Before there was Dolce and Gabbana (1985), there was Versace (1978). Before Versace was Fendi (1925). Today, Gucci (1921) emerges as one of the oldest and powerful Italian fashion houses.
In 1960, Gucci was one of the first Italian luxury brands to enter the United States. Guccio Gucci founded the luxury leather goods company after travelling to England and working at the Savoy in London. He had observed the wealthy clients and understood that material items displayed one’s status–a suit, a tie, a dress, a few (or a number of) pieces of luggage. Over time, Gucci would employ his children to work for the company. He wanted his children, especially his sons, to understand the business from the ground up. Gucci’s explosive temper and domineering presence, however, would drive his children to compete against one another.
The patriarch managed to pass on the tradition of competition to his descendants. The competitive drive would serve Gucci well in some ways–the brand expanded out of sleepy, provincial Florence to Paris, London, Tokyo, and New York. Gucci would manufacture signature loafers, silk scarves, and handbags made of bamboo in addition to their trademark leather handbags crafted by artisans in Via delle Caldaie, Florence.
But the pressure to succeed would raise the emotional and financial stake of Gucci. The ever-changing international business landscape of the late 1980s and 1990s would test the endurance of the Gucci family members and its company.
On September 23, 1993, Maurizio, the last Gucci left standing in the company signed his shares away to InvestCorp and handed over his family’s brand three generations old.
On March 27, 1995, Maurizio was murdered.
Forden exposes the familial and professional tensions that haunt Gucci’s past. The battles between fathers, uncles,cousins,and brothers. Husband and wife. The war to keep Gucci in family hands and outsiders at bay. The constant desire for control. The thirst for power. The hunger for riches.
Today, Italian luxury brands captivate the fashion world with a a sense of youth, sensuality, and modernity. The vision brought to life by Dawn Mello, Tom Ford, Domenico De Sole, and the last real Gucci left a lasting legacy on what fashion is today. The successful combination of creative direction and assertive business is a model other luxury brands have used to improve their operations.
But there is only one Gucci.