Born: Florence, Italy, 1881
Died: Milan, Italy, 1953
The son of an Italian merchant, Guccio Gucci left Italy to travel to Paris and London in 1898. Gaining an inspiration and understanding of the cities sophistications and culture, while in London, Gucci worked as the maitre d’ at the Savoy Hotel. On his return to Florence, Gucci started to sell saddles and saddlebags, but due to the rise in automobiles, demand for horse products fell, resulting in Gucci branching out into other accessories.
In 1921, Guccio Gucci founded a leather goods company and opened a small luggage store in Florence. With the designs featuring inspiration from London and local master craftsmanship from Tuscan artisans, his reputation built quickly.
During the 1930s, the labels success continually grew. International clients’ would throng to the Florence boutique which now provided bags, trunks, gloves, shoes and belts. With many of his clients’ horse-riding aristocrat, a demand for riding gear led Gucci to create the Horsebit icon. The thirties also saw Gucci create the loafer shoe with a gilded snaffle in 1932 and the business expand with a boutique opening in Rome.
Rodolfo and Guccio Gucci, Florence store late 1940. Courtesy of Gucci
In the forties Gucci experimented with different materials. With a lack of foreign suppliers, Gucci played with hemp, linen and jute. His most notable innovation was burnishing cane to create the handle of the Bamboo Bag, which was inspired by a saddle’s shape.
Gucci and his wife, Aida Calvelli had raised six children, and upon Gucci’s death in 1953, four of his sons; Aldo, Vasco, Ugo and Rodolfo took over the business. Rodolfo managed the company’s Italian interests, overseeing the opening of a store in Milan, while Vasco supervised operations in Florence. Aldo moved to New York, where he opened Gucci’s first boutique outside of Italy.
The fifties also saw another equestrian inspiration for the brand with its green red green web stripe created, derived from a traditional saddle girth. With the new leadership disputes began over inheritance, stock holdings and day to day operations, however despite the family fighting the business still carried on successfully.
By the sixties Gucci’s products were renowned for their timeless designs, enticing iconic stars. Jackie Kennedy carried the Jackie O shoulder bag, Grace Kelly personally requested the design of the Flora silk print scarf, and Liz Taylor, Peter Sellers and Samuel Beckett all wore the unisex Hobo bag.
The iconic double G interlocking logo, created by Guccio Gucci was adopted mid sixties and by the end of sixties business had expanded, opening stores in London, Palm Beach, Paris and Beverly Hills.
During the seventies the company continued its international expansion, conquering the Far East, opening stores in Tokyo and Hong Kong. The label also developed its first ready-to-wear collection featuring shirts and buttons with the interlocking Gucci logo. The new designs made Gucci famous, idolised for its mix of innovative style and Italian quality.
In 1977 the Beverly Hills flagship store was revamped with a private gallery. Privileged VIPs including Rita Hayworth and Michael Caine were invited to browse exclusive designs.
In 1981 Gucci presented its first ever runway show in Florence. The following year with the business in financial issues, Gucci became a public limited company. With this, leadership passed to Rodolfo’s son, Maurizio Gucci.
In 1987 investment company Investcorp began buying into Gucci, leading to their entire purchase of the company in the early nineties.
In 1989, Dawn Mello president of Bergdorf Goodman was hired to inject new life into the company. As new creative director, in 1992 Mello kick started the Gucci rebirth with reinterpretations of the company’s bestsellers including the bamboo bag and loafers. However, it wasn’t until 1994 when Tom Ford was hired, that the label really returned to its former success.
Domenico De Sole was appointed CEO of the company in 1995, transforming Gucci into a fully public company.
Haven given the label glamour, and turning the brand into a celebrity must have, Ford left Gucci in 2004. Succeeding him, three designers; Alessandra Facchinetti, John Ray and Frida Giannini. With Giannini appointed sole creative director in 2006, the company was named the most desirable luxury brand in the world by Nielsen the following year.
At the beginning of 2010 Gucci launched its first children’s collection. Highlighting the labels quality, the line was made exclusively in Italy.
An iconic fashion house, Gucci offers timeless luxury and Italian excellence. Gucci oozes fashion authority with its careful pairing of modernity and heritage, resulting in innovative designs with desirable craftsmanship.
In 2011, to celebrate its 90th anniversary, Gucci opened the Gucci Museum (Gucci Museo) in Florence. Over the years, the brand expanded its presence with the addition of 220 new Gucci stores between 2010 and 2015, bringing the total store count to 500.
In December 2014, Marco Bizzarri, former CEO of Bottega Veneta, became the CEO of Gucci with the aim of revitalizing the brand’s declining sales. In January 2015, he appointed Alessandro Michele as the creative director of Gucci. Michele introduced a fresh and innovative approach to the brand, embracing a sophisticated, intellectual, and androgynous style. He revived classic Gucci elements like the double-G logo and the Jackie O. bag while also creating iconic products like the Dionysus handbag. Michele’s postgender geek-chic style gained significant attention and popularity.
Under Michele’s creative direction, Gucci achieved remarkable success. In September 2016, the brand inaugurated the Gucci Hub, its new Milan headquarters in a former Caproni aeronautical factory. Gucci also ventured into home decoration with the launch of Gucci Décor in July 2017. Furthermore, the company established the ArtLab in April 2018 for the development and testing of new products. Gucci expanded its offerings with a bookstore in New York and a network of call centers for high-end customer service.
In 2019, Gucci’s sales reached 9.6 billion euros, and the brand continued to grow its presence, launching stores on the Tmall platform and introducing new collections like the Hollywood Forever glasses collection. However, in November 2022, Alessandro Michele stepped down as the creative director, and Sabato de Sarno was announced as the new creative director in January 2023.
Gucci has been involved in various cultural, social, and environmental initiatives. The brand established the Gucci Museum, now known as the Gucci Garden, and financed the restoration of several historic gardens and places in Italy. Socially, Gucci has supported documentary funds, women in cinema, and educational projects through its partnership with Chime for Change. The brand also champions environmental sustainability, banning furs and joining initiatives to protect wildlife and achieve carbon neutrality.
Gucci has been the subject of numerous popular culture references, with its name often used as an adjective to describe luxury. Additionally, a movie titled “House of Gucci” featuring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver was released in 2021, depicting the Gucci dynasty’s story.
The brand has faced controversies over the years, including issues related to cultural appropriation and the use of controversial imagery in fashion shows. Gucci has taken steps to address these concerns, promoting diversity and cultural awareness within the fashion industry. It has also settled tax irregularities with Italian fiscal authorities.
Guccio Gucci Biography