A 100 years of Gucci

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

Initially the brand produced primarily leather goods, as well as premium knitwear, silk goods, shoes and handbags. During the second world war, material constraints owing to the war effort forced the label to use cotton to create their goods. It was during this time that the label introduced its distinctive “Double-G” monogram, as well as the now iconic Gucci stripe, consisting of two green stripes interrupted by a single red bar.

From the 1950s onwards, Gucci experienced incredible success as a label of choice amongst wealthy travellers, Hollywood stars and other well-heeled shoppers, renowned for its extravagant, opulent designs. Guccio Gucci passed away in 1953, but the business continued under the leadership of his three sons, Aldo, Vasco and Rodolfo, In the mid-‘60s, the brand introduced luxury accessories such as eyewear, watches and jewelry to their product line; items which have since become a cornerstone of the label.

In 1983, Rodolfo Gucci passed away, and control was passed to his son, Maurizio, who struggled to maintain Gucci’s successes. During this period, the brand experienced numerous troubles owing to family disputes, tax evasion charges, assassinations and sales to foreign investors.

In 1990, American designer Tom Ford was hired as a ready-to-wear designer, eventually being promoted to Creative Director four years later. Ford is credited as being instrumental in helping to restore Gucci’s reputation during that period, reducing the brand’s product offer, streamlining its identity and restoring the opulence and extravagance that had defined the label previously.

In 2004, Tom Ford presented his last collection with Gucci, being replaced by Frida Giannini. In 2006, Giannini took control of both men’s and women’s ready-to-wear design, and served in this role until late 2014.

At the time of Giannini’s departure, there was a perception developing that Gucci had become stale or irrelevant, with a lot of talk about who would replace her.

The brand surprised their audience when, in 2015, it was announced that Alessandro Michele would take over as creative director of the brand. Though Michele had worked for Gucci in various roles for 12 years, he was still relatively unknown as a designer, and it was not clear in what direction he would take the brand.

Alessandro Michele is still – 2021 – the current creative designer for Gucci, having previously worked alongside Fendi before being recruited by Tom Ford in 2002. Michele had a number of executive roles before taking on creative direction for Gucci, working as the house’s Leather Goods Design Director, and Associate to Creative Director (Frida Giannini at the time).

Michele’s multifaceted approach blends dandyism with the Italian Renaissance, a gothic aesthetic and a DIY punk attitude. Michele’s style, blending Gucci’s classic penchant for extravagance and opulence with a theatrical, somewhat-kitschy pageantry, has proven to be a success among young and aspirational customers but not necessarily the connoisseur.

In early 2017, it was announced that Gucci had achieved record sales under Michele’s leadership, fuelling an 11% boost in profits for the brand’s parent-company, Kering, and the brand’s high performance continues to this day. However in 2021 it has lost market share and dropped by 13%.

The Gucci logo could perhaps be regarded as the most recognizable in terms of luxury branding. Aldo Gucci, son of the fashion house’s founder Guccion, joined Gucci in 1933 and designed the logo for his father. The use of the two G’s is in direct reference to the initials of Guccio Gucci himself – an artistic and memorable way to make the founder’s significance represented in a visually timeless manner.

The bumblebee made its first appearance for Gucci in the 70s and was used in Michele’s debut women’s Fall-Winter collection in 2015. The humble worker bee has appeared in family crests, paintings and tapestries for centuries and is a sign of nobility in Europe.

The black, white and red stripes of the Kingsnake are one of Gucci’s most striking animal symbols. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed snakes symbolise wisdom and knowledge and elsewhere signify a mixture of power, sensuality and seduction.

The powerful tiger, appearing across Gucci suits, bags, sneakers, jewellery and cushion covers, is referenced frequently in Asian cultures. The proclaimed lord of the mountains represents strength and bravery.

The lion, appearing on patches and Gucci accessories, is heralded as the “king of the jungle” and symbolises authority and command—the epitome of strength.

Like a butterfly, Gucci underwent a metamorphosis when Michele became Creative Director. The butterfly, both colourful and beautiful, is known as a symbol of Gucci’s past and present, appearing in its original flora print.

Unfortunately it seems using all these various symbols show the brand is all over the place, one gets the feeling it’s just pulling from various motif concepts that sound cool and somehow important, which means the brand has no one unified soul – and run the risk of quickly losing its core identity in its effort to keep its lustre and speak to a new clientele.

In 2017, in keeping with Kering’s commitment to responsible business practices, Gucci unveiled ‘Culture of Purpose’, a 10-year sustainability plan that focuses on creating a positive environmental and social impact.

Currently Gucci is owned by the French luxury group Kering, and its proprietor Francois Pinault.

Celebrating its centenary, Gucci presents the high watchmaking collection. While it is not the first time Gucci to have dipped its toe into the pinnacle of craftsmanship — the storied fashion house launched its debut high jewellery collection in 2019 — it is the brand’s first foray into the world of high watchmaking.

Among the new creations, which comprise of four different lines including Gucci 25H, G-Timeless, Grip and high jewellery watches, the Gucci 25H is the featured piece that stands out with precision, opulence and solidness, made for both men and women.

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