Gucci Celebrates 100 years of Heritage

Gucci Celebrates 100 years of Heritage

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Words by Mirabella Shahidullah
Culture
September 24, 2021

The story starts over a century ago when the young, Florentine-born Guccio Gucci began working in London’s iconic Savoy Hotel. The year was 1899, and young Gucci was awestruck by the elegance and luxury of upper-class travelers. Specifically, it was their luggage that Gucci found the most striking. As a bellhop, Gucci was always in proximity to guests’ luggage, and it was this experience that would give birth to his vision of luxury leather bags.

Two decades after working in London, Gucci made his imagination a reality: in 1921 he founded his leather goods store in Florence, Italy. A kaleidoscopic combination of unmitigated glamour, beauty, innovation and excellence, Gucci’s primary goods started as leather saddles, bags and accessories, with horsemen being a large part of his clientele. Gucci’s designs and approach to leather was popular with the equestrian community at the time, which can still be seen today in many of the house’s iconic logos, specifically in the  horse bit clasp.

Gucci’s heritage, reimagined

A century later, Gucci’s innovative spirit and heritage design lives on in the vision of creative director Alessandro Michele. Marking 19 years since Michele himself started at Gucci, his revolutionary spirit and inclusive mindset has been a tour de force for the Italian brand. Using this year to celebrate and pay homage to the house’s history, Michele has curated shows and exhibitions showcasing the legendary status of the brand, from its modest beginnings to their global reputation as a fashion behemoth, to their artistic impact within contemporary culture.

Gucci Aria in April was perhaps the most dazzling celebration of the brand’s centenary. For FW21, Michele, alongside the help of his friend and filmmaker Floria Sigismondi, released a short film. With the glamour of flashing lights and impeccable editing, Michele’s eye sparkled with historical house references like equestrian-inspired looks, charismatic fits inspired by the sensual magnetism of Gucci’s Tom Ford years, all against the heavy beats and Gucci-ridden lyrics of its soundtrack featuring musicians such as Lil Pump, Bree Runway and Die Antwoord.

 
 
 
 
 
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Gucci’s Aria Collection was Michele’s homage to the house’s 100 year history craft Credits: @gucci

During the Aria show, it was the creative director’s ‘Hacking Lab’ that generated the most online buzz. Using Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia’s logo-defined style, Gucci displayed ‘hacking’ pieces on the runway. Instantly recognizable Gucci silhouettes were embellished with Gvasalia’s diagonal, bold logo-mania prints. For Michele, the Gucci Aria Collection was not a collaboration, but an inevitable mixing of two iconoclastic fashion forces.

“In this sense, Gucci becomes for me a hacking lab, made of incursions and metamorphoses. An alchemical factory of contaminations where everything connects to anything.” – Alessandro Michele

Alongside fashion shows, the brand organized various exhibitions this year that showcased the house’s vision of international design and artistry. In May, the Gucci Garden Archetypes exhibition in Florence celebrated Michele’s imaginative campaigns alongside a virtual rendition of split-screens and the brand’s modern spirit. Curated through a series of rooms, each space was dedicated to a facet of the house’s personality; for example, the Gucci Bloom room highlighted the contemporary feminine aesthetic and floral design of the brand’s signature perfume. A popular site for Gucci-lovers and enthusiasts, the exhibition was a stunning and eclectic mix of the brand’s nuanced style.

 
 
 
 
 
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Multiple curated exhibitions celebrated the centenary this year. Gucci Bamboo House in Kyoto was held in August. Credits: @gucci

In August, another pop-up exhibition was held in Kyoto, Japan, which according to Gucci is Florence’s sister city. It is not surprising to see why: as leather is to Florence, bamboo is to Kyoto, with both natural materials being popular throughout the house’s products. Held in a culturally protected machiya, the residence was built at the same time of Gucci’s founding and was nicknamed with the imaginative Gucci Bamboo House for the exhibition. The show celebrated the brand’s use of products derived from bamboo, in particular the label’s iconic Diana bag and other bamboo-handled purses and accessories.

Gucci’s history: a family affair

In a year that is all about Gucci, it is only appropriate that Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci will be released in November. The feature film, which has been teased throughout the year, will showcase the struggle for power and prestige between members of the Gucci dynasty at the end of the 20th century.

 
 
 
 
 
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Ridley Scott’s upcoming House of Gucci will retell the drama surrounding the family at the end of the 21st century. Credits: @houseofguccimovie

Based on the book of the same name by Sara Gay Forden, the story also chronicles the turbulent years and the media-frenzy that surrounded the death of the founder’s grandson and head of the house, Maurizio Gucci, played by Adam Butler. Gucci was shockingly killed at the Gucci office in Milan in 1995. The killing became international news when it was revealed that his ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani, depicted by Lady Gaga, had hired the gunman.

Gucci and the future: what’s next?

The house’s next much-anticipated runway show will be held on November 3. Showing its global prowess, the brand announced that the catwalk will be taking place in L.A., marking the brand’s first show in America since the Gucci Resort collection was revealed at New York’s Dia Art Foundation in 2015. For the creative director, the decision to host the runway in Los Angeles was inspired by his personal attachment to the city.

“I love to come to L.A. because it’s one of the most inspiring places because there are no rules... I have a lot of friends here — honestly, more than in Rome. It’s like family. Here in L.A., people really open their houses in an easy way, nothing too complicated. You can go in your flip-flops.” – Alessandro Michele

With Michele’s eclectic spirit and enchanting inspirations, it’ll be exciting to see what rules will be broken in November. Knowing his never-ending quest for innovation and beauty however, one thing is for sure: the show will undoubtedly culminate Gucci’s centenary, for a stunning, final celebration.

Celebrate 100 years of design