Vanessa Semmens

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA353

Gucci, spring/summer 1997. Niall McInerney, Photographer © Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

The House of Gucci was founded in 1921 in Florence, Italy by Guccio Gucci, and was originally a leather goods company.

In the 1940s the company experimented with materials, due to supply shortages. Out of this came the bag with a bamboo handle, which is still a signature of the brand, inspired by the shape of a saddle; equestrian activity is an ongoing symbol of the brand. The house has dressed celebrities since the first half of the twentieth century: its “Jackie O” bag is named after Jackie Onassis, as it was a constant component of her attire. Elizabeth Taylor, Ingrid Bergman, and Anita Ekberg were often photographed with Gucci bags. In the 1960s the “Flora” silk print scarf was designed for Grace Kelly and this print is an ongoing part of the brand’s image: it was a major inspiration behind the spring/summer 2005 bag collection.

Gucci is also known for its loafers featuring a horse’s bit, which were first designed in 1953. In the same year Guccio Gucci died and his sons Aldo, Vasco, Ugo, and Rodolfo took over the business. Aldo had a good understanding of the power of marketing and branding, and was responsible for pushing to open a store in Rome.

The 1970s saw the first ready-to-wear collections produced by Gucci; there were more stores around the world, and the Beverly Hills flagship store had a private gallery for prominent clients. In 1981 Gucci had their first runway show in Florence, and became a public limited company in 1982. In this same year the son of Rodolfo, Maurizio Gucci, became the leader of the company, with 50 percent of the company’s shares.

There have been many stories of rifts between Gucci family members, such as Aldo’s son Paolo being brought to court to prevent him using the family name. The infighting was creating a negative image for the brand, so Domenico De Sole was brought in as CEO. The family business came to an end in the late 1980s, when Investcorp started buying shares. Gucci became a complete public company in 1995 and a part of PPR (now known as Kering) in 1999.

Tom Ford was the creative director of Gucci from 1994, transforming the image of the brand. Ford left in 2004, as PPR wanted to prioritize the company name over Ford’s name. There were three creative directors in 2004: Alessandra Facchinetti (womenswear), John Ray (menswear), and Frida Giannini (accessories); Giannini became the creative director of the whole house in 2006.

Gucci has a philanthropic nature, with a global campaign called Chime for Change, which promotes female empowerment. Its link with the Monegasque royal family has continued, with Charlotte Casiraghi, daughter of Princess Caroline of Monaco, being signed in 2012 as the face of their campaign Forever Now.

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Giannini F., ed. Gucci: The Making Of . New York : Rizzoli, 2011.

Gucci. Web site.

Find in Library Horyn C. ““Tom Ford Goes Out with a Roar.”” The New York Times , 26 February 2004 .

Find in Library ““James Franco’s Rose-Tinted Gucci Film.”” The Telegraph , 8 April 2014 .

Find in Library Karmali S. ““Beyoncé Leads New Gucci Empowerment Campaign.” Vogue ( U.K.), 28 February 2013 .

Find in Library Mower S. Gucci by Gucci: 85 Years of Gucci . London : Thames & Hudson, 2006.

Wigham Helen. “On This Day in History.” Vogue (U.K.), 11 May 2011.