The legacy of Gucci: a conversation with Patricia Gucci
Photography by / courtesy of Patricia Gucci, Piero Gemelli and Mort Kaye Studios Palm Beach
In this exclusive interview, FAJO sat down with Patricia Gucci, daughter of the legendary head of iconic fashion power-house, Gucci, to talk about her new book, In the Name of Gucci: A Memoir.
The memoir is a bittersweet tribute to Gucci’s father and chronicles his journey as the first Italian to set up a luxury goods retail operation in the U.S. — namely on Fifth Avenue in New York, Worth Avenue in Palm Beach and Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles — and the complexities of her family’s relationships, being the iconic designer’s secret love child for many years.
We caught up with Gucci during the New York City leg of her North American book launch tour, where for the first time ever, she reveals the truth behind her father’s empire and the dramatic end of his involvement with the brand, the challenges and strength of her parents Aldo and Bruna’s love for each other, and the Gucci legacy … discovering much about herself and her family along the way.
NADIA MK: Why did you decide to publish this book now and share your family’s story?
PATRICIA GUCCI: Before my father died and after he sold his shares of Gucci and signed all the appropriate paperwork, we weren’t allowed to speak about the company for 10 years.
Of course, I’m also a busy mom, so it was difficult to find the time, though this was always something I’ve wanted to do. Now that my daughters are young ladies, I decided this was the right time to tell our story. My father deserves this tribute and people deserve to know the truth about our family and the empire he built.
How would you describe the relationship with your family?
There were a lot of gaps in my life, missing pieces, many upheavals and many things I didn’t know about my youth. My mother wasn’t communicative about anything to do with my past, but understood that I needed her help in this and why it was so important for me, my daughters and our father.
Once she opened up, it was a revelation on a bigger level than I could have ever anticipated. She struggled in her life, and felt she wasn’t understood. When she and my father developed their relationship, between the legalities of the country, the Catholic Church, and her life as a young [pregnant] woman, it was an extremely trying time.
Of course, my father wanted to make sure she was taken care of when he sent her to London, but she wasn’t able to adjust very well … Then, having me in a foreign country on top of it all … It gave me a new understanding and respect of my relationship [with my mother]. Things have changed between us, and it all was a healing process for her.
What was the greatest discovery in all the research you conducted while writing the book?
The love letters from my father to my mother were the crowning glory – they showed a side of him I had never seen: the love and expression, and vulnerability were conveyed so eloquently. It was a side to my father that I’m so happy he experienced, because he was so busy in his life – always working. The letters proved that my mother was a turning point in his life, one that bestowed on him a very special kind of love.
Reading the letters, I see how strong my mother was, and how she made it through a very difficult time. I think it’s important for women to know that other women go through times like this, difficulties. Life isn’t easy – everyone is human – with or without a brand name. Often, we were extremely fortunate, but at other times we experienced challenges – albeit different kinds of challenges than most.
What did it mean to carry the Gucci name when you went to work for your father?
As an employee, I always felt like I had to prove myself even more. I was polite, respectful, and made it very clear that it was okay for those around me to know more than I knew – it was important that people understood I was there to learn and to work. I learned so much from my father too. I tried to never take advantage of being the boss’ daughter. As you can imagine, it was a lot of pressure … my father had built an incredible thing at Gucci.
When I worked with him in New York and we would go to social events, my name would walk in the door before me. I didn’t feel that way in Europe – we were who we were: Patricia was Patricia, not Patricia Gucci.
That changed in New York. I felt very self-conscious. But when I was doing work and was an ambassador for the brand, I wore the badge … and I worked hard to earn it.
What was it like when your father sold the company?
I sat with him when he signed off on the company’s sale, and I can tell you that he had felt he had lost all hope in life, even though he had me and my mother. Later, he learned that all the time he had been busy working – even though it was all to provide the best for his family – he never really had quite the time to enjoy it. This new chapter in his life changed that.
How involved are you in the Gucci brand today?
I’m not at all involved – I’m happily a client, lately. I found Michael’s [work] exciting. He brought a lot of youth and creativity to the brand.
I am happy to see that Gucci has had this resurgence. Today, I think my father would be very happy to see that Gucci is bigger than ever.