A Gucci Tells All
For a long time, Patricia Gucci had wanted to tell the world about her father, Aldo Gucci—the man who brought the famous brand to America and paved the way for the “Made in Italy” phenomenon.
To this day the name Gucci resonates across the world as one of the top luxury brands. However, the Gucci family’s involvement in what started out as a small family business and later blossomed into an empire had a shaky beginning, climactic middle, and irremediable end.
“In the Name of Gucci: A Memoir,” which hit the shelves this week, is the first book written by a descendant of Guccio Gucci—the company’s founder, who was Patricia’s grandfather.
Patricia Gucci, the love child of Aldo Gucci and Bruna Palombo, is also the sole heir to the Gucci fortune. She recently spoke with Epoch Times about her journey of discovering her own history and how the book took shape.
“I wanted to be able to tell what I knew about my father and what really happened, but I wasn’t able to. I wanted to bring to the world his legacy because I think that people have no knowledge anymore of the origins of what Gucci was,” she said.
A need to reconcile with her past in order to be able to move forward was another driving force behind her research, something she mentions early in the book.
“What I didn’t expect was that my research would lead me to back to my mother. After years of estrangement, I could finally begin to understand their unique bond and give her the credit she deserved,” she writes.
It is at this point in the book that the story starts to take on the cathartic dimensions of a cinematic plot. And it is hard to imagine that it won’t eventuate into a movie.
Aldo’s love letters to Palombo, some of which are also in the book, reveal far more than ardent passion. Without the letters, perhaps the Aldo Gucci that Patricia would have presented to us as readers would have been a more edited, circumstantial version, colored by her own attachment to her father.
By letting Aldo speak for himself, it becomes apparent that the 53 year-old married man with three children, professing undying love to an 18 year-old shop assistant who grew up knowing nothing but shortage all her life, was just as calculating as he was ardent—a recipe for disaster of the grandest proportions.
In one excerpt of the book, Patricia recounts how her mother felt when she was pregnant with her, telling Patricia that she left Rome “like a thief in the night.” In the 1960s an extra-marital relationship and having a child out of wedlock was punishable by imprisonment.
“‘Our destiny is to be together-I feel it!’ he once wrote. His destiny, however, seemed to keep him busier than ever on a roller coaster he seemed unable to get off. Gucci was well and truly on the world map, just as he had planned … . His flowery promises of ‘eternal devotion and nurturing’ seemed hollow when he was always so far away, leaving her afraid and lonely,” writes Patricia.
Ultimately, although Bruna remained loyal to Aldo (the book also reveals that Aldo had one other affair during the time he was with Bruna), the toll on her was evident in the way that Bruna isolated herself from society and from her own daughter as well. She told Patricia sorrowfully: “When you are treated like a secret, you tend to live like one.”
It turned out that the forces of love and disaster played their part in almost equal measure throughout the lives of the three protagonists until the very end of Aldo’s life in 1990, when he died clutching the hand of Bruna having succumbed to prostate cancer.
With Aldo’s death, the Gucci empire had lost its leader. It was the last act in a series of unfortunate events that took their toll on both his families.
Patricia Gucci recounts how her father was betrayed by his three sons, losing the company which was sold in 1987. He also served time in the United States prison for tax evasion during which time he was already ill and frail.
Just as his life seemed to have disintegrated, for Patricia it was a time when she felt the closest to her father who had been “a handsome daddy with the ready smile and distinctive cologne who flew in and out of our lives with a blast of movement and noise like some exotic bird. … A man like no other, he was human, vulnerable, and deeply flawed,” she writes.
The following questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Epoch Times: How have you come to terms with your upbringing? Reading the book, one gets the feeling that you were always detached from the bond that your parents had, but were still very affected by it. Has time healed everything?
Patricia Gucci: Of course, especially regarding my mother, because we had our ups and downs—I didn’t understand her, and she didn’t have the time to understand me, maybe because she was very caught up in her own mind about how life was—she didn’t have tools to communicate with me. It has brought her so much closer; she is now much more settled in her person, and she’s evolved in a very incredible way, and we have a wonderful bond now.
I’m very blessed, in many ways, and feel I have a lot of my father’s character, optimism, and a lot of strength—inner strength of some kind. It has led me to find my way through my life—be that to support my mother now, and be a mother to my daughters, and they’re happy that I was my father’s daughter. He was an incredible man.
ET: What do you think your father would say about the book. Did you envisage him or have his voice in your head ?
Patricia Gucci: Oh yes, somehow I always felt his presence. I’m hoping, of course—who’s to know? But I have a feeling that he’s nodding with approval because he knows that it all came out of a place of love and truth, and I wanted his legacy to live on. And I wanted my daughters to know my father better, and my mother better.
I think he would also be happy to know that my mother has been recognized for how important she was in his life and that, in the past, I don’t feel that was the case. So now, the world can really know a little bit more about her. Even though she’s a very reserved lady, I hope that deep down she realizes that this was all done with the best of intentions, and for him to be proud of.
The story is nothing new when it comes to anything that happened, really, in the past with family, it’s just showing a perspective about my father and who he was—it’s not about them—it’s about him, it’s about my mother, and it’s about me being part of this whirlwind of their life, and how I came about.
ET: Do you ever go to a Gucci store to shop? Have you been to the Gucci museum?
Patricia Gucci: Of course. I don’t shop that much actually. But yes, I love to go and see what’s going on.
The Gucci Museum was fantastic, I enjoyed seeing so many things I didn’t even know myself about—even handbags I’d never seen before. And there was a lot of recognition, really, for my father and his achievement. It was incredible, actually. It’s a beautiful place.
ET: What do you think about Gucci’s new creative director Alessandro Michele and the direction of Gucci as brand now?
Patricia Gucci: I think he’s phenomenal. I think he’s revolutionized Gucci, which is what I think his mandate was, and he has done that beyond anyone’s expectations. I think it’s fun and it’s brought a magic to the product that was not as much [there] in the last few years and I’m excited—in fact, I even bought a handbag myself and I enjoy wearing it.
ET: There’s a strong thread of spirituality in the book. In the beginning your mother is forced into an isolated existence, disconnected from everything including her family and culture–in the end your father is also forced to serve his time. What is your view of the events. What is your view of the karmic lessons, so to speak? Do you believe in karma? Are you now also more attuned to that as well?
Patricia Gucci: Yes very, very much because life has been a roller-coaster ride and I had to come to terms with some many things and I’ve discovered a lot of wonderful resources to sort of get enlightenment. My mother is a big inspiration. I grew up with her sort of psychic analogy of life and her astrological beliefs, which really when I was younger I would look at her and go, “gosh, maybe, maybe not.” I wouldn’t believe 100 percent. But now, I definitely think she’s pretty phenomenal. And of course now, I have also discovered that there’s so much behind it, so many of these beliefs, and it’s a great world to know about.
My father definitely gave much more importance to prayer and God towards the last years of his life as a source of strength. In fact, he was the person who would take me to church on a Sunday, more than my mother would. So he always believed in that.
ET: Looking at your father’s entrepreneurial spirit, he was very much like a reigning monarch over an empire that stretched across continents.
Patricia Gucci: Yes, I think my father definitely already came into this world with a vision of conquering, and he did—he conquered the world with the Gucci brand.