With Milan Fashion Week coming to an end, I thought it would be appropriate to blog about something Italian. And since I keep postponing some of the posts I had planned back when I visited Florence in late November, I figured now would be a good time to catch up. While most people will associate Milan with being Italy's fashion capital, many of the big names actually stem from Florence. Along with Ferragamo (previously featured here), Pucci and Cavalli, the biggest Florentine brand of them all is undoubtedly Gucci. Though I admit I've pretty much ignored the label since the departure of Tom Ford, and I love the monograms as much as I love the Louis Vuitton ones (i.e. not really), I somehow felt it would be appropriate to visit the only Florence flagship - under the assumption that the Gucci store in the company's hometown (where the headquarters are situated as well) was sure to be grand and special. Boy was I mistaken.
Now don't get me wrong, the Florence flagship is huge, easy to navigate and though popular with tourists, not cramped at all. The problem is that while current Creative Director Frida Giannini decided to renovate a select number of boutiques that would reflect her style, strangely the (in my mind) most important flagship in downtown Florence wasn't one of them. So even though her hometown of Rome and other cities such as London, NYC or Shanghai are graced with snazzy, ultra-modern and gilded Gucci stores, Florence is stuck with a rather bland example of what the flagships look like in every part of the world. In other words, it's not all that unique, but probably does reflect the Tom Ford era, so I shouldn't complain. Nevertheless, when in Florence, shop local brands and Gucci is as local as it gets.
Founded in 1921 in Florence by Guccio Gucci who initially conceived his company to cater to luxury luggage (much like Vuitton), the brand has since come a long way but still remains proud of its heritage marked by famous iconic features such as the bamboo handles, intertwined 'G' logos or the red and green stripes. Yet nothing makes Gucci prouder than emphasizing the artisan workmanship and while machines have replaced much of the stitching, certain elements are still handmade.
'The Artisan Corner' where someone was embossing initials on a bag. Also visible: sketches and different leathers.
To celebrate its legacy, Gucci launched 'The Artisan Corner', a traveling event started in 2009 that sees artisans assemble and finish some of the House’s most iconic handbags in temporary workshops within the store. Mood boards and sketches are showcased as well, giving customers insight into the creative and production process. Thankfully when I visited, the workshop had just arrived in Florence, so I was able to observe some very talented artisans hand-stitch handles or emboss customer initials on various leather bags.
More bags without the monogram, such as the reptile tote (right). Sunglasses make a cheaper souvenir (above).
Apart from that, the boutique was rather standard, almost reminiscent of a luxury department store. Elegant and sophisticated, but in a very low-key way, which means I can't recall any outstanding details regarding the decor aside from dark wood, polished surfaces and a few plush couches. On the upside, this did mean that my entire focus was on the product rather than the interior design. The store consisted of two expansive floors, with accessories, jewelry, bags and luggage occupying the lower ground, while the first floor held menswear, the women's range and shoes. Special edition collections, such as the UNICEF pieces were the first thing I saw when I entered and you'll find a huge range of anything else you're looking for throughout the store.
My favorites were the luggage (despite said monograms), shoes, the darker clothes which have also made their way into the current SS11 collection and pieces with the classic signature red/green adornment. Staff were very friendly and helpful and while tourists were all over the bags and accessories, the second floor was unusually quiet, which made browsing all that more pleasant. But as distracting as shoes and dresses can be, I kept finding my way back to 'The Artisan Corner', so if this comes to a flagship near you, I'd definitely recommend you take a look. Other than that, yes, go to this particular Gucci if only for the sake of celebrating a little bit of Florence fashion history (especially considering the company turns 90 this year), but you'll find their stores in all corners of the world and chances are, they'll look exactly like this one. If you want to spend money, going to their outlet outside Florence would be a better idea though. I might do a comparison post at some point, featuring either the revamped London or Rome store to demonstrate how glam some of the 'special' boutiques are. And of course, all Gucci items can also be browsed 24/7 via their official online shop.
Address: Via dei Tornabuoni, 73, 50123 Florence
Opening Hrs: Mon-Sat: 10:00-19:00, Sun: 13:00-17:00
Official Gucci Homepage & Online-Shop