The Gucci Bible
With a history of family drama, including a murder, many believe Gucci is cursed. If it is, it has not stopped the fashion house from becoming the top-selling in Italy. Read on to learn more about the motifs that have made it popular and the designers that have created with them.
Lil Pump had just released his music video for “Gucci Gang”, rapping about money, drugs, and designer products (Gucci is mentioned more than any other brand in song lyrics). Kylie Jenner had recently posted a photo to Instagram of her holding Stormi in a ‘GG’ logo baby carrier (though it retailed for $820, it sold out immediately).
In the first half of 2018, Gucci’s sales doubled, and 55% of those sales were made to consumers under 35 years of age. By tying the past to the present (for example: collaborating with Dapper Dan, a Harlem-based tailor who was famous for knocking-off luxury brands in the ‘80s) and embracing its logo, Gucci has appealed to its millennial customers. Those who grew up seeing their favorite celebrities clad in Gucci and are now adults with enough disposable income to buy its wares for themselves. Scroll through social media and you will see Gucci’s iconic logo everywhere, signaling status and craving recognition.
However, millennials are not just wearing Gucci, they are also incorporating it into their speech. Gucci has become slang. If someone questions, ‘what’s Gucci’, they are asking how you are or what is going on. If someone states, ‘it’s all Gucci’, they are ensuring you that everything is good or totally fine. No longer just a high-fashion brand, Gucci is now a word.
But, how has it gotten to this point? How has Gucci, which started as a purveyor of equestrian goods, become one of the primary influencers of pop culture?
Detailing the house’s family drama, recognized motifs, lineage of designers, and standards of authentication, our comprehensive guide will help you learn everything you need to know about Italy’s top-selling fashion house.
Continue reading to become a Gucci expert.
Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images
Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images
Gucci’s Sordid History
Since it was founded, drama has plagued Gucci. From cold-blooded murder to underhanded business dealings, the house’s scandals have been prominently featured in the tabloids. Though all the bad publicity has almost bankrupted Gucci (more than once), it has always managed to reaffirm its status as a leading luxury brand.
The Gucci Men
Under the leadership of Guccio’s three sons (Aldo oversaw Gucci’s international expansion, Rodolfo managed the Milan store, and Vasco ran a factory in Florence with Aldo’s youngest son, Paolo, as a lead designer), the brand flourished. They opened more stores (with locations in London, Palm Beach, Paris, Beverly Hills, Tokyo, and Hong Kong) and strengthened Gucci’s brand identity (through the continued use of unique materials like hemp and bamboo, the incorporation of equestrian iconography, and the creation of the ‘GG’ logo and Flora print). As a result, Gucci was embraced by high-profile celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Audrey Hepburn, and Grace Kelly.
Following Rodolfo’s death in 1983, his only son Maurizio inherited 50% of Gucci. Quickly ousting his uncle Aldo, Maurizio became Gucci’s majority stakeholder (as Aldo’s three sons, Paolo, Giorgio, and Roberto, split the remaining half). With Maurizio taking control over the company, very bitter and very public family rows ensued. Gucci’s sales suffered, nearing bankruptcy. Its name, known for jealousy, greed, and rivalry instead of luxury and quality, dominated headlines in Italy and around the world.
Photo by WWD staff official website
Photo by WWD staff official website
Curse of the Gucci Family
When Maurizio joined Gucci in the ‘70s, his cousin Paolo was already busy petitioning its board to create a second, cheaper line. Though Gucci was generating large revenues, he wanted to make its pieces accessible to even more people (so much so, that Paolo planned to sell the line at grocery stores!). He proposed Gucci Plus, which would be crafted in factories outside of Florence in order to reduce production costs, but would still offer consumers the high quality the brand was known and loved for. After his plan was continuously blocked and denied, Paolo continued to work on Gucci Plus anyway. He sketched designs, met with suppliers, and researched production sites. Maurizio found out and sued Paolo for copyright infringement. Though Paolo won the case in 1987, he was required to trademark Gucci Plus products differently, so they could be easily differentiated from Gucci’s main line, and the brand has never acknowledged Gucci Plus products as legitimate. Disagreeing on the future of Gucci, a vitriolic feud between the two cousins started.
It was not always over business. Around the same time, Maurizio and Paolo began suing each other over personal dealings as well, resulting in the involvement of the Supreme Court of Manhattan. Maurizio released documents that evidenced income-tax evasion by Paolo and his family. In return, Paolo leaked information about an illegal offshore company in Panama, which Maurizio had reportedly opened to buy a yacht.
With all of the inner squabbling (and there has been much, much more over trademarking), it became obvious that Gucci could not be kept in the family.
Who Owns Gucci?
As sales plummeted under the direction of Maurizio, a controlling share of Gucci was sold to Investcorp, a Bahrain-based investment banking firm, in 1989. Four years later, Maurizio liquidated the remainder of his shares for between $150 million and $200 million, making him a very rich man and completely divesting the Gucci family of its ownership and involvement.
Unfortunately for Maurizio, this would only exacerbate the family fighting. Though his ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani (nicknamed Lady Gucci) had recently received a divorce settlement of around $1 million a year, she was not pleased. She made her disapproval and resentment public, claiming she was worried for the future of the brand and their daughters’ inheritance. On March 27, 1995, Maurizio was gunned down outside of his office in Milan. Later proven to be a hit ordered by Patrizia, she spent 16 years in prison for the crime – the most violent in Gucci’s sordid family history.
Today, despite an attempted (very underhanded) takeover by LVMH, Gucci is owned by French luxury conglomerate Kering (formerly Pinault-Printemps-Redoute or, for short, PPR).
Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images
One of the oldest Italian fashion houses that is still in operation, Gucci has created many signatures since it was founded in 1921. Most allude to its start as a manufacturer of equestrian equipment, others tell of its resourcefulness in the face of materials restrictions, and one was offered only to a very notable client at first. Among them: Diamante canvas, bamboo, the Web, the horsebit icon, the ‘GG’ logo, and the Flora print. Over the years, they have been used and re-imagined by a succession of the brand’s creative directors, transforming them into recognizable Gucci motifs.
Due to Mussolini’s alliance with Nazi Germany (specifically, his order to invade Ethiopia), the League of Nations imposed trade embargos on Italy. Because there was already a shortage of leather, this presented Gucci with a major dilemma. Selling strictly leather goods up until this point, the brand could either turn to alternative textiles or close shop entirely.
Gucci decided to source materials from within Italy and began to use a specially woven hemp from Naples in the mid-1930s. Now famously known as Diamante, Gucci’s first signature print, it features small dots that form interconnected diamonds. Today, a ‘GG’ sits at the four points of each diamond; however, this was not added until the logo was created in 1961.
Though Diamante was originally only offered in a brown and beige colorway, it has since been released in a variety of shades. It is now also available in coated canvas (called Gucci Plus, which is not to be confused with the discount line Paolo attempted to secretly launch, or ‘GG’ Supreme) and leather (called Guccissima, which directly translates to the ‘most Gucci’).
Due to a continued lack of materials close to the end of WWII, Gucci again had to be inventive. Discovering that it could construct handles out of Japanese bamboo, Gucci released its Bamboo Bag in 1947 (then referred to by its item number, 0633). Curved to resemble the shape of a saddle and burnished in a patented method, the bamboo handles were so unique that the bag became a favorite of Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly.
Though the Bamboo Bag fell into the brand’s archives, bamboo became synonymous with Gucci and was used for many of its other designs (most famously, as the heel on a pair of sky-high stilettos by Tom Ford). To the delight of Gucci’s fans, Frida Giannini revived the Bamboo Bag in the early- ‘00s. Still available today, it takes around 140 pieces and 13 hours to make.
Because its Diamante print was relatively nondescript and it wanted to further distinguish itself from competitors, Gucci created its Web around 1951. Inspired by the girth of a saddle, the piece used to keep it in place on the horse’s back, Gucci designed a striped fabric. Originally released in red and green, the Gucci family’s colors, it has since been offered in blue and red as well.
Not only decorating its bags and rendering them more recognizably Gucci (see: the Ophidia, Tote, Sylvie, and Fanny Pack), the Web has also been incorporated into the brand’s ready-to-wear, shoes, and accessories.
To pay homage to the house’s equestrian beginnings and his late father, Aldo designed the now-iconic Gucci Horsebit Loafers in 1953. Giving the otherwise simple shoes a bit of flair, he adorned them with a metallic snaffle that resembles a horse’s mouthpiece. As many believe Guccio himself released a similar men’s loafer in 1932, the origin of the horsebit (also called the icon bit) is often debated. However, Aldo’s design is the one that remains in circulation today (and was revived into a backless slipper lined with kangaroo fur, called the Princetown, in Alessandro Michele’s debut Fall/Winter 2015 collection).
A hallmark of the brand, the horsebit has since featured on many of Gucci’s bags (most recently, on the re-release of the 1955).
To further commemorate his father and represent the quality associated with his work, Aldo created the interlocking ‘GG’ logo (standing for Guccio Gucci) in 1961. Since, it has featured on almost every Gucci piece as stitching on the material, a zipper pull, or hardware detailing.
As controversy seems to follow the Gucci family, its logo has definitely not been immune. In 2013, the UK Intellectual Property Office revoked its trademark on the grounds of non-use (applying to all products except cosmetics and perfumes). Though it had been registered there since 1984, Gucci did not regularly use its logo between 2003 and 2012, meaning that, within the UK, the Italian brand no longer owns the ‘GG’ logo and others are allowed to imitate it.
Potentially disastrous for Gucci, as it risks loss in value and damage to its reputation, Alessandro Michele re-designed Gucci’s logo shortly after he was promoted to creative director. In 2016, Michele re-positioned the ‘Gs’, so they face right and overlap. Though, in an effort to modernize Gucci without sacrificing its heritage, this change has only been made to its hardware and not any materials (see: bags from the Ophidia and Marmont lines) . Inspired by children’s handwriting, Michele again released a new logo for his Fall/Winter 2020 menswear collection. Instead of its usual serif font, the brand’s name has been re-written in a cursive script.
In 1966, Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco bought a green Bamboo Bag from Gucci’s flagship in Milan. To show his gratitude, Rodolfo asked her to pick any gift she would like from the store. When she chose a scarf, he did not think any in stock were suitable for someone of her esteem, so he commissioned Vittorio Accornero, an Italian illustrator, to design one specially for her. The result was the (painted-by-hand) Flora print, which features 43 types of flowers, plants, and insects in an array of 37 colors.
Beloved by many, it was re-introduced by Frida Giannini (then-creative director of accessories) in 2005. Used on bags, shoes, and small leather goods, the Flora print became an essential pattern of the house. (In fact, due to the success of her revival of the print, Giannini was immediately promoted to creative director of womenswear.)
Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images
Gucci Creative Directors
Amidst the opening of its first store devoted entirely to clothing, Gucci experienced a decade of steady growth in the 1970s. However, following Maurizio’s removal of Aldo, his uncle who had carefully and expertly developed Gucci’s brand identity and following, the house suffered extreme losses. Between all the family power struggles and Maurizio’s lack of business acumen (he was unable to successfully combat counterfeits and was widely criticized for over licensing and distributing), Gucci was nearly bankrupt when he first sold shares to Investcorp in 1989. To help revive the struggling house, the firm immediately hired its first-ever creative director.
Photo by Pietro S. D'Aprano/Getty Images for Gucci
Dawn Mello with Gucci Products in 1990, Photo by New York Times official website, the LIFE picture collection, via Getty Images
The then-president of Bergdorf Goodman, a luxury department store based in Manhattan, New York City, Dawn Mello was recruited to help Gucci improve its sales and reaffirm its status as a leading luxury brand. With her, she brought a powerhouse team: Richard Lambertson as the design director, Neil Barrett as a designer of menswear, and Tom Ford as a designer of womenswear.
Under Mello’s leadership, Gucci’s iconic Horsebit Loafer was re-released in a spectrum of colors. Though the loafers were extremely popular among both critics and buyers, Mello’s other designs were not as well-received. Her small success was not enough to divert attention and money from Versace and Armani, Gucci’s at-home competitors. Mello left Gucci in 1994, returning to Bergdorf Goodman as president.
Since Dawn Mello’s departure, Gucci has shown a tendency to promote talent from within, choosing relatively unknown designers to fulfill the role of creative director and carry on its legacy.
Tom Ford was born on August 27, 1961, in Austin, Texas. Spending much of his downtime at his grandparents’ ranch in Brownwood, he was intrigued by his grandmother’s very flashy, Texan way of dressing. However, Ford did not go on to study fashion.
In 1979, he enrolled at NYU as an art history major but, after frequently partying at Studio 54, his grades dropped and he left after just one year. Following this, Ford had a brief stint as a commercial actor in Los Angeles. Within a couple of years, he resumed his studies, re-enrolling in the Parsons School of Design to study architecture. After transferring to the Paris campus and completing his degree, Ford decided he wanted to work in fashion. He remembers: “I just woke up one morning and thought, ‘What am I doing?’ Architecture was just way too…serious. I mean, every architectural project I ever did, I worked a dress into. So, I realized that fashion was the right balance between art and commerce, and that was it.”
Upon his graduation in 1985, Ford set his sights on Cathy Hardwick, a womenswear designer known for her creative use of silk and fusion of Eastern and Western influences. With no relevant education or experience, Ford relied on his persistence and a couple of white lies (he conveniently left out that his degree from Parsons was in architecture). He called Hardwick’s office every day for two months, until she eventually answered the phone herself just to quell him. She jokingly asked Ford how soon he could meet and, as he was already waiting in the lobby downstairs, he was there in under two minutes. Hardwick ended up offering Ford the job and he served as her design assistant for two years. After, he went on to design jeans for Perry Ellis.
Brought to Gucci by Mello in 1990, Ford quickly ascended the ranks from a designer of womenswear to design director to creative director within just four years. At the time of his promotion, he was relatively unheard of in the industry. Ford was given a dream job, which presumably no one else wanted. In 1993, Gucci had lost $22 million on the $230 million in sales from the year prior, and there were even rumors that the house could not afford its payroll.
When Ford started as creative director, Gucci was famous for its leather handbags and silk scarves; it did not have a ready-to-wear story to tell. Of his first collection, in which he sent mostly knits down the runway, Ford recalls, “It wasn’t a bad show. It just wasn’t anything.” He was prepared to leave Gucci until he realized that he was in a unique position. With absolutely nothing to lose, he could take risks. He explains, “I could have sent anything down that runway. There was a moment where nobody was looking at anything I did.”
Though Gucci’s publicists had to beg journalists to attend Ford’s first show, he was soon praised as “the most directional designer in Milan.” Challenging the minimalism trend of the ‘90s, he brought unadulterated sex appeal, sensuous fabrics, and provocative tailoring to Gucci’s runway. In particular, three collections were especially acclaimed.
For Fall/Winter 1995, Ford sent out jewel-toned velvet hip huggers, satin shirts unbuttoned almost all the way to the navel, and calf-length furs. (Beckoned by the crowd’s standing ovation, he broke the terms of his contract and took a bow, claiming he was never punished because Gucci’s showroom was packed the next day.)
For Fall/Winter 1996, models strutted in metallic stilettos and white jersey gowns, which featured skin-baring hip cut outs.
For Spring/Summer 1997, Ford forwent clothing almost entirely, showing unisex G-string thongs (literally…each was branded with the house’s ‘GG’ logo).
Between these collections, Gucci’s sales increased by a staggering 90%.
Tom Ford’s hypersexual aesthetic extended beyond his ready-to-wear designs and into his entire Gucci universe. Together with photographer Mario Testino and stylist Carine Roitfeld, he produced seductive, NSFW advertisements. Most notably (and controversially), the Spring/Summer 2003 campaign, which shows a male model pulling down Carmen Kass’s underwear to expose a Gucci ‘G’ shaven into her pubic hair. Since garnering cult status, all the advertisements have been preserved on @tomfordforgucci, a fan account that questions, “IF IT WASN’T BY TOM FORD, IS IT EVEN GUCCI?”
In 1999, Gucci narrowly survived an attempted takeover by LVMH’s chief executive Bernard Arnault. It was saved by François Pinaultof Pinault Printemps Redoute (now Kering), who was amassing a portfolio of luxury brands himself. Creating the Gucci Group, which was headed by Tom Ford and Gucci’s president and CEO Domenico De Sole, Pinault acquired YSL in the same year and Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Stella McCartney, and Alexander McQueen a couple of years later. Tom Ford was also named the creative director at YSL (though, Yves himself remained in control of his brand’s haute couture collections), and he was expected to eventually become the CEO of Gucci.
By 2004, PPR had raised its stake in Gucci to 99.4%, effectively owning the fashion house. Leaving everyone in disbelief, Ford and De Sole resigned. After months of intense contract negotiations, they claimed the split resulted from PPR’s refusal to give them complete creative control; while, PPR blamed it on their high salary demands. Ford remarked, “I never thought I would leave Gucci. As a fashion designer, I was very satisfied because I was free to create what I felt was right.” At just 42 years old, he was fully prepared to retire from fashion, feeling his identity had been erased.
Two years later, Ford and De Sole teamed up again to start Ford’s eponymous label. Starting with cosmetics, sunglasses, and menswear, Tom Ford has since expanded to the high-glamour womenswear that was his trademark at Gucci. Since leaving Gucci, Ford has also explored his interest in film, directing A Single Man(2009) and Nocturnal Animals (2016) – both of which earned Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.
With his signature “about to have sex” look, Tom Ford transformed Gucci. By the end of his decade as creative director, the once nearly bankrupt house was thriving, and the entire Gucci Group was worth an estimated $10 billion.
Now, the revival of a failing brand is commonly referred to as ‘doing a Gucci.’
Following Ford’s departure, there was much speculation over who would replace him and even more doubt that his successor could experience the same level of continued growth and fanfare. Until Alessandro Michele was appointed to the position in 2015, this was unfortunately true.
Tom Ford photo by WWD staff official website
CR Fashion Book official website
New York Times
Alessandra Facchinetti, previously a designer at Miu Miu, worked under Tom Ford at Gucci for four years before she was chosen to replace him. Only lasting two underwhelming seasons, Facchinetti left Gucci in 2005 (she cited company politics as the reason). After, she served as the creative director at Valentino (from 2007 to 2008) and Tod’s (from 2013 to 2016). Experiencing difficulty finding her footing in fashion, Facchinetti took an extended leave. In January 2020, she announced that she is making her return as the first creative director of harlan + holden (a Seoul-based brand, which rejects fast fashion and trends).
After Tom Ford found out that Frida Giannini was one of the designers behind the Fendi Baguette, he poached her to work for Gucci. In 2002, she joined his team as the director of handbags. Upon Ford’s exit, Giannini became the creative designer of all accessories. Following her successful refresh of the house’s Flora print, Giannini was promoted to creative director of womenswear in 2005 and menswear in 2006.
Moving the house away from the ‘GG’ monogram Ford often used (though she did create Guccissima, a leather embossed with the Diamante pattern, in 2006), she revisited its other historic codes. Recovering more than just the Flora print, Giannini also re-released the New Jackie and New Bamboo Bag in more modern silhouettes, colors, and materials. She is credited with pioneering the heritage movement that is popular today, influencing other major fashion houses to revamp what is already in their archives.
Though Giannini experienced strong sales at first, they began to wane and decreased by 2% into 2014.
Many attributed this to Gucci’s lack of identity during her reign. Giannini’s collections were neither definitive nor trendsetting, but stale. Relying too much on what had worked in Gucci’s past, she failed to provoke and say anything meaningful about the time.
Others believed sales had dropped because Giannini was no longer feeling the pressure to perform. Critics claimed her (rather scandalous) relationship with Patrizio di Marco, Gucci’s CEO, had provided her with a false sense of security and stunted her innovation. After keeping it a secret for nearly two years, Giannini and di Marco disclosed they were in a romantic relationship in 2011 and welcomed a daughter two years later.
In 2014, Frida Giannini was fired. A few days later, so was Patrizio di Marco. Though Giannini was expected to stay through 2015, especially since there was little time before Fall/Winter 2015 Milan Fashion Week, she left suddenly. Giannini and di Marco were married later that year.
Since Gucci, Giannini has committed herself to the charity work she started while there. She has continued partnerships with UNICEF (originally collaborating with Rihanna on the Tattoo Heart bags that raised money for children in Africa), Save the Children, and Chime for Change (which she started with Beyoncé and Salma Hayek Pinault to promote gender equality).
Recently, there have been reports that Frida Giannini is staging her comeback in the fashion industry.
Italian businessman Marco Bizzarri was called in to replace Patrizio di Marco as Gucci’s CEO. In late December 2014, Bizzarri invited Alessandro Michele to coffee. A relatively unknown bag designer behind Tom Ford and assistant designer to Frida Giannini, Michele was definitely not on his shortlist of candidates for the house’s next creative director; Bizzarri was looking for a high-profile designer to reclaim Gucci’s status as a leading trendsetter. Michele, who had been with Gucci since 2002, could simply teach him about the brand. Their one hour scheduled meeting lasted for three and, immediately after, Bizzarri called Michele to request another.
Frida Giannini’s Fall/Winter 2015 Menswear collection was runway ready and slotted to show at Milan Fashion Week in January. However, Bizzarri presented Michele with a challenge: scratch the entire collection and redesign it (all 36 looks) in just five days. At the same time, Michele also had to work on the womenswear collection, which would show just one month later. Bizzarri explains, “It was a way for me to see if Alessandro was willing to take risks. Because considering the kind of turnaround I had in mind, I needed a person who was willing, like me, to take big risks – and maybe make some big mistakes. If he was going to tell me no, then I didn’t want to be with someone who was risk-averse.” Michele changed everything from the clothing to the seating chart and styled the show himself (though considered unusual, as he has access to fashion’s most celebrated stylists, he continues to do this today).
As the runway lit up from below, models walked out in sheer pussy-bow blouses, long and loose trousers, three-quarter sleeve jackets, velvet-trimmed coats, stacks of rings, and backless, fur-lined loafers. Michele’s collection was nonconformist, reshaping the concept of masculinity and restyling men accordingly. Michele expresses, “I started thinking about an idea of beauty that, for me, it doesn’t belong to men or women. It’s almost the same; that’s why I put a few men’s looks on women and the reverse. You can be more masculine showing your femininity.” His Fall/Winter 2015 collection created a shift in menswear, which has been popularized by his celebrity following (among them: Jared Leto, Harry Styles, Elton John, A$AP Rocky, and Donald Glover).
Michele thought he was going to lose his job. He reflects, “The entire beginning felt like an accident.” Five days after his debut, Alessandro Michele was formally introduced as Gucci’s new creative director.
Michele, nicknamed Lallo, was born in the heart of Rome in 1972. His father was a technician for Alitalia and an amateur sculptor in his free time; while, his mother was an assistant to an executive at Rank films. Valuing the arts, they immersed Michele in Rome’s galleries, museums, and ruins. This has informed his perspective at Gucci. Michele’s collections are a mix of the old with the new, embellishing vintage silhouettes with pop culture references. Michele states, “I’m not interested in the future – it doesn’t exist yet – but I’m really interested in the past and the contemporary.”
Alessandro Michele went on to study at Accademia Costume & Moda in his hometown. His background in costume design is also reflected in his designs for Gucci, which are maximalist and theatrical. Throughout the seasons, Michele has incorporated ruffles, sparkles, snakes (which inspired his Gucci Garden, a combination museum-shop-restaurant he opened in 2018), clashing prints, the New York Yankees logo, Mickey Mouse, crystals, the ‘GG’ logo, severed heads, and more.
Michele’s aesthetic cannot be summed up in just a couple of words. It is eclectic, androgynous, eccentric, inclusive, extravagant…
While Michele’s ascent has been celebrated, it has not gone without critique. No matter how revolutionary, Michele has not been invincible to the controversy that has plagued Gucci since it was founded.
For his Cruise 2018 collection, Michele sent a GG-branded, puff-sleeve jacket down the runway. Failing to credit Daniel Day aka Dapper Dan, Michele was accused of appropriation. He claimed it was an obvious homage, but initiated a partnership to rectify his misjudgment, endorsing a Dapper Dan atelier and collaborating with him on Gucci’s Pre-Fall 2018 Menswear collection.
For his Fall/Winter 2018 collection, Michele released an $890 balaclava sweater, which featured a pull-up neck and red lip outline around a mouth cut out. Michele claimed the design was inspired by Leigh Bowery, a performance artist and designer who wore flamboyant face makeup; however, it reminisced blackface, outraging many. This prompted Gucci’s CEO to fly to Harlem to meet with Dapper Dan, who had made a powerful statement demanding accountability. Immediately after, Gucci announced its initiatives to promote diversity, including a multicultural design scholarship program, a new position for a global director of diversity and inclusion, and internal training to increase cultural awareness. Michele also issued a formal letter of apology, “I really shelter the suffer of all I have offended. And I am heartfully sorry for this hurt. I hope I can rely on the understanding of those who know me and can acknowledge the constant tension towards the celebration of diversity that has always shaped my work. This is the only celebration I’m willing to stand for.”
Despite Michele’s potentially devastating missteps, Gucci has remained in high demand. His more is more approach to fashion has resurrected the brand. In the past four years, Gucci’s revenue has doubled, placing it in the running to overcome Louis Vuitton as the world’s largest luxury brand.
For the first time since Tom Ford was at its helm, Gucci is relevant again.
Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images
How to Tell If a Gucci Bag Is Real
Alessandro Michele’s flashy, photographable, and instantly recognizable designs have earned Gucci the title of most popular luxury brand online. To put it in perspective, Gucci is searched and discussed over 11 million times per month (on average) and is more profitable online than in stores!
As more Gucci bags are being purchased online, the internet has been flooded with fakes. Unable to inspect the bags in-person, consumers are more susceptible to buying counterfeit Guccis than ever before.
At The Vintage Bar, we have a team of expert authenticators, who work hard to ensure that you feel confident in your pre-loved purchases. But, would you like an inside look at our Gucci authentication process? To make it more manageable, we have broken it down into a series of questions. Answer each to determine whether the secondhand Gucci bag you are lusting over is original or fake.
Want even more authentication help? While this guide can be used to authenticate almost every Gucci bag, we have also created some more specific guides to focus on the details that are unique to different Gucci styles.
Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images
The brand name appears on many different parts of a Gucci bag; most notably, its hardware, exterior heat stamp, interior heat stamp, and controllato card. It is always in all uppercase letters. When studying the letters of the Gucci brand name, you should ask yourself these questions:
- Is the ‘G’ so round that it looks like an unfinished ‘O’? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Is the part of the serif that extends into the ‘G’ the same length as the part of the serif that extends out from the ‘G’? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. The serif in the ‘G’ in Gucci’s brand name should not look the same as in its ‘GG’ logo.
- Is the top serif of the ‘G’ relatively flat? Does the ‘G’ start thin, but become thicker? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Do the two sides of the ‘U’ look different? Is the left side thicker than the right side? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Are the serifs on top of the ‘U’ the same length? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Are the ‘Cs’ so round that they also look like unfinished ‘Os’? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Are the serifs on the ends of the ‘Cs’ relatively flat? Do they line up perfectly? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Are the serifs on the top and bottom of the ‘I’ the same length? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Does each letter in ‘GUCCI’ appear to be the same size and font? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Are the letters in ‘GUCCI’ significantly and evenly spaced? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Are the last ‘C’ and the ‘I’ closer together than the other letters? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic. Many counterfeiters make this mistake.
Gucci’s Diamante canvas was first designed in the mid-1930s. It originally featured interconnected diamonds, which were composed entirely of dots. When the ‘GG’ logo was created in 1961, it was added to the pattern, positioned at the four points of every diamond with dots in between.
The house’s most recognizable motif, the Diamante pattern is still in use today. No longer just woven into canvas, it has since been stamped onto coated canvas (known as Gucci Plus or, more recently, ‘GG’ Supreme) and embossed into leather (known as Guccissima).
When examining a material’s Diamante pattern, ask yourself these questions:
- Are the ‘Gs’ facing each other? Is the right ‘G’ mirrored and inverted? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Does the left ‘G’ face right? Does the right ‘G’ face left? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Are the ‘Gs’ oval in shape? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Unlike the ‘G’ in Gucci’s brand name, the ‘Gs’ in its logo should not be circular.
- Is the serif on each ‘G’ long? Is the part that extends into the ‘G’ noticeably longer than the part that extends toward the opposite ‘G’? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Are there two dots between each ‘GG’ logo? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Is there only one dot between each ‘GG’ logo? Does the pattern appear to be sized down and about 1/3 smaller? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic. Vintage coated canvas (also known as Gucci Plus, but not to be confused with the discount line that Paolo tried to secretly launch) features this miniature Diamante pattern.
- Is the Diamante pattern made up of only dots? Are there 12 dots in each diamond? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic. Though most common on vintage, pre- ‘60s bags, the original Diamante pattern has been re-released (in a variety of colors and materials) in recent years.
- Do the dots appear perfectly circular? Is the bag crafted of Gucci Plus or ‘GG’ supreme? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Do the dots appear slightly square? Is the bag crafted of canvas or Guccissima? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Do the dots touch? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic.
- Are the dots far apart? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic. Though they should never overlap, the dots should be positioned very close to each other.
- Is the Diamante pattern blurry? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic. The pattern should always be well-defined and clear.
- Does the Diamante pattern align almost perfectly? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. When the pattern is interrupted by a pocket, seam, strap, or Web, it should continue as naturally as possible.
- Is the bag crafted of canvas or Guccissima? When you run your fingers over the material, can you feel the print? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic. The Diamante pattern will feel more pronounced on a Guccissima bag. It will, however, soften over time on both materials.
Interior Leather Tag
When you open a Gucci bag, you will almost always see a leather tag. No matter the style of the bag, it will never change location. The leather tag will be stitched onto the bag’s back wall, either along its top seam or directly under its interior pocket. Though its placement is consistent, its appearance has differed over time. When assessing a Gucci bag’s interior leather tag, ask yourself these questions:
- Does the leather tag match the rest of the bag? Is it the same type of leather as the bag’s body or detailing? Is it the same color as the bag’s body or detailing? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Is the leather tag stitched along one of the bag’s side seams? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic. The leather tag will never be found here on a genuine Gucci bag.
- Is the leather tag attached at its top? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. The leather tag should only be stitched along its top, so that it can be flipped over and its backside can also be seen. The sides and bottom of an interior leather tag will never be stitched down.
- Is the tag round? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Gucci bags made from the late- ‘70s through the ‘80s have a leather tag shaped like this.
- Is the tag rectangular with slightly rounded bottom corners? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Gucci bags made in the ‘90s have a leather tag shaped like this.
- Is the tag rectangular with sharp, square edges? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Gucci bags made from the ‘00s through present have a leather tag shaped like this.
- Have the front and back of the leather tag separated, so that it looks like there are two leather tags? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. To create each tag, Gucci joins two pieces of leather together. Over time and especially after significant wear, it is common for them to come apart.
- Is there a paper tag behind the leather tag? Is the bag part of Gucci’s Accessory Collection (GAC, for short)? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic. As the paper tags tend to tear off, do not worry if the bag is part of the GAC and you cannot find one on it.
The front of every interior leather tag features Gucci’s heat stamp. While the heat stamp is always centered on the leather tag and each element sits on its own line, its content and style have varied over the years.
On Gucci Accessory Collection pieces, a line that was produced by Gucci’s perfumery department from the late- ‘70s until the early- ‘90s, the heat stamp is embossed in gold leafing. See image.
Most common on vintage bags (both GAC and non-GAC), Gucci’s crest symbolizes the house’s history and values. Representing medieval Florence, where Gucci was founded, a knight stands at its center. In commemoration of Guccio’s start as an elevator attendant at the Savoy Hotel, the knight carries a piece of luggage in each hand. To its left, there is a rose, which represents beauty; to its right, there is a ship wheel, which represents entrepreneurship. Under the crest, Gucci’s brand name is in its signature font, but Accessory Collection is written in a cursive script. In all uppercase letters, the bag’s country of production follows after.
Throughout the ‘90s, the Gucci heat stamp was kept very simple. It was embossed into the leather tag without any leafing, so there should only be an impression in the leather. It reads:
MADE IN ITALY
The brand name is in its signature font and the bag’s country of production is in all uppercase letters.
From the ‘00s through present, the Gucci heat stamp looks only slightly different. It is still embossed into the leather tag without any leafing. It reads:
made in italy
A registered trademark has been added. The brand name is still in its signature font, but the bag’s country of production is in all lowercase letters. Now standardized, Gucci’s heat stamp should remain this way.
When reviewing a Gucci heat stamp, ask yourself these questions:
- Is the heat stamp off-center or misaligned on a GAC piece? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Because it was a discount line sold primarily in airports and department stores, GAC bags were crafted of pigskin in order to keep production costs low. Pigskin leather has distinct hair follicle marks, which can affect the placement and quality of the heat stamp.
- Has the gold leafing rubbed off of the heat stamp on a GAC piece? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Because pigskin naturally resists the heat stamp, it is only shallowly embossed and, as a result, the leafing is known to flake off. If you run your fingers across the leather tag, you should still be able to feel the heat stamp’s impression.
- Does the brand name appear in Gucci’s signature typeface? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Whether uppercase or lowercase, is the bag’s country of production in the same font as the Gucci brand name? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Are the lines of the heat stamp evenly spaced? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Is the leather tag missing a heat stamp altogether? Does it feature a gold plate on its front instead? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic. The leather tag on a vintage (non-GAC) bag often has a gold plate on its front. The gold plate should be engraved with the crest, brand name, registered trademark, and country of production; though, these elements may vary.
- Does the heat stamp also include a ‘G’ inside of a circle? Or, is there a hole punched through the front of the leather tag? If one of the answers is yes, the bag might be authentic. Gucci has discount outlet stores around the world, in which it sells bags that are made of excess materials or did not sell and are no longer in season. The bags go through the same quality inspection as all others; however, they are marked in one of these ways to clearly show that they were sold in an outlet store and are not eligible for return or exchange.
Prior to the ‘80s, Gucci did not use serial numbers at all, and it did not begin to use them regularly until the ‘90s. If a Gucci bag is new enough to have a serial number, it can be found on the back of its interior leather tag. Consisting of the bag’s style code (typically the first row of numbers) followed by its supplier code (typically the second row of numbers), Gucci serial numbers are not unique; therefore, if you see the same serial number on multiple bags, you should not automatically assume they are fake.
To quickly verify that a bag’s serial number is not counterfeit, search its style code online. Simply entering it into Google will suffice. If photos of the same style Gucci bag appear, then it is most likely authentic.
When deciphering a Gucci bag’s serial number, ask yourself these questions:
- Does the serial number consist of between 10 and 13 numbers? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Are the numbers in a serif font? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Does the serial number include any letters? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic. Real Gucci serial numbers are completely numeric.
- Is the serial number divided by dots or hyphens instead of a line break? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. For both vintage styles and small leather goods, this is common.
- Is the serial number slanted? Is it off-center on the leather tag? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic. Gucci does not focus on positioning its serial numbers perfectly, so they will often look a little sloppy. Focus on the font of a serial number instead of its placement. The serial number font is uniform on all real Gucci bags.
Exterior Leather Tag
On the exterior of some Gucci styles (most commonly, shoppers), you will see another leather tag. If present, it will be stitched onto the bag’s front. This leather tag will always be rectangular in shape and detailed with a heat stamp. When appraising a Gucci bag’s exterior leather tag, ask yourself these questions:
- Does its heat stamp match the heat stamp on the interior leather tag? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Does the brand name appear in Gucci’s signature typeface? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Do numbers appear below the heat stamp? Do they match either the style or supplier code in the bag’s serial number? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Is the leather tag embossed with one line above and one line below the heat stamp? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Is the leather tag stitched on its right and left sides? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. On a real Gucci bag, the exterior leather tag will never be stitched on its top and bottom.
- Are the stitches slightly diagonal? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. They should not be perfectly straight.
- Is each corner of the leather tag double stitched? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. These extra, finishing stitches overlap the leather, ensuring that the tag will never loosen or fall off the bag.
- Is the tag made of metal instead of leather? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. In this case, it will still feature the heat stamp; however, it will not have any lines or stitching.
Gucci has used hardware from a range of manufacturers (including, its own that is engraved with its heat stamp, brand name, or ‘GG’ logo). Because of this, it is impossible to know exactly which manufacturers have been used on which bags – and when! However, there are still some standard details you can take note of. From zippers to piston locks, when evaluating the hardware on a Gucci bag, ask yourself these questions:
- Does the hardware feel lightweight or hollow? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic. To ensure it is long lasting and hardwearing, Gucci has always used substantial and solid hardware on its bags. It should feel heavy.
- Is the hardware made of plastic? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic.
- Is the silver or gold color flaking off the hardware? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic. Most of Gucci’s hardware is coated. While it is completely normal for the coating to fade or rub off over time, it should never flake. This is a telltale sign that the hardware has been painted, which is common practice among counterfeiters to make it look more expensive.
- Is all of the hardware on the bag the same shade? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Counterfeiters often source goods from different suppliers, making it difficult for them to perfectly color match all the hardware elements for the same bag.
- Is the hardware engraved with the Gucci brand name? Does it appear in Gucci’s signature typeface? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic. Almost every piece of hardware will be engraved with Gucci’s name – specifically, the undersides of the zipper heads and the rings and grommets that attach straps or a handle to the bag.
- Is the hardware engraved with Gucci’s heat stamp? Does it match the heat stamp on the interior leather tag? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Is the hardware engraved with ‘G. GUCCI’? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Primarily but not exclusively on bags from the GAC line, this engraving was widely used in the ‘80s.
- Is the engraving clear and easy to read? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. The engraving should never be wavy or blurry.
- Is the zipper head completely unbranded? Does it have ‘5CN’ inscribed onto it? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Was the zipper manufactured by YKK or LAMPO? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. This is especially common on vintage Gucci bags.
- Does the zipper have a ‘GG’ medallion pull? Is it attached to the zipper by a chain and small circle ring? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Does the zipper have a Gucci crest or an interlocking ‘GG’ logo pull? Is it attached to a zipper manufactured by YKK? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Does the zipper pull feature a ‘G’ cutout at its end? Is the Gucci brand name engraved at the top of the pull? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Does the zipper have a leather pull? Is it attached to a thin D-ring without a screw or a thick D-ring with a screw? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Is the leather pull heat stamped with the Gucci brand name? Is it attached to a thin D-ring without a screw? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- If the hardware is attached with screws, are they flathead (-)? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Gucci has only ever used this type of screw.
- Is the zipper pull attached with an O-ring? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Circular rings were prominently used in the ‘90s.
- Is the zipper pull consistent with the material used on the rest of the bag? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Was the snap closure manufactured by LAMPO? Is it engraved with a series of codes? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
Determined by a bag’s style, exterior material, and season of release, Gucci has produced a variety of interior linings. Though some feature funky designs (often, one of the house’s motifs like the Flora print or horsebit icon), most are relatively simple and standard. Open a Gucci bag and you will typically see a solid color, the original Diamante pattern (with the 12-dot, no logo diamonds), a ‘G’ checkerboard pattern, or the brand name situated both right-side-up and upside-down. Because of the large assortment, it is difficult to determine exactly when certain linings were created and for which bags. However, when looking at the interior lining of a Gucci bag, you can still ask yourself these questions:
- Does the color of the interior lining complement the exterior material of the bag? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Though this is one of the only rules when it comes to Gucci’s interior linings, it is sometimes broken. For example, no matter their exterior, many of Alessandro Michele’s recent bag designs have a cream linen lining.
- Is the interior lining breaking down? Is the bag from the GAC line? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic. GAC pieces are notorious for their lining, which disintegrates and becomes powdery with use.
Quick Response Code
Around 2016 or 2017, Gucci began including a Quick Response (or QR) code in each of its bags. This is a barcode that can be scanned on a smartphone, so a bag’s authenticity can be verified instantly. In a Gucci bag, the QR code can be found on a black fabric loop, which is attached to one of its side seams.
Though QR codes seem like a miracle solution in the fight against luxury counterfeiting, they are actually not. QR codes are not unique to each Gucci bag, meaning a QR code for an authentic bag can be duplicated. Because of this, you should scrutinize the QR code as closely as any other detail on a Gucci bag.
Before you process a bag’s QR code, ask yourself these questions:
- Is it printed onto the loop in white? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Does it include a 10-digit code? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Is there any stitching on the loop? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic. Due to the lack of stitching, the sides of the fabric loop often fray.
Upon completion of the manufacturing process, every authentic Gucci bag is accompanied by a controllato card, which ensures that the bag has undergone a quality check and meets the house’s high standards (from Italian, controllato directlytranslates to ‘checked’). As it can be moved from one bag to another, the presence of a controllato card does not guarantee a bag is an original Gucci. Alternatively, as it can be misplaced, the absence of a controllato card does not conclusively prove that a Gucci bag is a knock-off. Regardless, a controllato card adds to the value of a Gucci bag, as it is always beneficial to have as much of its original documentation and packaging as possible. Similar to the Gucci bag it comes with, a controllato card has identifying characteristics, which can be inspected to determine its authenticity. When referencing a controllato card, ask yourself these questions:
- Is the controllato card approximately the same weight and thickness as a business card? If the answer is yes, the card and bag might be authentic.
- Does the brand name appear at the top of the card and in Gucci’s signature typeface? If the answer is yes, the card and bag might be authentic.
- Does controllato appear below the brand name? Is it in all lowercase letters? If the answers are yes, the card and bag might be authentic.
- Does a series of numbers appear below controllato? Are the numbers ordered as follows (with one space between each): 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0? If the answers are yes, the card and bag might be authentic.
- Is there more space between the brand name and controllato than between controllato and the numbers? If the answer is yes, the card and bag might be authentic.
- Is all the information on the controllato card centered? If the answer is yes, the card and bag might be authentic.
- Is the card pure white? If the answer is yes, the card and bag might be authentic. Older bags come with controllato cards of this color.
- Is the card off white? If the answer is yes, the card and bag might be authentic. Newer bags come with controllato cards of this color.
Gucci Plus Advisory
Though Paolo Gucci won the trademark case in 1987, permitting him to produce a discount line called Gucci Plus, its range of products has never been recognized as legitimate by Gucci. When you are shopping for pre-loved Gucci, you can easily spot a Gucci Plus piece because ‘PLUS’ is stitched between the ‘Gs’ in the Diamante pattern. If you decide to purchase a Gucci Plus bag, be advised that Gucci will not clean, repair, or restore it and it is technically not authentic.
It Might Be Authentic
To help you better navigate our complex authentication process, we have divided it into parts and phrased each step as a straightforward question. However, following all of our questions, we declare that the bag only might be an authentic Gucci. A couple of right or wrong answers does not prove anything. All the elements of a bag must be taken into consideration before it can be judged as genuine or not. This is especially true of Gucci bags, as Gucci is not the most meticulous of luxury brands and its bags often have minor production inconsistencies.
Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images
Trust Your Gut!
Feel like a secondhand Gucci find is too good to be true? Then, it probably is! Shop with a reputable reseller, who provides a guarantee of authenticity, posts plenty of photographs (if online), and has a generous return policy. And, most importantly, listen to yourself and follow your instincts.
Want to Know Even More about Gucci?
This guide has covered everything you need to know to consider yourself a Gucci expert. But, do you want to learn even more? For further information on Gucci’s scandals, influence in popular culture, and most covetable bags, as well as Alessandro Michele’s impact beyond his designs and style specific authenticity guides, check out the supporting articles we have written.