Gucci houses luxury's history in new museum

Tue Sep 27, 2011 1:41pm EDT
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By Antonella Ciancio

FLORENCE (Reuters Life!) - Global luxury brand Gucci opened its first museum in a Florentine palazzo this week, 90 years after its founder started a family leather goods business inspired by English aristocrats.

Stars of the fashion world came out to celebrate the museum's opening at a lavish ceremony on Monday in Florence's treasured Piazza della Signoria, home to the 14th-century Palazzo della Mercanzia that houses Gucci's new exhibit.

"United we're stronger," said Ferruccio Ferragamo, chairman of the Tuscan star shoemaker which bears his name, at the party to launch the Gucci museum, which spans three floors.

Inside the sumptuous confines of the palazzo, Gucci's famed "bamboo" handbags owned by fashion idols Jackie Onassis and Sofia Loren are on permanent display for the first time and the basement houses the Gucci archive, an immense collection of ready-to-wear, accessories and photographs.

Among the museum's pigskin suitcases, golf club bags adorned with Gucci's trademark double green and red band and a Cadillac Seville emblazoned with the famous GG initials logo, also lie treasures prized by celebrity fashion followers such as evening gowns created by current Gucci designer Frida Giannini for Hollywood stars Hilary Swank and Naomi Watts.

"We wanted to create a small jewel," Giannini told Reuters at a red-carpet ceremony next door in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence's fortress-like town-hall where towering frescoes remind guests of Italy's Renaissance.

The designer remembered the Gucci handbag her mother used "every day," as well as the first pair of Gucci shoes she bought in the 90s, when she was barely more than a teenager.

"There is a beautiful history of craftsmanship here," Giannini said, wearing a black dress with gold lame fringes.   Continued...