Florence, selling his finely crafted leather accessories as well as silks and knitwears bottega on a quest for his equestrian inspired Gucci shoes, bags, trunks, gloves and belts.
discovered by Giannini in the Gucci archives and used on a limited edition collection of classic Gucci handbags, shoes and leather goods.
riding aristocrats and their call for riding gear led Gucci to develop its unique Horsebit signature logo in the early 1950s. It was first used on ample saddle stitched leather Gucci handbagss most iconic shoes, the Gucci loafer.
s fascist dictatorship, Gucci continued to experiment with unusual materials such as hemp, linen and jute. One of his best known creations was the adding of a patina to a cane to create the handle of the new Bamboo Bag, whose curvy shape was inspired by the contours of a saddle. Over time the bamboo handle evolved from its origins as a solution to shortages and became a signature motif of many incarnations of Gucci bags. Bamboo inspired patterns have also featured on a variety of products from headscarves to watchstraps; it has even been skilfully carved into a pair of golden stiletto heels.
During the 1950s Gucci again took equestrian inspiration for the creation of its trademark green and red Web stripe, derived from the traditional colours of saddle girth strap. Throughout the brand’s history the Web stripe has appeared on an array of products. In modern collections the Web’s stripes have been morphed into various colours, materials and sizes.
With Gucci’s death in 1953 his sons Aldo, Vasco, Ugo and Rodolfo 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 bagss pubic hair. Throughout the 1960s Gucci continued its global expansion opening Gucci shops in London, the USA and the lucrative emerging market of the Far East. Following the enlargement of their luggage business, the company developed the first RTW Gucci collection, heavily featuring the double G logo.
The brand was now becoming known not just for its exceptional Italian quality and craftsmanship, but also for its innovative and audacious clothing line. The Gucci insignia were constantly re-invented through new shapes, colours and techniques, the GG logo was burnt through suede and leather, again being inspired by equestrian branding. The company used ever more opulent materials, the finest leathers and suede and exotic animal skins such as baby crocodile.
Following enormous success in the 1970s, Gucci, like many luxury labels such as Burberry, suffered a proletarian drift due to over branding and licensing of products. By the time Gucci’s creative director Dawn Mello hired a then unknown Tom Ford in 1990 ‘no one would dream of wearing Gucci’. Ford imbued the luxury brand with a sense of adventure and sensuality that reverberated throughout the fashion world and inspired a new breed of celebrity to buy Gucci.
By the time Ford was promoted to Gucci creative director he was being lauded as the man who was putting glamour back in fashion with his Halston style velvet hipster trousers, slim satin shirts, and super slick and shiny metallic patent boots.
The stiletto Gucci shoe and the slinky cut out jersey Gucci dress with metallurgic hardware details became instant signatures of Ford’s glitzy, glamorous vision. Ford combined an intelligent commercial sensibility with a modern feel for fashion. He became known for bringing a hedonistic sense of sex into nineties fashions previously dominated by starkly austere minimalism.
“I think his stuff will hold its own better than any other label in the contemporary resale market”, said Clair Watson, the director of couture at Doyle New York, the Upper East Side auction house. “The early years of this century are all about sex in the abstract, and Tom Ford mastered the ‘about to have sex’ look at Gucci and the mussed, smudged, post-sex look at Yves Saint Laurent. And there was Ford himself: in his tailored jeans and jackets, charcoal stubble, and stiff white shirt unbuttoned to there, sipping a martini as he took a bow. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that?”
When Frida Giannini took over the creative directorial role she explored Gucci’s rich heritage and its luxurious craftsmanship legacy, fusing past and present, history and modernity into her designs. Iconic house signature pieces such as Flora, La Pelle Guccissima, the Jackie O and the Bamboo Gucci bag were re-vamped for the new millennium. Giannini has given the signature Gucci Horsebit a new lease of life, adapting Gucci prints from the late 1960s, super magnifying them or enlarging to a huge scale to use on sinuous dresses or travel totes.