Formerly a casual slip-on reserved for classrooms and living rooms, loafers became cool after a metal horsebit ornament was added to the footwear in 1966. The shoes were so popular in the U.S. that by the 1980s, they were matched with suits and worn by power players in boardrooms on Wall Street.
They weren’t just loafers — they were Gucci loafers.
“At the Metropolitan Museum they showed the Gucci loafer — one of the best shoes that withstood the test of time, and everyone has a memory of that shoe,” Patricia Gucci tells Footwear News in an interview. “I had my first pair and they had an incredible quality — there was nothing about a Gucci shoe that cannot handle wear and tear beautifully.”
Gucci, a love child of the Italian luxury label’s designer Aldo Gucci and his lover Bruna Palombo, recalls the legacy of the brand, her father’s expansion of the company in the U.S., and more in her autobiography “In the Name of Gucci: A Memoir,” released Tuesday.
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“His legacy is having created a phenomenal luxury brand when there was no other competition of its kind,” she adds. Along with her father’s sons Giorgio, Paolo and Roberto, Patricia worked for Gucci until its sale in 1987.
In 1920, Gucci founder Guccio Gucci, her grandfather, established a shop in Florence, Italy, selling finely crafted leather goods. Nearly 30 years later, Aldo Gucci, his son, popularized the “Made in Italy” phenomenon of the 1950s after American movie stars who flocked to the Italian city brought worldwide attention to the merchandise.
“What was made in Italy — the craftsmanship — was unique,” Gucci explains. “It wasn’t done by this whole factory-made thing like in China — that doesn’t withstand the test of time. When you make it by hand with a certain attention and skill, those are hard to repeat this day in age. I think in those days there was this kind of quality.”
Her father, Aldo, started the luxury brand’s expansion with a boutique in New York City in 1953, and he later moved west to Beverly Hills, Calif., where Gucci added a touch of glamour to Rodeo Drive when there was none.
“It happened spontaneously,” Gucci explains. “He was supposed to set up shop in San Francisco, but there wasn’t foot traffic. For him to establish a shop he took risks — and my mother persuaded him because of the rich movie stars. There were incredible customers that hadn’t been tapped.”
At the time, the Gucci boutique on Rodeo Drive had a private salon for customers who had a key to get in.
“It’s a completely different world now,” Gucci says. “A very close girlfriend of mine used to say, when we were young, we would pass into Gucci and see a little handbag and purse and get whatever you like that was within your age and style, so I was very lucky. It was a bit of a fantasy looking back, but yes, it happened.”
By the late ’80s, she says, the Gucci brand began a sleek makeover that she helped push.
“There was a certain time — people were matchy-matchy,” she recalls of the label’s aesthetic. In the memoir, she describes the look as “the Gucci way”— that is, the shoes match the handbag and the outfit.
“Gucci, at the time, wasn’t really a fashion label — it had leather trousers and skirts. It was part of the design with an equestrian feeling because Gucci was based on leather, suede, buckles and there was a very Gucci look to it, but not fashion.”
She adds that the overhaul began throughout “half of the ’80s,” but credits Tom Ford, who was hired in 1990, for changing “everything on a whole other level.”
Though her family no longer has ownership of the label, she’s happy with her role with the company as a consumer.
“When it was a family business, we were very privileged and lucky to walk into a shop and get this that and the other,” she says. “Nowadays I’m a customer like anywhere else.”
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