Gucci, or the House of Gucci, is an Italian haute couture establishment. It was founded by Guccio Gucci in Florence in 1921. Like many other high-fashion companies, Gucci began as a small, family-owned saddlery and leather goods store. Guccio Gucci was the son of an Italian merchant form the country's northern manufacturing region.
In 1898 Guccio Gucci left Florence in Italy to traveled to Paris and London, where he "gained an appreciation of cosmopolitan culture, sophistication, and aesthetics". So in 1905 he returned to Italy and started selling saddles and saddlebags, and was quite successful.
Gucci opened his first boutique in the family's native Florence in 1921 and quickly built a reputation for quality, hiring the best craftsmen he could find to work in his atelier. In 1932 Guccio Gucci created the loafer shoe with a gilded snaffle. These are the only shoes to have found a place in New York's Museum of Modern Art.
In 1938, Gucci expanded and a boutique was opened in Rome. Guccio was responsible for designing many of the company's most notable products. In 1947, Gucci introduced the bamboo handle gucci handbag, which is still a company mainstay.
Guccio and his wife Aida Calvelli had a large family, six children in all, though only his sons - Vasco, Aldo, Ugo, and Rodolfo - would 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 company's first boutiques in London, Paris and New York.
Even in Gucci's 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. As the Gucci expanded overseas, board meetings about the company's 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 yctress Grace Kelly), and the Jakie 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 Aldo felt that his brother contributed less to the company that he and his sons did.
In 1979, Aldo developed the Gucci Accessories Collection, or GAC, intended to bolster the sales for the Gucci Parfums sector, which his sons controlled. Aldo relegated control of Parfums to his son Roberto in an effort to weaken Rodolfo's control of the overall operations of the company. Though the Gucci Accessories Collection was well received, it proved to be the destabilizing force that brought the Gucci dynasty crashing down.
Within a few years, the Parfums 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 brand's standing with fashionable customers.
It didn't take long before counterfeiters ravaged the company's pomp by flooding the market with cheap knockoffs, 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. In 1983 Rudolfo died of cancer, Maurizio his, inherited his share and took over running the business.
Maurizio allied with Aldo's son Paolo to gain control of the Board of Directors and established the Gucci Licensing division in the Netherlands for tax 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 Gucci's future.