Gucci is undoubtedly the pre-eminent Italian brand and – to many – the Holy Grail when it comes to idiosyncratic, uncompromising style. It’s fair to say that it’s influence now extends beyond the realms of just the well-heeled and fashion-conscious: the GG logo and red/green stripe on belt, bag or loafers epitomise a look that is synonymous with Italy. Interestingly and importantly, Guccio Gucci started in 1921 as a luggage retailer and manufacturer, following years of employment in the luxury hotel and travel trade (where he learned about the tastes of the stylish rich). Political restrictions on leather in the mid-30s led to Gucci’s experimentation with other materials such as wood (and bamboo) and linen. This grounding in both economy of deportment and a utilization of various resources helps in understanding Gucci today – always of the very highest quality, whilst also seeking to experiment and reach beyond the standard tropes of luxury fashion.
Following his father’s death, son Aldo led the expansion of Gucci into Europe, America and Asia, but by the eighties internal feuds threatened the existence of the company, with various family members establishing offshoot concerns that leaned on the Gucci name; oversaturation (owing to relaxed licensing and a heavy dependence on iconic logos) infected Gucci.
Dawn Mello, hired as president and designer in 1989, was instrumental in reviving the brand’s fortunes. Out with the excess and (back) in with key looks and a return to the company’s original Florence base. Tom Ford, who generally turns everything he touches into gold, was hired in the mid-nineties and helped to sexualise the brand into a new successful era. This influence was favoured after Ford’s departure, but gradually Gucci’s look under Frida Giannini and later Alesandro Michele has favoured the exploration of androgyny as a theme, with a slightly (and intentionally) fusty, intellectual and heavy feel.
WHO IS WEARING GUCCI?
For celebrity-inspiration, both Princess Grace of Monaco and Princess Diana have favoured a Gucci bag or two, but for a virtuoso Gucci-take, look to Lady Gaga (who is playing Maurizio Gucci’ wife Patrizia Reggiani in an upcoming biopic, and who’s Italian roots suit the heavier lux look) or Jared Leto, who does the Gucci ads and is the closest thing to a living incarnation of menswear wardrobe.
The GG logo and red and green strap, inspired by British horse-riding tradition, are more synonymous with Gucci and its bags than any single material, but that’s because Gucci has – from the earliest day – been keen and quick to diversify in its usage of and interplay between high quality materials.
Expect a leather bag of the highest quality in smooth or fine grained finish; top handle bags may also feature the same polished, hard leather look. A padded lux feel may also feature. Alternatively, the latest Gucci floral bags include vibrant flower patterns on light or dark backing, or single, nonglossy (and late sixties-influenced) colours.
Away from a leather lead, bamboo handles feature on a number of iconic bags, whilst the Jackie bag also swings with a GG canvas exterior lining and logo imprint, including the canvas red and green canvas stripe.
Generally, moves to canvas create a slightly more antiquated (specifically 19th Century) impression in line with the clothing line’s recent focus on the restrictions and freedoms of this era.
And you might favour …
DIONYSUS GG SUPREME SUPER MINI CROSS-BODY BAG
Everything a cross-body bag could be in terms of beauty and complexity – palladium [earthy/metal] toned with an interlocking GG imprint, this cross body-come-shoulder bag in canvas with a suede lining and chain strap features the famous tiger head spur closure. Nothing here speaks to the kind of attractiveness popularised by luxury’s move into the mainstream. This is an item – like much that Gucci takes to the runway – for the sophisticated fashion intellectual.
To carry it well you’re going to enjoy matching it to selected wardrobe items; or maybe it’s time to buy that long Gucci winter coat. 19th Century [carriage and deportment] is a running theme here; modernity – it seems – is encouraged to come to Gucci, but Gucci is uncompromising in its stance.
GG MARMONT SMALL SHOULDER BAG
Don’t expect Gucci handbags or shoulder bags to be on the especially large size – at their best, Gucci bags are relatively conspicuous in their diminutive nature. Emphasizing the ornamental quality of their appeal, the GG Marmont – available in a variety of guises – is sometimes carried high up to the side of the body. Nestled somewhere between the hip and the armpit, this is a quasi-requirement of the Gucci silhouette: long and relatively unflattering through the waist and hips.
A higher positioned accessory like the Gucci Marmont bag or other shoulder bag variant draws the eye up through the top handle, around a Gucci crepe dress, towards the frame of the face.
Black and leather-padded is a more sensible bag option here. Elsewhere cream and floral prints abound.
DIONYSUS SMALL LEATHER SHOULDER BAG
With the tiger-head clasp once again prominent, the Dionysus is rather sterner in bearing owing to its uniform boxed shape, symmetrical design (an envelope fold secured by the prominent clasp) and either monotone colouring (dark green or black leather) or patterned canvas. There is even a deep denim variant; Gucci’s part-concession to youthful, leisurely fun.
A Price Worth Paying
A Gucci bag is something of an investment. Like all Gucci products, it isn’t sensitive or responsive to the vagaries of twenty-first century fashion, and so its value – rather than fall when the latest New York designer offers a fresh take on what’s hot – tends to remain constant as its appeal as an outlier and genuine style icon proves true through time.
Smaller cross body and mini bags (Gucci Supreme bags and Gucci Ophidia bags, for example) usually retail upward of the £700 plus price mark and would be expected to retail further north of this depending on materials, size and exclusivity.
Anticipate to pay around the £1,000 mark for a tote bag, whilst shoulder bags generally retail in the £1,500 bracket or more. Not that you’re buying Gucci with an eye on the resale market; these are prices worth paying on an investment that may not be your everyday carry-all, but will continuously be a stand-out accessory precisely because it bends (or rather creates) a lot of the rules itself.
WORTH THE CHALLENGE FOR SERIOUS STYLE LOVERS
Whether you buy Gucci or not depends on your particular stance on the purpose of fashion, and what style-impression you want to make when you walk out the door. Gucci speaks class, but then so do a lot of luxury labels. The reason you opt for Gucci over – say – more conventional designer bags by Louis Vuitton is that you see style as an inherent quality of the vision and product off the designer, not as something that is a given because you have bought a particular label. The best fashion houses and the finest fashionistas know this – you want a bag that will complement the very best-dressed version of you and you also expect it to challenge you to achieve that. That’s what you get with Gucci. It’s worth it.