When one thinks of fashion in Italy, you might automatically think of Milan or Rome, but Florence has a rich fashion history that dates back to the Middle Ages. Textile creation was an important part of the Florentine economy, with the wool and silk guilds being influential bodies. It’s fitting then that the city known for creating fabulous fabrics grew to be recognized for its clothes designers.
Home to some of the world’s finest fashion and accessory houses, Florence is a global fashion capital. Italian high fashion started in Florence in the early 1950s when Giovanni Battista Giorgini, an Italian entrepreneur, organized a runway show at Villa Torrigiani (now this famous event is held at Palazzo Pitti). Thanks to this show, the fashion world related goods made in Italy with high quality.
Walk down via de’Tornabuoni and you will see some of the finest names in fashion. Today, fashion houses, jewelers, and high-end accessory companies vie for space in this coveted area of the historical center of Florence. Stroll down the street and you can visit those companies that started in Florence, such as Gucci, Pucci, and Ferragamo, and those from outside Italy like Dior, Tiffany’s, and Saint Laurent.
Gucci has a prominent spot in the city with locations not just on via de’ Tornabuoni, but also on via Rome. One of the “can’t miss” locations those is this the one on Piazza della Signoria. This location finds itself across from the magnificent town hall and nearby Chanel and the delectabale Rivoire (where the best hot chocolate in the world can be found). This Gucci location, called Gucci Garden, has a restaurant designed by famed chef Massimo Bottura, a bookstore, and many other treasures. You can take a virtual tour of Gucci Garden!: https://virtualtourguccigarden.gucci.com/#/en
A Brief History of Gucci
- Guccio Gucci (GG), who had worked as a bellboy lugging luxurious suitcases around at London’s posh Savoy Hotel, opened his first store in Florence in 1921. The company offered luggage and some equestrian goods.
- After Benito Mussolini ordered the invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, the League of Nations embargoed trade with Italy. Gucci, and many other businesses, suffered consequently, but the company expanded their line to create new demand for their goods.
- With access to leather restricted during this time, Gucci created a new fabric made with hemp that became a successful fabric. The fashion house also introduced the GG monogram and the Gucci stripe (two green stripes surrounding a red one).
- In 1953, Guccio’s son, Aldo, opened the first American store in New York at the Savoy Plaza Hotel.
- In 1961, fashion icon, Jackie Kennedy was seen carrying a Gucci bag, which was quickly renamed “the Jackie.”
- The Flora scarf is designed for Princess Grace (Kelly) of Monaco in 1966.
- The 70s and 80s see first the release of perfume and then ready-to-wear for Gucci.
- Maurizio Gucci is murdered after a contract is taken out on his life by his ex-wife, Patrizia, on the morning of March 27, 1995. She was sentenced to 29 years in prison, but only served 18.
- In 1995, Tom Ford, who had been made creative director the year before to revive the flailing House of Gucci line launched his first Gucci collection to great acclaim. Gucci is back.
- In 2002, Gucci hires Fendi’s handbag designer, Frida Giannini, to oversee the handbag department. By 2007, she led ready-to-wear and introduced her first fragrance.
- In 2015, the House of Gucci hired Alessandro Michele as the new creative director and the brand continues to do well.
If you’re in Florence, I suggest you check out via de’ Tornabuoni—for at least some great window shopping, if for nothing else and visit two of the city’s great fashion museums.
Galleria del Costume in Pitti Palace—collection of over 6000 artifacts including clothing and accessories by designers such as Valentino, Armanio, Versace, Pucci, Missoni, Saint Laurent, and more. https://www.uffizi.it/en/pitti-palace/costume-and-fashion-museum
Salvatore Ferragamo—more than 10,000 shoes made by the fashion house as well as photographs and models of celebrity feet. https://www.ferragamo.com/museo/en
Florence has a wonderful fashion history. In the markets on the weekends, new artisans sell their wares and you can find up-and-coming designers in some of the small shops. Who knows? One of them might just be the next big name in fashion. Happy shopping!
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