I just finished reading – In the Name of Gucci: A Memoir, by Patricia Gucci, (Crown Archetype, 2016).
Gucci is still around but do you remember the brand in its heyday? You might be conjuring up images of the iconic red and green stripe or the double G logo.
Gucci began in 1921 but by the 1950s it had become THE luxury fashion brand on everyone’s must-have list. The family-run business continued to soar in popularity around the world until 1989 when it was sold to Investcorp.
In her memoir, Patricia, the love child of Aldo Gucci and his mistress Bruna, shares for the first time the compelling and complicated story of her parents, the Gucci family, and the history of the status brand, which was the first Italian company to open retail shops in the U.S. prompting the Made In Italy phenomenon.
When Patricia was born in 1963, her father was middle-aged, the head of (and powerhouse behind) Gucci as well as a married man with three sons. Her mother was 32 years his junior and a former employee of the Gucci shop in Rome. The couple kept their relationship and their daughter a secret … for as long as they could.
Did I mention it’s complicated?
Well, it is and I tip my hat to Patricia and co-writer Wendy Holden for their excellent crafting. The authors successfully keep clear for the reader all the various elements to the story, which begins in 1897 with Patricia’s grandfather. At 16 Guccio immigrated from his small Italian village to London to work as a page for the Savoy Hotel. After returning to Italy several years later Guccio opened a luggage shop in Florence, which was to eventually become the Gucci we think of today.
A man of impeccable taste, my grandfather hoped to create the kind of superior leather goods he’d been handling since he was a boy, only using cheaper hides enhanced by skilled dyeing and treating techniques. His own elegant designs based loosely on English tailoring and style were pieced together by Florentine craftsmen with their eye for detail. Each new item carried the first Gucci monogram – a tiny image of a young page in full livery and a cap carrying a suitcase in one hand and Gladstone bag in the other. It was my grandfather’s nod to his formative days.
There is so much to this memoir – a love affair, the rise and fall of a fashion brand, secrets and family betrayal. It’s an operatic story for sure but Patricia doesn’t take advantage of that; she simply tells it like it was. Although her affection for her father, who died in 1990, comes through she remains honest and does a nice job balancing her emotions.
Relationships can be tricky to navigate. Those we have with our parents can be the most complicated and often require compromises once we come to the realization that none of us live in a perfect world and that the people we love are flawed.
I enjoyed most reading about the history of the company and Patricia’s later involvement as a spokesperson, model, and board member. Indeed she was the first female board member in the company’s 90 year history. I am curious about who was designing for the brand during Aldo’s reign. Who for example came up with the Jackie O handbag?
It’s been thirty years since the sale of Gucci and 26 since Aldo died. Why a memoir now? Patricia was under a gag order for ten years after the sale but beyond that, she never really knew the whole story between her parents. Any time she asked her mother for details, she was shut down. Until 2009, when Bruna unexpectedly opened up and handed over a stack of Aldo’s love letters written while the couple were secretly courting. That was the beginning of In the Name of Gucci.
I became so captivated by this book that time flew by unnoticed. I didn’t want to put it down and I didn’t want it to end.
It can’t get any better than that.