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WWDMilestones: A Grace-ful Look Back At Gucci

WWDMilestones is a special supplement to WWD, celebrating 85 years of Gucci's refined luxury, elegance and incredible contributions to the world of fashion.

Ever since princess Grace Kelly wandered into the Gucci shop on Via Montenapoleone in Milan almost half of a century ago, Hollywood has gushed over Gucci and the love affair continues to surge today.

Kelly had dropped into the Milan shop to say hello to Rodolfo Gucci — an Italian matinee idol-turned-manager of the Milan store — and his wife, Alessandra Winklehaussen, also an actress.

In what had to be one of the earliest examples of swag, Rodolfo offered Kelly a gift, according to longtime Gucci employee Franco Gittardi. Unlike today’s actresses, who not only lap up freebies but also often demand them, Kelly graciously declined the gesture.

Rodolfo, in typical Italian style, didn’t back down. He insisted that Kelly could only leave when something Gucci was in her milky hands. She eventually acquiesced and asked for a flower-print silk scarf. The shop had none.Rodolfo didn’t stumble over his Gucci loafers, though. He gleamed a chance for a great product placement and a new product category. He immediately called costume designer and artist Vittorio Accornero and commissioned him to design an intricately colored print for the princess.

Little could Rodolfo have known that her Flora scarf would launch the Gucci apparel business, evolve into one of the brand’s most recognizable icons and inevitably help propel Frida Giannini (who resuscitated the print in 2004) from accessories director to sole creative director.

“In the early years, Gucci was old Hollywood,” said Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at FIT. “Gucci represented a glamorous brand from glamorous Italy, where movie stars vacationed and movies were made.”


For the complete article, see WWDMilestones, a supplement in Monday’s issue of WWD.