Pop quiz: What do Chinese mega-star Xiao Zhan, songstress Miley Cyrus, Down syndrome-advocate and model Ellie Goldstein, award-winning actress Awkwafina, rapper Gucci Mane, screen icon Diane Keaton, hitmaker Harry Styles, tennis sensation Serena Williams, K-Pop breakout Exo Kai, talk show host James Corden, fashion plate Alexa Chung, Eurovision-winning quartet Måneskin, and Japanese manga cartoon cat Doraemon have in common? The answer may surprise you.
Indeed, this celebrity crew are all members of the Gucciverse. As recent campaign stars and brand ambassadors, they might seem disparate and rather random, but upon closer inspection, it’s clear what they all have in common: They’re all outliers who are unafraid to evolve and break the mold. Indeed, the same could be said for the house of Gucci itself. And as the storied brand celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2021, this spirit of experimentation, craft and creativity has never been more of the zeitgeist.
The house has had many lives over the past century and a history of bold, brilliant pivots. It all started in 1921 as a Florentine luggage shop founded by Guccio Gucci and staffed by his wife and children. When leather shortages hit during World War II, the family developed innovative handbags made with a monogrammed canvas and signature red and green stripe trim. They were a hit.
Following the war, Guccio passed the company to his three sons, who themselves birthed more brand icons such as a series of Bamboo-handled bags in 1947 and the forever-classic horsebit loafers in 1952. By the 1960s, Gucci was synonymous with jet-set glamour, with Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, wearing the Flora scarf print designed in her honor. In the seventies, when Jackie Onassis began using a Gucci shoulder bag to shield herself from the relentless paparazzi, it was renamed after her. A tempestuous period of rapid expansion, licensing and family feuds defined the eighties, threatening Gucci’s status as a luxury player built to last.
Then, in 1994, Tom Ford was named creative director and the rest is racy fashion history. The American designer’s hedonistic collections and shocking campaigns rebranded the house as a ready-to-wear juggernaut with the most sizzling shows of Milan Fashion Week, which at the time was known for its staid luxury. Soon, the era’s icons were lining up to be outfitted in Ford’s provocative Gucci designs: Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Victoria Beckham during her Posh Spice moment.
By the mid 2000s, in-house handbag designer Frida Gianinni was given the top job after successfully reviving a slew of archival accessories. Her tenure lasted until 2014 and was defined by nods to Gucci’s equestrian heritage.
Fast forward to the brand’s current chapter, writ large by the enchanting vision of creative director Alesandro Michele. Beginning as an in-house accessory designer, today he leads all aspects of Gucci’s aesthetic wonderland, which now extends to home decor and beauty. Under his rollicking tenure, the house has become a party, and everyone’s invited. The dress code? Come as you are. Just be sure to layer on the Lurex, embrace the logos, throw on a boa and buckle up your dancing shoes. The more-is-more mixing and clashing, the better.
Michele’s poetic intermingling of past and present can be seen readily in his work on the runway and larger cultural initiatives. Take the recent unveiling of Gucci‘s archive in Florence’s Palazzo Settimanni, which dates back to the 15th century. Since 1953, the house has used the property as a workshop, factory and showroom. Now, its five floors feature Michele’s curation of Gucci’s greatest hits over the past one hundred years, set against a backdrop of late 17th-century frescoes. Talk about a birthday tribute.
Indeed, the brand is certainly feeling celebratory, with a dizzying array of global projects to ring in its centennial in outlandish style. Michele will present his latest collection, “Gucci Love Parade,” on Los Angeles’ Hollywood Boulevard in front of the famed TCL Chinese Theatre on Nov. 2. As part of Gucci’s Changemakers program, the brand also donated $1 million in grant funds allocated to the city’s most pressing issues: homelessness and mental health.
Environmental considerations around climate change are also top of mind for the brand as it moves into the future. Through its Gucci Equilibrium program, the company has outlined ambitious targets it aims to hit by 2025 around eco-friendly sourcing solutions, low-impact materials, manufacturing efficiencies, and circular innovations to reduce waste.
There is also a new Gucci 100 collection of limited-edition ready-to-wear and accessories featuring thousands of song lyrics in which “Gucci” is name checked, from Ella Fitzgerald to Ice Cube. First unveiled as part of the Aria runway show, standouts included vivid pullovers emblazoned with “music is mine, Gucci seat reclined,” and a collaboration with Mattel on a collectible Hot Wheels replica of a ’82 model Gucci-monogrammed Cadillac.
The brand has also been unveiling ephemeral locations throughout the year, from New York’s Meatpacking District, to Miami’s Design District and Los Angeles’ South Coast Plaza, with additional pop ups in Houston, Beverly Hills, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco and Toronto. In London’s Shoreditch, the new Gucci Circolo space takes over a location designed by architect Sir David Adjaye, which includes a bespoke bookstore and cafe. Visitors are welcomed both in-person and virtually, with a digital version of the concept entirely redesigned in 3-D.
Gucci has embraced the new movements defining our technological era, as one of the first fashion brands to offer an NFT and also its latest foray into esports. The brand’s new collaboration with gaming powerhouse 100 Thieves features a limited-edition series of backpacks from the Gucci Off The Grid collection made from recycled and sustainably sourced materials.
As a longtime patron of the cinematic arts and red carpet favorite, Gucci will sponsor LACMA’s 2021 Art+Film 10th Anniversary Gala, co-chaired by trustee Eva Chow and Leonardo DiCaprio, on Nov. 6. Honorees were artists Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley, and filmmaker Steven Spielberg.
After recent collaborations with Balenciaga and Comme des Garcons that broke the internet, the brand continues to march to its own individualist beat. It’s parent company, French luxury conglomerate Kering, reported a double increase in revenue for the second quarter of 2021, largely driven by Gucci sales.
The future is bright. And the Gucci Gang has never been stronger.