When you think of high end products, you think Gucci. Whether it's their luxury, sensuous apparel, their elegant appeal or gorgeous adverts, Gucci is a byword for style and high fashion.
Exclusive and elusive, their origins are simple and sweet but quite quickly turned murky and deadly, leading to new management that took the brand to where they are today. Let's explore the story of how Gucci grew from humble beginnings, and rose to great success, leaving the founding family behind after scandal, treachery, spurned love and murder.
The iconic GG stands for Gucio Gucci, the founder who was born and bred in Florence, centre of culture and elegance, art and beauty. Started in Italy, inspired by London and spread to become a global empire. Gucio Gucci started life as a humble elevator operator who was fascinated by the luggage cases of the guests at the Savoy where he worked. He dreamed of making beautiful, sturdy suitcases.
At first, he returned to Florence and started producing high quality leather luggage - handbags and briefcases remain Gucci's staples to this day.
He started out making leather saddle bits and sold them in Italy, which is where the horse icon originates.
In the 40s, under Mussolini's fascist dictatorship, leather was really expensive so he started using silk, one of the main textiles Gucci uses to this day. In fact, the war years also gave birth to the famous bamboo bag, because bamboo was a cheap material at that time, and the famous pattern disguised the fact their products weren't real leather anymore.
In 1953, his sons took over and promoted the brand in Hollywood. Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy were firm patrons of the Gucci bag brand. Grace Kelly, princess of Monaco, even purchased one, leading Gucci to design their floral pattern, on a scarf, as a gift in return and from then on, both the pattern and scarfs became part of Gucci's repertoire.
The GG logo was actually started after his death, by his sons, to honour Guccio, in 1960. In the 80s, the company was almost bankrupt after all the Gucci scandals came out, and by scandals we mean murder and libel.
"It's the curse of the Gucci family that even when they're dead they make those left behind suffer," uttered Jennifer Gucci, sister-in-law of Patrizia Gucci, the woman arrested for hiring professional killers to murder her ex-husband, Maurizio Gucci, in March 1995.
It all started as a tragic love story.
Maurizio Gucci was the only son of Rodolfo Gucci and one of four grandsons of Guccio Gucci. His father forbade him marrying Patrizia, but he did it anyway and was disowned by his father. However, Maurizio wouldn't give up his share in the family's fortunes so easily. In the 1980s, the Supreme Court of Manhattan was being called on to sort out the squabbling Gucci cousins, Maurizio and Paolo.
The feud was bitter. Maurizio Gucci released documents that testified to systematic income tax evasion by his cousin's family, only to find himself arrested for allegedly opening illegal offshore company opened by him in Panama to buy a luxury yacht. The company bounced between Maurizio and his three cousin's control. At one point he held 58% shares, at another, they held 60%. Finally, Maurizio, with his controlling interest, sold the company. Out of the Gucci family hands, the brand flourished. Unfortunately Maurizio was killed by hitmen, paid by his ex wife, Patrizia.
Back to the company, leaving the troubled family behind, tom Ford was appointed in 1994 and within 5 years, an increase of 90% in sales was reported and the company was worth almost $4 billion. Tom Ford took Gucci in a new, fresh direction, tore up fashion rule books and started the ready-to-wear women's and men's collections before leaving in 2005 to start his own brand.
At first Frida Giannini took over but the company themselves, in her official history, describe her as mundane. In 2011, after many rumours, she admitted to dating Gucci's then CEO, Patrizio di Marco. In 2013, they had a daughter, Greta, and were married two years later. But being "very mundane", she was ditched in 2015.
Gucci then made a very surprising choice, choosing the almost entirely unknown Alessandro Michele, who'd been with Gucci for 12 years. However Michele was an excellent choice, raising the company's profits 11% in his first year by trashing the men's design's 5 days before a launch and then debuting a new women's range that was a smash hit. He has led the company, very successfully, to this day.
Gucci gives back too. They partnered with UNICEF in 2005, and started a scheme to support young girl's education, called chime for change in 2015. 200 projects have been funded since.