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22nd November 2021

Happy 100th Birthday, Gucci!

‘To me, Gucci  is a reflection of time. It has kept evolving with time, and the looks, the imagery, the vision of beauty, and the casting all express the zeitgeist’

Carine Rotfeld, September 2021

It’s hard to escape Gucci at the moment, and that’s not a problem for us at all. As the label celebrates its 100th Birthday, and finishes off a magnificent year, we thought it was time to take a look at what has made this iconic Italian fashion and luxury goods house one which has recently been described not just as the most valuable fashion brand on the planet, but the one most recognised by the hard-to-please Tik-Tok generation.

London has a part to play in the history of the brand: in 1921, Guccio Gucci, a bellboy at the legendary Savoy Hotel in the capital, was mesmerised by the beautiful luggage sets that arrived along with their increasingly international owners. His own father had a small leather goods business back home, and Guccio decided it was time to make it work. The famous Gucci luggage collections were brought to life, and Guccio was very much influenced by the privileged, often country-based lifestyles of the jet-setters he wanted to sell to: hence the horsebit was born.

Over time, Guccio’s son, Aldo built up Gucci to become an international business in its own right, and due to shortages during WWII, the fabric designs embroidered with the brand’s interlocking ‘double G’ logo became the signature of luxury for whoever was wearing or carrying them. During the 1950’s and 1960’s Gucci opened its own dedicated stores in prime locations across Europe and the United States, and the power of celebrity took flight. From Jacqueline Kennedy (and her husband, President John F. Kennedy), to Grace Kelly, to name just a few famous faces, Gucci became linked with the world’s most stylish people. It proved to be a huge selling point, both then and now.

However, during the 1970’s and 1980’s, even though Gucci was still a huge presence, a series of licensing deals and franchising opportunities changed how the brand operated. In 2021, perfume and watches and small accessories are all part of any fashion brand’s portfolio, but this family-run empire was hitting problems back in the day. In fact, the family made its own headlines for all of the wrong reasons for a brief moment in time: we’re not going to spoil the fun by relating the tale here. All we can say is that the about-to-hit film, House Of Gucci, starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons looks like it will unfold the story in absolute style. The wardrobe department has raided the Gucci archives and collectors’ wardrobes: the eyewear alone is worthy of its own credit.

Hiring designer Dawn Mello to take over as Gucci’s Creative Director in 1989 was a masterstroke that would help start the renaissance of the house of Gucci. Mello redesigned and quietly updated the classic Gucci pieces which made the label famous in the first place: silk shirts and scarves, the suede signature loafer and the bamboo bag were all freshened up to start off a decade which had a quieter nature than the greed-is-good 1980’s feeling.

In 1994, Gucci appointed an up-and-coming Texan designer to take the reins and the label became more of the powerhouse that we all know, and still love: Tom Ford was about to hit, and change the style landscape forever. Even during the 1990’s fashion still had a sense of tradition: there were set collections in each of the four fashion capitals. The glamour and glory of the supermodel glamazon changed with the arrival of Kate Moss, grunge was a youth movement all of its own, and while labels like Versace and Armani still dominated, by the middle of the decade, fashion felt a little lost at times. We needed a fresh take.

Ford started off industriously, and without huge fanfare, but in 1995 he sent looks down the catwalk which captured the attention of the fashion press, and everyone who was looking for a new sense of style. Over the next few seasons Gucci was the label everyone wanted a piece of. From the 1970’s inspired mohair peacoats, to the velvet flared trousers and silk shirts, suddenly fashion had moved past grunge and back to sexy, once more.

Supermodels started to look glossy again, and Georgina Grenville created a real fashion moment wearing a floor-length white dress with a strategic cut-out at the hip: she simply became The Gucci Girl.

Tailoring was still at the heart of what Tom Ford did: his red velvet suit, launched first in 1996, and made famous by Gwyneth Paltrow, has made several guest appearances since. Paltrow wore hers again to celebrate Gucci’s centenary and it looked just as good as it did at the MTV Awards 25 years ago.

Ford made Gucci a hot property, and suddenly it was part of fashion to let more of us in on the act: accessories played a huge part in the Gucci gang takeover, from horsebit-trimmed patent boots, to eyewear, the Ford touch turned Gucci into fashion gold again.

By the turn of the century, when logos became a huge driving force, the double G was adopted by a new generation of style addicts. Seen here in 2000 on model Maggie Rizer, in a famous shot for British Vogue, it’s a look enjoying its own revival, as Lady Gaga took it out for a showing at one of her recent premiere parties.

Tom Ford’s decade at Gucci remains one of the most talked-about tenures in style: he was hard to replace, and difficult to beat. The label still produced wonderfully bright and colourful collections but, in 2015, Gucci would appoint someone who would take it up to its first century finish: Alessandro Michele. Michele had already been with Gucci for over a decade and knew how it worked well, but he also had an innate ability to look outwards. In a changing world, he wanted Gucci to become far more all-embracing, whilst retaining the details which made it special.

Over the last six years Alessandro has taken Gucci into a multi-level fashion and lifestyle experience, and for this special year has introduced some hugely exciting launches and initiatives.

Gucci’s The Hacker and Aria projects have seen the label collaborate with Balenciaga, in a range which nods to Gucci’s past equestrian references, but styled for 2021. The fashion pieces are works of art in their own right, and the accessories are collectibles to treasure and pass down.

On a different note, Gucci no longer participates in traditional fashion weeks, but shows their main collections twice a year. The most recent show, set in Hollywood, with models pouring outside of tinsel town’s infamous Chinese Theatre, was an homage to the label’s showbusiness past, and was full of colour, and glitter, and verve: the Gucci Love Parade also showcased eyewear fit for a starlit Hollywood Boulevard.

The one-size-fits-one-fashionable-look-only approach is a thing of the past for Alessandro Michele. He loves to reference important icons, and has reworked the Gucci bag made famous by Princess Diana, and the 2021 Jackie bag has been worn with great aplomb by a certain Mr. Harry Styles.

In fact, Harry’s recent wardrobe for his recent Love On Tour outing came courtesy of Gucci and the retro flares, feathers, and sequins make the former One Direction star the perfect performer to showcase Michele’s take on modern glamour.

When it comes to eyewear, Gucci makes a statement. The new Autumn/Winter collection for 2021/22 mixes 70’s and 80’s references in admirable style. There are some more subtle frames in action, but while we are talking about celebrating a special centenary it seemed only right to highlight the standout stars.

The Blankstone Gucci 900S sunglasses are everything you would want to turn heads. These oversized, tortoiseshell beauties are just the thing for when you want to recite your ‘Father, Son and House of Gucci’ mantra before making any street a Hollywood Boulevard.

The Blankstone Gucci 7130 frames have a beautiful, ombre finish which work with so many colourways we are seeing in fashion right now.

The Blankstone Gucci 935S aviator-style shades have a beautiful inlaid logo trim, and again, the type of workmanship and finish which sets them apart.

If you know someone who really loves fashion, then they would love to find some Gucci shades in a gift bag this festive season. (Or if they are a real style obsessive, a Blankstone Gift Voucher, up to any value, lets the recipient come and choose their own pair of iconic frames!)

One thing we do know: the Gucci Gang is here to stay, and at least for another century.

It’s killer chic, Italian-style, and it continues to live on, for every generation of fashion enthusiast.

Nancy Buckland-Kirk for Blankstone

Nancy is a noted fashion writer and reporter, and now contributes her own style slant for our Blog: eyewear, trends and beyond.

You can view our full Gucci range online here:

https://www.blankstoneopticians.co.uk/product_brand/gucci/

Additional images courtesy of Gucci/Vogue Runway/British Vogue/Testino/House of Gucci movie

House of Gucci is coming to cinemas soon