Gucci is an Italian fashion label founded in 1921 by Guccio Gucci, making it one of the oldest Italian fashion brands in operation today. Like many historic fashion houses, the brand started out as a luggage manufacturer, producing luxury travel goods for Italy's wealthy upper-classes, as well as equestrian equipment.
When the name Gucci comes to mind, most fashionphiles conjure the image of excess that Alessandro Michele has dreamed up in the last few years. Or perhaps they think of Tom Ford’s scandalous silhouettes and shocking ad campaigns. But long before marquee designers were running the show at Gucci, the fashion house got its start as a humble leather shop.
Born on March 26, 1881 to a simple Italian leather goods maker, Guccio Gucci was a porter at the Savoy hotel in London when he first became enamored with the glamorous suitcases that the guests arrived with from all over the globe. Paying homage to his familiar roots, he eventually returned to his native Florence to work for Franzi, a tony luggage brand. Years later, Gucci was ready to strike out on his own, and in 1921 he opened his own eponymous leather goods store in Florence.
In the beginning, Gucci’s main business was making saddles and other accessories for horseback riders, always crafted from the finest of Italian leathers. His designs continued to gain popularity as he expanded further into the world of accessories, with English aristocrats becoming major fans of the up-and-coming label. Even today this equestrian flair can be see in Gucci’s modern creations, including the beloved horse-bit detail, and the red and green woven stripe, inspired by saddle details.
Guccio enlisted his three sons—Aldo, Vasco, and Rodolfo—to join the business in 1938, and they were tasked with expanding the brand’s presence, bringing Gucci to Rome and eventually Milan, in later years.
Leather was hard to come by in the mid-1930s, because of sanctions against Italy, so Gucci began experimenting with alternative textiles. This led to the very first signature Gucci print: small interconnected diamonds in dark brown, woven into a tan hemp fabric. The iconic Bamboo Bag was born under similar circumstances in 1947; Gucci artisans were scrambling to find materials towards the end of World War II and discovered that they could use Japanese bamboo to craft unique bag handles. Treated with a unique and patented method, these burnished bamboo handles became synonymous with Gucci.
In 1953, just 15 days after Gucci’s first New York boutique opened its doors, Guccio passed away. But despite Guccio's untimely death, his brand continued to flourish and the Gucci's arrival in the U.S. was embraced by American consumers. The decade that followed was a golden era for Gucci, thanks to celebrities who began proudly sporting its designs.
Today, Gucci is striving to redeﬁne Luxury for the 21st century, an ambition that since 2015 has been led by the tandem of the brand’s Creative Director, Alessandro Michele, and its CEO, Marco Bizzarri. Colorful, romantic, poetic and magical, Michele’s unique vision has met with immense critical acclaim while also creating an authentic emotional bond with younger customers.
Informed by an erudite interpretation of cultural and fashion history, Michele’s multifaceted approach successfully blends dandyism with the Italian Renaissance, a gothic aesthetic and a DIY punk attitude. Now more than ever, charisma, innovation and a commitment to progress let Gucci take a radically modern approach to fashion.