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They don’t call them icons for nothing.
This story first appeared in the February 23, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
From its earliest days, Gucci has left its mark on the luxury handbag and luggage industry, earning its reputation with a blend of excellent workmanship, high-quality materials and a knack for developing long-lasting, immediately identifiable designs.
With sales exceeding 1 billion euros ($1.32 billion at current exchange), this sector represents more than 50 percent of Gucci’s revenues today.
Under Frida Giannini’s creative direction, the house has revisited its most iconic styles and patterns, marking every collection with the birth of a new “It” bag. Here’s a brief history of Gucci’s bag evolution.
Early days: Gucci’s business starts with the production of handcrafted travel pieces.
2008: The Gucci Viaggio collection launches. Made of a high-tech, light resin, the line offers stylish and practical equipment for modern travelers. Available in black or in the iconic GG print, all the pieces feature a round rubber logoed plaque.
Early Thirties: The crisscross pattern featuring small connecting diamonds is Gucci’s first signature print.
2010: To celebrate the launch of the new digital flagship, Giannini dips into the archive and rediscovers the diamond pattern and uses it in the Diamante Plus Online Collection.
1947: To compensate for the lack of materials after War World II, Aldo Gucci adds a handle in Japanese bamboo to a bag in pebbled pigskin. The result? The Bamboo bag.
Early Nineties: Dawn Mello reintroduces the Bamboo Bag as well as bamboo detailing in various accessories categories. As creative director, Tom Ford shows the bamboo element paired with other bag models in ad campaigns. During his highly successful 1995-1996 runway shows, Ford features bamboo detailing on many bags, opening the era of the Gucci must-have “It” bag.
2010: Giannini revisits the Bamboo. Made with 140 hand-assembled elements, the New Bamboo bag is available in the classic shape or in a larger version, and in myriad colors and materials. The introduction of new details, including a leather strap, a metal chain and bamboo fringe tassels, contribute an urban contemporary touch.
The Fifties: Taking inspiration from the canvas girths used to hold saddle to horse, Gucci introduces a green-red-green strap on handbags and pieces of luggage. It immediately becomes a recognizable signature of the brand.
2010: Produced in various color combinations, including gray-brown or brown-beige, the web is applied to duffel bags on the men’s spring runway.
The Fifties: The equestrian-inspired brass horsebit is used in saddle-stitched handbags for the first time. But, in 1953, it reaches a zenith in popularity when it appears on men’s loafers, paired with the web.
2009: The Icon Bit bag features an oversize horsebit metal closure, contrasting with the shoulder bag’s soft shape and feather-light weight.
The Sixties: Printed on canvas, the GG logo appears on bags and luggage. In 1968, it also adorns mini-kaftans and boots in Gucci’s first runway show.
2005: “La Pelle Guccissima” delivers a new version of the double G. Both leather and patent leather are hot-printed with the logo, which appears embossed or three-dimensional, thanks to the color that is applied diagonally on the surface.
2008: The Crystal GG collection makes its debut on the catwalk, during the fall women’s show. The double G printed canvas is covered with a sleek, glossy glaze for a shiny effect.
1961: To celebrate Jacqueline Kennedy, who is constantly photographed carrying a Gucci bag with rounded edges and a signature push-lock closure, Gucci renames that shoulder style “The Jackie.” Instant icon.
1999: Tom Ford reintroduces the Jackie bag in many colors and variations, triggering a huge and sustained response.
2009: Gucci launches “The New Jackie.” The classic shape is made bigger and the body is deconstructed and soft. In addition, Giannini adds signature touches including long leather tassels and bamboo details, in bright colors and luxurious materials.
1966: Rodolfo Gucci asks artist Vittorio Accornero to design a floral scarf for Princess Grace of Monaco. The fresh and feminine print, featuring 140 varieties of flowers, plants and insects, immediately blossoms on a wide range of products, including bags.
2005: For the cruise handbag collection, Giannini decides to let Flora bloom once again, to great success.
1973: The bag collection sports a redesigned polished brass GG logo with an antique touch.
2010: Inspired by an archival gem featuring the 1973 logo on the front flap, Giannini designs an elegant collection of rectangular shoulder bags marked by the same vintage logo.