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The House of Gucci, better known simply as Gucci, is an iconic Italian fashion and leather goods label. It was founded by Guccio Gucci (1881 1953) in Florence in 1921. Gucci is considered one of the most famous, prestigious, and easily recognizable fashion brands in the world. The House of Gucci is part of the Gucci Group which belongs to the French conglomerate company Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR).

Gucci generated circa US$8.2 billion worldwide of revenue in 2008 according to BusinessWeek magazine and climbed to 45th position in the magazine's annual "Top 100 Brands" chart created by Interbrand. Gucci is also the biggest-selling Italian brand in the world. Gucci operates about 425 stores worldwide and it wholesales its products through franchisees and upscale department stores.

 

History of the Gucci

The House of Gucci was founded in 1921 by Guccio Gucci. In 1938, Gucci expanded and a boutique was opened in Rome. Guccio was responsible for designing many of the company's products. In 1947, Gucci introduced the bamboo handle handbag, which is still a company mainstay. During the 1950s, Gucci also developed the trademark striped webbing, which was derived from the saddle girth, and the suede moccasin with a metal horsebit.

His wife Aida Calvelli had a large family, though only the sonsVasco, Aldo, Ugo, and Rodolfowould play a role in leading the company. After Guccio's death in 1953, Aldo helped lead the company to a position of International prominence, opening the companys first boutique in New York. Even in Guccis fledgling years, the family was notorious for its ferocious infighting. Disputes regarding inheritances, stock holdings, and day-to-day operations of the stores often divided the family and led to alliances. Gucci expanded overseas, board meetings about the companys future often ended with tempers flaring and luggage and purses flying. Gucci targeted the Far East for further expansion in the late 1960s, opening stores in Hong Kong and [Tokyo]. At that time, the company also developed its famous GG logo (Guccio Gucci's initials), the Flora silk scarf (worn prominently by Hollywood actress Grace Kelly), and the Jackie O shoulder bag, made famous by Jackie Kennedy, the wife of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

Gucci remained one of the premier luxury goods establishments in the world until the late 1970s, when a series of disastrous business decisions and family quarrels brought the company to the verge of bankruptcy. At the time, brothers Aldo and Rodolfo controlled equal 50% shares of the company, though contributed less to the company than he and his sons did. In 1979, Aldo developed the Gucci Accessories Collection, or GAC, intended to bolster the sales for the Gucci Parfumes sector, which his sons controlled. GAC consisted of small accessories, such as cosmetic bags, lighters, and pens, which were priced at considerably lower points than the other items in the companys accessories catalogue. Aldo relegated control of Parfums to his son Roberto in an effort to weaken Rodolfos control of the overall operations of the company.


The AMC Hornet station wagon interior by Gucci

Aldo Gucci expanded into new markets including an agreement with American Motors Corporation (AMC). The 1972 AMC Hornet compact "Sportabout" station wagon became one of the first American cars to offer a special luxury trim package created by a famous fashion designer. The Gucci cars sported boldly striped green, red, and buff upholstery and on the door panels, as well as the designer's emblems and exterior color selections.

Though the Gucci Accessories Collection was well received, it proved to be the force that brought the Gucci dynasty crashing down. Within a few years, the Perfumes division began outselling the Accessories division. The newly-founded wholesaling business had brought the once-exclusive brand to over a thousand stores in the United States alone with the GAC line, deteriorating the brands standing with fashionable customers. "In the 1960s and 1970s," writes Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, "Gucci had been at the pinnacle of chic, thanks to icons such as Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Jacqueline Onassis. But by the 1980s, Gucci had lost its appeal, becoming a tacky airport brand."

Soon, cheap knockoffs of Gucci wares had appeared on the market, further tarnishing the Gucci name. Meanwhile, infighting was taking its toll on the operations of the company back in Italy: Rodolfo and Aldo squabbled over the Parfums division, of which Rodolfo controlled a meager 20% stake. By the mid-1980s, when Aldo was convicted of tax evasion in the United States by the testimony of his own son, the outrageous headlines of gossip magazines generated as much publicity for Gucci as its designs.

Rodolfos death in 1983 caused a major shakeup in the company when he left his 50% stake in Gucci to his son, Maurizio Gucci. Maurizio allied with Aldos son Paolo to gain control of the Board of Directors and established the Gucci Licensing division in the Netherlands for purposes. Following the decision, the rest of the family left the company and, for the first time in years, one man was at the helm of Gucci. Maurizio sought to bury the fighting that had torn the company and his family apart and turned to talent outside of the company for Guccis future.

 Corporate Gucci

Gucci store at night.

A turnaround of the company devised in the late 1980s made Gucci one of the world's most influential fashion houses and a highly profitable business operation. In October 1995 Gucci went public and had its first initial public offering on the AMEX and NYSE for $22 per share. November 1997 also proved to be a successful year as Gucci acquired a watch licensee, Severin-Montres, and renamed it Gucci Timepieces. The firm was named "European Company of the Year 1998" by the European Business Press Federation for its economic and financial performance, strategic vision as well as management quality.

Gucci world offices and headquarters are in Florence, Paris, London, and New York. PPR headquarters are in Paris.

Flagship stores in the United States:

  • New York, New York
  • Beverly Hills, California
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Bal Harbour, Florida
  • Honolulu, Hawai'i
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • San Francisco, California
  • Costa Mesa, California
  • Atlanta, Georgia


 New management

In 1989, Maurizio managed to persuade Dawn Mello, whose revival of New York's Bergdorf Goodman in the 1970s made her a star in the retail business, to join the newly formed Gucci Group as Executive Vice President and Creative Director Worldwide. At the helm of Gucci America was Domenico De Sole, a former lawyer who helped oversee Maurizios takeover of ten 1987 and 1989. The last addition to the creative team, which already included designers from Geoffrey Beene and Calvin Klein, was a young designer named Tom Ford. Raised in Texas and New Mexico, he had been interested in fashion since his early teens but only decided to pursue a career as a designer after dropping out of Parsons School of Design in 1986 as an architecture major. Dawn Mello hired Ford in 1990 at the urging of his partner, writer and editor Richard Buckley.

In the early 1990s, Gucci underwent what is now recognized as the poorest time in the company's history. Maurizio riled distributors, Investcorp shareholders, and executives at Gucci America by drastically reining in on the sales of the Gucci Accessories Collection, which in the United States alone generated $110 million in revenue every year. The companys new accessories failed to pick up the slack, and for the next three years the company experienced heavy losses and teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. Maurizio was a charming man who passionately loved his family's business, but after four years most of the company's senior managers agreed that he was incapable of running the company. His management had had an adverse effect on the desirability of the brand, product quality, and distribution control. He was forced to sell his shares in the company to Investcorp in August 1993. Dawn Mello returned to her job at Bergdorf Goodman less than a year after Maurizios departure, and the position of creative director went to Tom Ford, then just 32 years old. Ford had worked for years under the uninspiring direction of Maurizio and Mello and wanted to take the companys image in a new direction. De Sole, who had been elevated to President and Chief Executive Officer of Gucci Group NV, realized that if Gucci was to become a profitable company, it would require a new image, and so he agreed to pursue Fords vision.

Domenico De Sole was incensed by the news and declined Arnaults request for a spot on the board of directors, where he would have access to Guccis confidential earnings reports, strategy meetings, and design concepts. De Sole reacted by issuing new shares of stock in an effort to dilute the value of Arnaults holdings. He also approached French holding company Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR) about the possibility of forming a strategic alliance. Francois Pinault, the companys founder, agreed to the idea and purchased 37 million shares in the company, or a 40% stake. Arnaults share was diluted to a paltry 20%, and a legal battle ensued to challenge the legitimacy of the new Gucci-PPR partnership, with the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom representing Gucci. Courts in the Netherlands ultimately upheld the PPR deal, as it did not violate that country's business laws. The second largest shareholder is Crédit Lyonnais with 11%. As of September 2001 a settlement agreement was put into place between Gucci Group, LVMH, and PPR.

 Creative Director

Following Ford's departure, Gucci Group retained three designers to continue the success of the company's flagship label: John Ray, Alessandra Facchinetti and Frida Giannini, all of whom had worked under Ford's creative direction. Facchinetti was elevated to Creative Director of Womenswear in 2004 and designed for two seasons before leaving the company. Ray served as Creative Director of Menswear for three years. 32-year-old Giannini, who had been responsible for designing men's and women's accessories, currently serves as Creative Director for the entire brand. Giannini's Spring 2006 collection was lauded for its color and energy, recreating the buzz around the company's ready-to-wear that was first heard after Ford's 1995 season. Gianninis tenacity and unwavering vision have steered Gucci successfully into its 21st century guise. She is a new voice in fashion, one that champions a lighter luxury for modern times. Her innovative designs are a very personal interpretation of this venerable House: not only does she extract the very best of Gucci, but she has kept its privileged heritage firmly intact.

Cultural references

Gucci has been mentioned in the movies Alfie, Pretty Woman, Pret a Porter, Troop Beverly Hills, Spiceworld: The Movie, Hannibal, The Wedding Planner, Maid in Manhattan, Hitch, Monster-in-Law, Legally Blonde, The Devil Wears Prada, Epic Movie and Sex and the City: The Movie. But also in the Italian film I Mitici - Colpo Gobbo a Milano. Cleavon Little's Sheriff Bart is seen riding with Gucci saddlebags in Blazing Saddles. Gucci was also mentioned in the last season of Friends in the episode The One With Princess Consuela. Gucci was mentioned frequently in the first season of the TV series Ugly Betty. "Gossip Girl has featured Gucci products. Serena van der Woodsen has used two "Indy" bags on the show. Sex and the City has also featured Gucci products and the name been mentioned on the show. Gucci has also been mentioned in the song "Still Fly" in reference to a pimped up gucci suit.

The word "Gucci" is used adjectivally in the British Army to describe items of kit bought by individual soldiers as being superior to the issued equivalent.