Guccio Gucci was born in Florence, Italy, in the year 1881. As a young teenager, Gucci lived in Paris and London and worked as an elevator operator at upper class hotels in both cities. He became fascinated by the beautiful leather goods that the hotel guests carried. This inspired him to return to his native Florence, where, in 1921, he set up his own shop selling high-quality, handcrafted leather goods. While his business eventually expanded to include industrial fabrication methods like machine stitching, Gucci also preserved some of the more traditional, handcrafted aspects of the design process.
With the help of his three sons Aldo, Vasco, and Rodolfo, Gucci expanded the business by adding shops in Rome and Milan. He also opened more shops in his native Florence. These stores sold the company’s finely crafted creations, including high-end Gucci leather bags, shoes (including the loafers that the company would come to be known for), knitwear, and silks in Gucci’s signature pattern and style.
As World War II raged on, war rations on materials would cause Gucci to replace leather for canvas when crafting his handbags. To compensate for this change, Gucci decided to embellish his design with the addition of a double “G” and vibrant red and green bands printed on the canvas. The “Gucci crest” would eventually become a symbol for the city of Florence as well.
In the early 1950s, as the business further expanded to include offices in New York, the Gucci name was establishing itself the world over as an international status symbol. Celebrities of the time could be seen sporting a black Gucci purse, or wearing Gucci clothing, shoes, or accessories while posing for magazines. This resulted in the company’s growing reputation as a forerunner in the fashion industry. Because of this, the signature Gucci design is one of the most often copied designs of the fashion world.
The Gucci company began to experiment with their brand by adding more exotic animal skins, including pigskin and calf skin, to craft their products, while still using materials like waterproof canvas and satin for their handbags. In 1947, bamboo handles were incorporated into the design of certain handbag; these handles were fabricated using a heating and molding process. In1960, shoulder straps were included on certain Gucci handbag designs, and the Gucci line expanded to include ties, watches, jewelry, and eyewear. And the iconic double “G” insignia was being used on Gucci belt buckles in 1964.
Gucci reached a height of unmatched success in the 1970s, but due to family squabbles, the company crumbled and was almost destroyed from within during the 1980s. The Gucci brand was again secured when, in 1990, fashion designer Tom Ford was hired to design the company’s ready-to-wear collection. In 1994, he was made Gucci’s creative director, and increased Gucci’s sales 90% by 1996. Italian fashion designer Frida Giannini would join the company in 2002 as design director for Gucci handbags. By 2005, Giannini was made creative director for Gucci’s ready-to-wear and accessory lines for women. The following year, she was appointed creative director for the entire Gucci label. Giannini’s successor Alessandro Michele would be appointed Gucci’s creative director in 2015.
To this day, the Gucci brand remains steadfast as one of the world’s most successful brands. According to the magazine Businessweek, the company’s worldwide revenue reached €4.2 billion in 2008. Gucci was also named number 41 on the magazine’s annual “Top Global 100 Brands” list of 2009. Known as the top-selling Italian brand, Gucci has over 278 stores spread across the globe. Gucci handbags and other products are also sold wholesale at many luxury franchise stores and high-end department stores. The brand was given a value of $12.1 billion USD, with sales topping $4.7 billion, in 2013, and was awarded the 38th place on Forbes’ The World’s Most Valuable Brands list that same year.