The first Gucci shop was founded in 1921 and sold luxury leather goods for horseback riding in Florence, a city renowned for its high-quality materials and skilled artisans. The success of the equestrian aesthetic and extraordinary quality led Guccio Gucci, the founder, together with his three sons to expand the company by opening stores in Milan, Rome and additional shops in Florence. Between 1953 and 1973 the company went international, opening shops in USA, Europe and Japan. Also, the product lines were expanded to watches, jewelry and eyewear. During these years Gucci created the iconic logo, bamboo bag, and horse bit loafer and frmly positioned itself in the high fashion realm.
The 1980s was a difficult period for Gucci, marked by family quarrels, economic losses, and scandal. In 1988 the family sold the company to Investcorp.
Gucci made a huge turnaround in the early 1990s thanks to the leadership of Domenico De Sole as CEO and Tom Ford as creative director. The new leadership built a new business and visual identity.
They lowered prices on average by 30%, reorganized the production and distribution systems, redefined the target women, and designed a bold and seductive aesthetic.
In 1999 the luxury French conglomerate, Kering S.A., formerly known as PPR, acquired the controlling 42% stake in the Gucci Group, which reached 99.4% ownership in 2004.
Tom Ford resigned from the fashion house in 2004, and Frida Giannini was chosen as the company’s creative director in 2006. Giannini’s designs were noted for reinterpreting the brand’s archive with a modern vision, as well as muting the sexiness while keeping the glamour. In 2009, Patrizio Di Marco become CEO and president. During his time at Gucci he increased prices and expanded quickly into China. Then, Gucci sales began to stagnate and then eventually fall.
In 2015 Marco Bizzarri became President and CEO of the brand and shortly after named Alessandro Michele as creative director. Together, they turned around the brand just as De Sole and Ford did through the operational changes and alluring aesthetic. Bizzarri is noted for driving Gucci’s e-commerce and digital marketing strategies. As reported in Forbes, Gucci’s internet presence has grown significantly from 2016, bringing a 44% increase in 2017 revenues.
In 2018 Gucci opened up ArtLab outside Florence, which will be where the brand will have its product development and prototyping labs to test the bold ideas of Michele and Bizzarri.
In April 2018, Gucci opened its 37,000 square foot ArtLab space in Florence. This new innovation hub, which houses over 800 employees, focuses on R&D for shoes and leather goods while still having space for packaging, material, and hardware testing. The ArtLab represents Gucci’s dedication and willingness to invest in fashion innovation at a larger scale. The goal of the facility is to help further develop Alessandro Michele’s visions for the future of the brand. Gucci also recently redesigned its museum and reopened it as Gucci Garden. In addition to an exhibition space showcasing iconic pieces from its archives, there is also a restaurant and shop, which Vogue UK called “the world’s best gift-shop.” Gucci’s reimagination of the museum gift-shop makes the brand more accessible to those who cannot afford the main product lines. Gucci Garden also highlights the brand’s constant reinterpretation of itself over time, including the various guerrilla interpretations, such as its partnership with Dapper Dan.
Lastly, Gucci has also made several moves over the years to collaborate with unexpected artists to create capsule collections that are redefining the brand and what fashion and art mean.
As reported by Business of Fashion on October 27th, 2017 - Gucci is facing the surge of product demand with a new production strategy, taking a step towards enhanced vertical integration and reduced lead time.
As stated by Kering CFO - Jean-Marc Duplaix, the recently opened Art Lab is the pillar of Gucci new industrial platform, with the goal to increase the share of development internalised and also part of the production in leather goods and in shoes.
As also observed by BoF, Kering’s moves follow in the footsteps of fast fashion giants like Inditex, the world’s largest fashion retailer, which long ago vertically integrated its design and production processes, bringing greater speed and fexibility to its supply chain and enabling its brands — notably Zara — to be more responsive to consumer demand.