The now notorious Gucci fashion house had humble beginnings before winning over the world with its vision of glamour and grandiosity. Hailing from Florence Italy, the founder of the Italian label, Guccio Gucci, found inspiration when he worked as a bell boy at the Savoy Hotel in London, England. Guccio became fascinated with the elite clientele and their luxurious luggage, and often eavesdropped on conversations to learn about the fabulous lives of his guests. Upon returning to Florence, Guccio became intent on creating a product that would appeal to Europe’s high society. To do so, he combined the exceptional Italian craftsmanship that he learned from his leatherworking father, with the interests of aristocratic Europeans at the time. It was then that his equestrian-influenced leather luggage goods were born. He conceived a centrally running green and red striped webbing inspired by a horse’s webbed saddle girth, and cast horsebit detailing onto many of his accessories, curating a collection of high-status pieces with subtle nods to the ritzy riding lifestyle.
As with most European fashion houses in the early 1940s, the house of Gucci experienced extreme shortages of materials due to the wartime rationing. Despite the uncertainty of retaining his new atelier, Guccio Gucci did not buckle. He adapted his brand by introducing new signatures to the luggage lines, allowing for less of the dwindling materials to be needed for his designs. Substituting leather for cotton and hemp, the craftsman began printing an exclusive bespoke design on a natural canvas base, with the dark brown repeating diamond print being coined Diamante. The Diamante canvas continued to be used after the rationing ended, as it came to be a symbol of luxury and exclusivity.
Several years later, the launch of Gucci’s first flagship store in the US was marked by tragedy, when only a couple of weeks after the grand opening in 1953, Guccio Gucci suddenly passed away. It was shortly after his untimely death that the second iconic Gucci print was created. A tribute to the late entrepreneur, the interlocking GG monogram was crafted by Guccio’s son, Aldo, in an homage to his late father’s initials.
The expansion to the US market proved immensely profitable for the designer fashion house, as Hollywood starlets and American politicians were immediately hooked on the Italian label. In the early 1960s, first lady and fashion icon Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis was photographed wearing Gucci’s Constance Bag, and the style was aptly renamed the Gucci Jackie Bag, with her blessing. Offering a slouched leather hobo bag frame with a piston-lock closure, the luxury-bohemian style silhouette surged into the 1970s, with Kennedy herself purportedly having six different variations in her personal collection.
Designer hobo bags have since been recreated by many fashion brands; although, the Gucci Jackie Bag holds acclaim for the style’s burgeoning beginnings. Nowadays, the Italian fashion house has reimagined the Gucci Jackie Bag in a variety of iterations, with the Gucci Jackie 1961 Shoulder Bag being particularly coveted among today’s collectors of preloved designer handbags.
Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco was known for her love of scarves and twillys, having been famously photographed at the Rome 1960 Olympics in a variety of chic luxury scarf-adorned outfits. In 1966, when Princess Grace purchased a green bamboo bag at Gucci’s Milan store, Guccio’s son Rodolfo set out to have known artist Vittorio Accornero create a bespoke silk accessory to complement her new handbag. In taking the assignment, Accornero drew inspiration from the Goddess of Flora’s dress in the Italian Renaissance painting Primavera by Sandro Botticelli. Princess Grace Kelly’s custom Gucci print consisted of 37 colors and depicted 43 different types of flowers, plants, and insects. The print was named Flora and soon became a coveted design, adorning Gucci shoes, Gucci fashion, and Gucci handbags. The Flora solidified itself as symbol of Gucci’s affinity for colorful dandyism and decadent whimsy.
The next era of Gucci was one marked by scandal. Guccio’s grandson, Maurizio Gucci, whose murder was allegedly arranged by his ex-wife, Patrizia Reggiani, garnering a lot of negative attention. The public airing of their family’s dirty laundry lead to a decline in sales and temporarily tainted the public perception.
In the mid '90s, the house of Gucci earned a much-needed revival, as designer Tom Ford was appointed Creative Director, upheaving the brand with a fresh and youthful look. Ford's controversial collections focused on sleek silhouettes with a heavy sex appeal that left the dark history of the brand decidedly in the past.
After Ford’s departure to head up his own luxury label, a number of designers took turns at the helm of Gucci's creative, all of whom managed to maintain Gucci’s prominence in the luxury arena. It is only with the current Creative Director, Alessandro Michele, that Gucci went back to its roots. Michele set out to restore Gucci’s iconic look, capturing the maximalist dandyism that characterized Gucci during its prime as he reimagined the androgynous glam of the 1970s with a modern vibrance. As the brand continues to thrive under his leadership, the Gucci name remains one heavily coveted by many.