House of Gucci Book Summary - House of Gucci Book explained in key points
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House of Gucci summary

Sara Gay Forden

A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed

4.6 (153 ratings)
38 mins

Brief summary

House of Gucci by Sara Gay Forden is a captivating account of the rise and fall of the legendary fashion dynasty. It unveils the dark secrets, scandals, and power struggles that ultimately led to the family's undoing, all while showcasing the iconic designs that made them famous.

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    House of Gucci
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    Chapter 1: The beginning of a dynasty

    The blood pooled around Maurizio Gucci’s body. Six shell casings on the ground had been circled with chalk. It seemed like the work of a professional killer, and yet Onorato had been spared – why? The homicide detectives’ examination of Maurizio’s body took an hour and a half. Learning every detail of his life would take a lot longer – three years, to be exact.

    Maurizio’s story begins with his grandfather, Guccio Gucci. Born in Florence, Guccio grew up influenced by the craftsmanship, history, and commerce of the merchant city. But by the time he was a young man, his family’s straw hat business was on the brink of bankruptcy. At the end of the nineteenth century, he fled to London, where he found work as a dishwasher and bellhop at the Savoy Hotel.

    Guccio didn’t earn much, and the work was demanding, but his experience at the Savoy planted the seed for his future. He realized that the famous hotel guests liked showing off their taste and affluence. The key to it all? Their luggage.

    When Guccio returned to Florence a few years later, he brought along his most valuable possessions: his savings and his keen observations of the wealthy elite. He started to learn the ins and outs of the leather trade, and dreamed of opening his own shop someday. In the meantime, he married Aida, a dressmaker, and had five children. A daughter, Grimalda, was followed by four sons: Enzo, Aldo, Vasco, and Rodolfo.

    One day in 1921, Guccio was out for a walk when he saw a small storefront for rent. It was close to the city’s ritziest street, Via Tornabuoni; Guccio knew it was the perfect place to attract an elite clientele. At first, his shop was stocked with an elegantly curated collection of imported luggage. As the business grew, Guccio added a workshop in the back and brought in the region’s best artisans to make custom designs. Assembling a bag was in itself a work of art; involving up to 100 pieces, it took on average ten hours.

    To produce Gucci’s trademark leather, veal calves were fed in their stalls, which prevented any scratches. Leatherworkers then cured the hides and treated them with fishbone grease, yielding a soft and supple texture. During WW II, leather became scarce, so Guccio got creative. He introduced new materials like wood and wicker and developed a line of lightweight but hardy travel bags using a special hemp cloth from Naples. 

    The bags sold like espressos on a weekday morning. In fact, it was getting hard to keep up with demand in general, especially from international customers. In 1938, Gucci opened another boutique in Rome – the playground of the rich and famous. After the war, the opulent store, all glass and mahogany, became immensely popular among American and British soldiers looking for quality souvenirs to take home. 

    Quality. That’s what Guccio strove for – and demanded. Always dressed in a fine shirt and crisp suit, accessorized with a Havana cigar and gold pocket watch, Guccio was characteristically Tuscan in his haughtiness, and his mark was evident in every product he sold. After all, as his son Aldo later said, “Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten.”

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    What is House of Gucci about?

    The House of Gucci (2000) tells the true story of the Gucci family’s meteoric rise – and near fall – in the world of haute couture. Full of plot twists fueled by passion and greed, it goes behind the brand’s shiny facade to reveal that all that glitters isn’t gold.

    Who should read House of Gucci?

    • Lovers of high fashion – or high drama
    • Fans of stranger-than-fiction true crime
    • Those intrigued by a world of glitz and glamour


    About the Author

    Sara Gay Forden covered fashion in Milan for over 15 years, following labels like Gucci, Armani, and Versace as they grew from small family undertakings into global heavyweights. She now works at Bloomberg News in Washington, DC, where she reports on the challenges faced by big tech companies including Google and Amazon.

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