Say the word “Gucci” to fashionistas under the age of 40 and they’ll most likely think of the hard-edged sexiness of Tom Ford ’90s-era Gucci, or the girlish glam favored by the company’s current creative director, Frida Giannini, who jettisoned her predecessor’s in-your-face vixen vibe for a more demure couture.
But to style-savvy men and women of a certain age – those old enough to remember when Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor were sex symbols, luxury was available only to a privileged few and travel was actually glamorous – Gucci is synonymous with a very specific type of old-world elegance, embodied by bamboo, double-G logos, green-red-green striped canvas webbing and horsebit-trimmed loafers.
These and other iconic Gucci references abound in the lavish 452-page tome, “Gucci by Gucci,” which was published this month by the Vendome Press to commemorate the legendary fashion company’s eighty-fifth anniversary.
“Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten,” announces a quote, attributed to company founder Aldo Gucci, on the opening page of the book, which was designed by Gucci art director Doug Lloyd and features a forward written by British fashion journalist Sarah Mower.
But it’s the photos here that really tell the story of Gucci, from the Florence-based company’s not-so-humble beginnings in 1921 (even then, Gucci catered to a well-heeled, well-traveled clientele), through the Loren-Taylor heyday of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Jackie Onassis, Sammy Davis, Jr, Rod Stewart, Liza Minnelli, Ingrid Bergman, Barbra Streisand, Jack Lemmon, Elke Sommer, Michael Caine and Clark Gable were also fans, and many of them are pictured in an airport, Gucci luggage in hand, en route to some far-flung locale.
As heretical as this may sound to fashion’s Tom Ford fanatics – and they are legion – when shown alongside eight decades’ worth of Gucci designs, many of the overtly sexy, flesh-baring garments of the Ford years look, in retrospect, far more déclassé than aspirational.
The book also offers an almost inadvertent glimpse into the evolution of the paparazzi, as photographers routinely stalked Peter Sellers and his much-younger wife, Britt Ekland – and countless other famous folk – while they browsed in Gucci’s Rome flagship store in the 1960s, setting the stage for the candid celebrity-fashion-shopping-spree photos that have come to define today’s tabloid culture.