Gucci’s history

Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita was released in 1960, and Gucci, the first status label to come out of Italy, became synonymous with the hedonistic world of Rome’s café society. To enter that world, Americans needed one thing: the Gucci loafer. Growing up in Oklahoma City, Jim Gold, the president of specialty retail for the Neiman Marcus Group, thought they were the “ultimate symbol of European cool.”

By the ’70s, Gucci had three boutiques on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, where its haughty salespeople earned the ire of New York magazine, which dubbed Gucci “the rudest store in New York.” Equally irritating was Gucci’s insistence on shutting its doors between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. “It was mystifying,” says Frasch. “All I kept thinking was, Don’t people shop on their lunch hour?”

A decade later, Gucci received its comeuppance when Aldo created a line of cheaper products, like lighters and keychains, that tarnished the brand’s image and encouraged counterfeiting. Meanwhile, Aldo’s son, Paolo, implicated him for tax evasion, and Aldo wound up in a Florida prison. With Aldo out of the way, Paolo conspired to get rid of his cousin, Maurizio, who had gained control of the company. Tired of dealing with his scheming relatives, Maurizio arranged with Andrea Morante—now CEO of Pomellato, the Italian jewelry company, but at the time at Morgan Stanley—to find an investor to buy out the rest of the family. After Bahrain-based Investcorp stepped in, Maurizio lured Bergdorf Goodman president Dawn Mello to Florence. “When I first heard, I thought, She’s going where?” says Frasch. It was not a happy marriage. Mello attempted to modernize the brand, creating the Gucci loafer in a multitude of pastels. “But whenever anything got too fashion-y,” says Richard Lambertson, the director of Tiffany’s Leather Collection, who was then Gucci’s design director, “Maurizio got very upset.”

via Gucci’s history: the story of fashion’s iconic brand – Slate Magazine.

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