What determines a legacy? And more in question, how is a fashion legacy created? From fashion giants Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy to Coco Chanel, Cristobal Balenciaga, and recently Oscar de la Renta—just to name a few—have left behind a deep well of creative fashion genius and inspiration.
In recent years most of these great fashion houses have been taken over my younger creative forces that have expanded upon the signature aesthetic of the original visionaries, while other creative directors have evolved these iconic brands on a totally different path. The verdict is still out if these hallowed fashion houses will survive or at the very least continue to product fashion masterpieces.
Gucci was one just Italian fashion house that has set it’s own indelible footprint on the annals of fashion history. From the mid-1950s Gucci has been identified as a global brand that fashion goods that expand the depth and width of a luxury lifestyle. From clothing and accessories to even cars and other lifestyle products for over half a century the word Gucci is the penultimate expression of sophistication and luxury.
This was all accomplished by Aldo Gucci who took his father’s Italian goods business and elevated it to a fashion empire. By concentrating on the American luxury market in the 1950s, Aldo Gucci transformed a small Italian leather goods business into a global brand. President John F. Kennedy even called Aldo Gucci “the Italian ambassador of fashion.”
Still, there was much family strife among the Gucci heirs, and in the late-80s, a shameful tax evasion imprisonment. Much is known about the successful career of Aldo Gucci, but very little about his personal life.
With the recent publication of “In the Name of Gucci:A Memoir,” daughter Patricia Gucci reveals the man behind the Gucci brand. From love letters between her father and mother Bruna Palumbo, Patricia Gucci brings readers into the inner life of Aldo Gucci and what it was like to be a part of the Gucci brand during its heyday.
Fashion Reverie was given the unique opportunity to speak with Patricia Gucci prior to the publication of “In the Name of Gucci: A Memoir.”
Fashion Reverie: What prompted you to write this book?
Patricia Gucci: It was basically very important for me to give a tribute to my father. It was something that had been on my mind for years. I wanted to show his legacy to the world because two decades had passed and many people had forgotten because of the many things that had happened afterwards. It was very important to put a face to the man who had created the brand. And for me, he was someone very important in my life, Aldo Gucci, for many years I saw the greatness of what he brought to the House of Gucci and created this incredible phenomenon. And unfortunately, I witnessed the tragic end of his life.
And lastly, my mother was a very important part of my life and I felt I needed to understand more about my life and she was the only one would fill in some of the blank spots of my life and explain some of the mysteries. I understood that my mother was the only one who really could help me accomplish that goal. My mother opened so much more than I expected and that evolved into something even more significant as a book in some ways.
FR: You expose some very personal and traumatic things in this book, why open up and reveal so much and was it a hard decision?
Patricia Gucci: I didn’t feel there was anything to be ashamed of. And yes, it was very hard to reveal and write about some of the personal things.
After my father died it was quite hard and we had to read a lot of things about my father in the papers that were not true and those things were very hurtful and it made me withdraw into my own world. However, I felt my father’s story was bigger than my own pain. My father deserved to have this journal of remembrance. I also wanted my daughters to know who their grandparents were and how their Mommy came about, and there was so much unfinished business, and I wanted to set the record straight. My mother was gracious enough to open up various elements of her life that were hard for her to talk about.
FR: During your father’s later years at Gucci, how were you involved with the brand?
Patricia Gucci: For the last four or five years of my father’s life I was an integral part of the Gucci company. My father brought me into the company as the first female family member on the board of directors. On a creative level I was successful, and my father gave me more and more creative duties, challenges, and responsibilities. This was a very special time because I got to spend more time with my father. That was also very incredible time because Gucci was at its peak.
FR: How did your father Aldo transform the Gucci brand from a luxury baggage brand to a global fashion house?
Patricia Gucci: Gucci was founded my grandfather as a luxury bag line and my father transformed it a global lifestyle brand. My grandfather while working at the Savoy Hotel saw and met wealthy people who carried luxury luggage and he felt he could translate that luxury into a high-end Italian luxury line because Italy has great leather artisans. My father continued that luxury, taking the brand to Rome from Florence. He was the first Italian to bring a brand of this nature to the United States. It was a force that couldn’t be stopped. It was a brand that was received with open arms by Americans. If it was up to my grandfather the brand would have just stayed in Florence and not become the global luxury brand that Gucci is now.
FR: Now, you source your mother’s love letters for “In the Name of Gucci,” why did you look to your mother’s love letters as a source in the book?
Patricia Gucci: It was a spontaneous act on my mother’s part. When I was talking to her and asking her questions at one point she went to her room without giving me any warning and brought out this pouch that contained love letters from my father. When I read this letters, I discovered a side to my father that I never knew existed. It was a tremendous revelation.
The passion in these letters was amazing. I always knew my father was eloquent and a very skilled writer, but this was all in business. I had never experienced my father being so personal and so devoted. It was a side of him I had never seen before. My father was from the old school and didn’t show much emotion.
These letters made me realize how much my father loved my mother. My mother was not able to say no to my father because his love was so overwhelming. He gave her the confidence that he loved her and would stay by her side, which he did until the end of his life.
FR: Could you talk a little about your mother Bruna’s relationship with Aldo Gucci? There were some secrets around their relationship.
Patricia Gucci: She started out as a sales girl in one of the Gucci stores and later replaced my father’s secretary. He started wooing her and she was flattered and was overwhelmed by my father. He wrote her these incredible love letters. Even though at the time she was engaged to someone else at the time, she fell for my father. She came from a very conventional Italian family, so the relationship that she developed with my father was taboo. (Aldo Gucci was already married with three sons. Patricia Gucci is the lovechild of the union between Aldo Gucci and Bruna Palombo.)
FR: You talk about in the book how you were shuffled between Italy and London as a child. Your father was loving but not really present a lot in your early life. What was your relationship with your father like as a child and how did that relationship evolve?
Patricia Gucci: As a father, at times, he would sweep into our lives. He was a larger than life force full of energy. He was very happy man, full of stories and gifts. He was never gruff, always kind. Unfortunately, he was not around enough. He would take me to church and he loved to go for walks and walk around the garden.
When we were together in Florida at his home in Palm Beach, he was much more relaxed. He would laugh and do things that we really didn’t have time to do in Europe. Occasionally, he would take me on elaborate shopping trips. My time with him was magical. I really didn’t wish for a lot more time from him. I accepted that he was extraordinarily busy and his time was limited.
FR: How did you come to work at Gucci?
Patricia Gucci: I finished my education and moved to New York aspiring to become an actor. I attempted to get into Juilliard and didn’t get accepted. My father was very kind and allowed me to go through that process of trying to become an actor. At the same time my father wanted me to become associated with the brand because of my personal style and my affinity for fashion. Eventually, I apprenticed at Gucci, observing my father at work, and moved up the corporate fashion ladder into being on the board of directors.
FR: Could you define the golden years of Gucci?
Patricia Gucci: Gucci was at the peak of its success during this golden period. There was no other global luxury brand like Gucci during this time period. Everywhere you went everyone was wearing the brand. There was such an excitement around the brand. And my father created so many different licenses of watches, cars, and a variety of lifestyle products.
There were fantastic clients that were huge fans. People were proud to work at the company. There seemed to be no end to Gucci proliferating the market, it was an exciting time!!
FR: What do you want readers to get from your book?
Patricia Gucci: I would like people to be aware and remember how my father, Aldo Gucci built this incredible fashion empire. And to be reminded of Aldo Gucci’s legacy, that still continues to this day!!
“In the Name of Gucci:A Memoir is published by Crown.
—William S. Gooch