There is no bond more beautiful than that of a father and daughter. In her newly released book, In the Name of Gucci: A Memoir, by Patricia Gucci (Crown Archetype: May 10), a remarkable tribute is made to her beloved father Aldo Gucci, highlighting his marketing brilliance and stamina in establishing Gucci as one of the world’s most iconic brands.
The book is the first written by a direct descendant of Guccio Gucci—Patricia’s grandfather and the company’s founder. Woven throughout the book is the complicated, but loving father-daughter relationship between Aldo and Patricia Gucci, the first woman in the family to be elected to the Gucci board of directors, and who ultimately became his sole universal heir.
In a moving tribute to her father, Patricia Gucci chronicles the hitherto untold story of being the secret child of her father Aldo and her mother Bruna – whom he fell in love with when she was just eighteen; always returned to in the three decades he spent crisscrossing the globe to build his empire; and whose hand he held as he died.
Recently, Patricia Gucci took the time to answer a few of my questions for Stylepoohbahs.com regarding what inspired her memoir honoring her father, the lessons she learned from him and his knack for brilliantly marketing and expanding a legacy brand.
Naima of Stylepoohbahs.com: What inspired you to write this book now, at this time in your life? Why did you want to write this book?
Patricia Gucci: For 10 years I was under a gag order from the buyers of the Gucci business. During that time, I felt that the new owners had swept my father’s legacy under the rug, which was deeply upsetting for me. In books and editorials published after his death, he was described in a way that left me feeling very uncomfortable. Not only because he wasn’t getting the recognition I felt he deserved, but because he was portrayed in a manner that was altogether different from the man my mother and I knew.
During the years after my father died, I started a family and life took me in different directions. Once my daughters were grown up and left home, I had time to dedicate to my own projects and, first and foremost, this book.
When I told my mother about the book she gave me several love letters that my father had written to her during their courtship in the 1950s. She helped me fill the gaps of my early childhood and the years leading up to my birth, which remain a mystery for so many of us. Not all parents take the time to tell their children how things came together before they were born. It was a discovery process that not only led to an understanding of who I was but also gave me insight into my mother’s psyche and how she developed as a person.
Naima of Stylepoohbahs.com: What is your fondest memory of your father?
Patricia Gucci: There are so many, but my memories of our time in Palm Beach are probably the fondest. He loved the Florida sunshine and was always so relaxed there. In the morning, he would go the office as usual and he typically came home for lunch. When he went back to work he would take me with him. At the end of the day, we would walk across the street to a bar on Worth Avenue for cocktails and I would always order a Shirley Temple. There were seldom times when it was just the two of us, but in Palm Beach the pace was less frenetic and my father could unwind and be with me as Papa, rather than Dr. Gucci.
Naima of Stylepoohbahs.com: What is the biggest takeaway you want readers to have?
Patricia Gucci: I would like people to have an understanding of the history of Gucci, from the day the first shop opened during the depression in Florence in 1921 to the time it ceased as a family business in 1989. My hope is that having an appreciation of the company’s history will add to people’s appreciation for the brand today, which incorporates many influences that can be traced back to the brand’s origins. Gucci may have been founded by Guccio Gucci, but Aldo Gucci was the one who put the company on the world stage, opening the first store outside in Florence before the outbreak of World War II, followed by the New York launch in 1953 and a string of stores worldwide.
My aim is also to show a more human side to the formidable chairman who ‘ruled the company with an iron fist,’ revealed by the love letters bestowed by my mother and the qualities she brought out in him.
Naima of Stylepoohbahs.com: What is the greatest life lesson you learned from your father?
Patricia Gucci: The importance of family.
My father wasn’t a ‘Brady Bunch-type dad,’ but he was all I knew and he ensured my mother and I were always looked after. He was a family man at heart. He worked his entire life to build a business that his children and grandchildren could be a part of so that his father’s legacy would continue for generations to come. He was a patriarch and also a peacemaker in what had always been a highly litigious family.
He inspired perfection and excellence and those who lived up to his standards were rewarded with recognition and approval.
Naima of Stylepoohbahs.com: Did you have an awareness of the empire her father was building? Did he even recognize it was the start of an international phenomenon?
Patricia Gucci: Not until my mid-teens did I realize the full extent of the brand’s reach. When I traveled home from boarding school, walking through airports and driving through the city, everyone seemed to be adorned in Gucci.
My father was so busy working that he rarely took a step back to absorb the magnitude of his accomplishments. The ‘Made in Italy’ phenomenon that he had launched with the opening of the first New York store in 1953 – against his father’s wishes – followed by stores on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, Bond Street in London, had surely started to sink in well before the end of the swinging Sixties. The opening of a second store on Fifth Avenue in what became known as “Gucci City;” the Gucci Galleria in 1979, which showcased fabulous works of art alongside one-of-a-kind Gucci pieces, earned him the accolade of ‘Michelangelo of Merchandising.’ The Gucci Cadillac, which brought together a lifestyle brand and the automotive industry for the very first time, was a testament to his marketing genius.
Naima of Stylepoohbahs.com: When did you start to take an interest in fashion?
Patricia Gucci: When I was living in London and New York in the early ‘80s everything was new and it felt like there was so much to discover. Fashion was neither set in stone nor was it dictated by anyone in particular. It was more of a cultural movement than anything determined by labels. I wore clothes from Japanese designers mixed with vintage and the emphasis was more on individualism than conforming to a particular trend.
Naima of Stylepoohbahs.com: When did you become aware of your father’s other family? How did you react?
Patricia Gucci: When my mother divulged the existence of my three brothers I had just turned nine years old. I was ecstatic and intrigued, excited to have an extended family.
Naima of Stylepoohbahs.com: When did you become associated with Gucci and what was your role in the company?
Patricia Gucci: When I moved to NYC I had dreams of becoming an actor and set my sights on Julliard, but that didn’t quite go to plan. Instead, with my father’s encouragement, I joined the family business. I was only 19 and the PR team immediately started grooming me as the new face of Gucci. Initially, I had an ambassadorial role, traveling to Europe and the Far East as the company’s representative. At the same time, I was responsible for window displays in Gucci America, charged with injecting our storefronts across the country with a youthful image, aimed at a trendier audience.
Later on, I was given the title of Fashion Coordinator, tasked with running our fashion shows at a time when catwalks were first used for Gucci’s pret-a-porter collection in Milan. I was able to inject some theater into the shows, incorporating my love of the stage, and I loved it. A year or so later I was appointed to the Gucci Board and remained in that role until the sale of the company in 1987.
Naima of Stylepoohbahs.com: How do you think the Gucci family history plays into the brand today?
Patricia Gucci: The Gucci family itself doesn’t play into the brand today per se, but the heritage and legacy remain. The products (the bamboo bag, the Gucci loafer, the luggage) and branding (red & green stripe, the rhombi design) that set the tone for years to come were developed when the business was family-run. So, in that respect, yes, the history does play into the brand today. This has never been more evident than in the current collection, where a number of Gucci classics have been re-introduced with an innovative twist.
Naima of Stylepoohbahs.com: How do you think the Gucci brand has been able to survive so many decades? How much harder would it be to build such a legacy company today?
Patricia Gucci: The brand’s staying power all comes down to the quality and craftsmanship that was established by my father and set the stage for its success. The association with royalty and the adoption by Hollywood stars gave Gucci a legacy that would live on for decades to come. Everyone wanted something with ‘GG’ and at some point or another a bag, belt, a pair of shoes or even a keychain became a prized possession. Aldo Gucci had created a marketing phenomenon that would withstand the test of time.
Today there is much more competition and it’s more difficult to stand out from the crowd. It’s still about ‘who’s wearing what’ but the ‘Made in Italy’ factor seems to be less important now. We live in a global community, with more assimilation between one product and another. Diversity seems to have been lost somehow.
Naima of Stylepoohbahs.com: What do you think of the current trend in haute couture where head designers are lasting only 2-3 years compared to 20 years ago when designers would last for decades?
Patricia Gucci: The need to innovate is more pressing than ever, consumers are demanding, they are fickle and always on the lookout for a new style. The fashion business has to respond to that. When designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, and Givenchy reached the end of their careers, corporations stepped in with capital and ideas of their own, which included new management and new designers.
What is happening at Gucci today with the appointment of Alessandro Michele is a perfect example of that. As an outsider, I think he looks like a perfect fit and I hope he lasts more than the customary 2-3 years. My instincts tell me he will; I have a good feeling.