Guccio Gucci (1881-1953)
developed a taste for beauty and elegance as a young man while
working as a lift attendant in London's opulent Savoy Hotel at
the turn of the 19th century. In 1921, after his return to
Florence, he opened a shop at 7 Via della Vigna Nuova selling
luggage and saddlery, as well as a small workshop that
handcrafted them. In need of expansion, the workshop, which
also had begun to produce handbags as well as its original
equitation goods, was relocated to a larger space on Lungarno
Guicciardini along the Arno River in 1937. By this time the
iconic bit and stirrups, which were derived from the company's
origins and denoted the sophistication of the products, had
come to represent Gucci's success.
In 1938, the business expanded to Rome with the opening of a
shop on the prestigious Via Condotti. Under the limitations of
the Fascist dictatorship, imagination compensated for the
shortage of raw materials, as Guccio discovered the
distinctive potential of hemp, linen, jute and the signature
The one-man business became a
family business when sons Aldo, Vasco, and Ugo joined the
company in 1939. Another son, Rodolfo, later joined the
company and in 1951, he opened a shop in Milan. The opening of
the Manhattan store on 58th Street in 1953 launched the Gucci
brand as one of the pioneers of Italian design in the United
The late 1940s through the 1960s brought the Gucci classics:
the bag with the bamboo handle (1947), the moccasin with the
metal bit (1952), and the flowered Flora silk scarf (1966)
created for Grace Kelly.
The unique designs and high quality materials became a symbol
of class and exclusivity worn by women of style such as Audrey
Hepburn, Jacqueline Kennedy, Maria Callas and the Duchess of
In 1953, the workshop moved to a yet larger location:
Florence's Palazzo Settimanni on Via delle Caldaie, the site
now occupied by Gucci's ultra-modern showroom.
In the 1950s, the trademark striped webbing, which was derived
from the saddle girth, became one of the company's great
successes. This signature detail appeared in a green/red/green
version for natural leather pieces and in blue/red/blue for
During this period, the company adopted the GG logo, taken
from the initials of its founder, as an ornamental motif for a
distinctive cotton fabric called GG canvas. This original
material was used in the making of handbags, accessories,
luggage and the first articles of clothing.
The inauguration of the Manhattan store in 1953 started an
overseas expansion that continued through the next two
decades. With the opening of stores in London and Palm Beach
(1963), Paris (1963) and Beverly Hills (1968), Gucci became a
success in the most important world markets.
In 1971, as the Chicago store was being launched, the
company's new factory opened in Scandicci, near Florence, and
the former workshop on Via delle Caldaie was transformed into
a showroom. Soon, shops in Tokyo (1972) and Hong Kong (1974)
marked the beginnings of a growing presence in the Far East.
Yet the company's rapid development did not lead to abandoning
expert handcraftsmanship: production continued to be
stringently managed and organized from the Florence
In 1982 the original Gucci became Guccio Gucci S.p.A., a
public limited company, and soon after its leadership passed
to Rodolfo Gucci's son, Maurizio. Between 1987 and 1989,
Investcorp, an international investment company, purchased the
50% of Gucci shares that were held by Aldo Gucci and his sons.
Maurizio Gucci retained the remaining 50% until 1993, when he
sold his entire share to Investcorp.
In 1994, Gucci Group NV was
incorporated. The same year, Tom Ford, previously Chief
Women's Ready-to-Wear Designer, was appointed as Creative
Director of Gucci's entire product range. His seminal
fall/winter 1995-1996 collection transformed Gucci's style
with a remix of classic and modern, tradition and innovation.
It was an immediate hit with the critics and the public and
marked the relaunch of the Gucci brand.
In 1995, Domenico De Sole was appointed as President and CEO
of Gucci Group NV after holding the position of President of
Gucci America Inc. (1984-1994) and Chief Operating Officer of
the Gucci Group (1994-1995). The De Sole-Ford team would
reinvent Gucci over the following years.
In October of 1995, Investcorp floated 48.2% of Gucci Group NV
on the New York and Amsterdam Stock Exchanges. The Initial
Public Offering was positively received by the market, leading
Investcorp to offer the remaining 51.8% of the company five
months later. Gucci's shares were in international demand.
The European Business Press Federation (U.P.E.F.E) recognized
Gucci's business achievements in 1998, selecting it as
European Company of the Year from among 4,000 other companies.
The award acknowledged Gucci's economic and financial
performance, its strategic vision and its management quality.
In July 1999, Gucci's independent shareholders voted
overwhelmingly in favor of an alliance with
Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR), a leader in specialized
distribution, which enabled Gucci to accelerate its strategy
to become a leading multi-brand luxury goods company.
The same year, Gucci Group NV acquired Yves Saint Laurent
Couture and Sanofi Beauté‚ a prestigious perfume and cosmetics
company that boasts YSL fragrances such as Opium and Paris, as
well as a wealth of other perfume licenses including Roger &
Gallet, Krizia, Fendi and Oscar de la Renta. In 1999, Gucci
Group NV also acquired a 70% controlling interest in Sergio
Rossi, a leading Italian luxury shoe company.
The growth of Gucci Group NV continues in 2000 with the
acquisition of Boucheron International S.A. Founded in France
in 1858, Boucheron has a long established heritage as one of
the world's most exclusive jewelry, watch and perfume brands.
Also in 2000, Gucci secured further control over its brands by
obtaining liscense rights held by Cartier International for
Yves Saint Laurent Couture watches and jewelry. Both moves
reflect Gucci's confidence in the global potential of the
jewelry and watches segments of the luxury goods market.