Gucci turns 90

Atlanta has a love affair with Gucci, and we're not talking about the Atlanta-based rapper, Gucci Mane.

The luxury goods retailer, now celebrating its 90-year anniversary has enjoyed a successful run in the city since its post-1970 opening at Phipps Plaza.

In 1921, Guccio Gucci, inspired by the traveling chic of English nobility, opened a leather goods company and small luggage store in Florence. He hoped to build a brand steeped in traditions of Italian leather craftsmanship.

The offerings were well-received among the well-heeled, and the company was responsible for a number of innovations including nontraditional materials (canvas) used during the war in the 1940s and the equestrian-inspired red and green web infused into various designs.

By the 1960s, Gucci had begun to expand internationally through a crop of branded boutiques and the interlocking G symbol became ubiquitous worldwide over the next three decades. But 30 years later, the brand was struggling with meager sales and headed toward asset liquidation. Creative director, Tom Ford, and CEO, Domenico De Sole, both appointed in the mid '90s, would become the dream team of fashion -- turning the company into a multi-brand powerhouse in just a decade (the duo departed Gucci Group in 2004).

Now under the creative direction of Frida Giannini, Gucci continues riding high with more than 250 stores around the world and revenues in the multi-billions.

In honor of the company's 90-year history, a recent cocktail party and fundraiser brought Atlanta's Gucci lovers out to view an exhibition of the iconic Bamboo Bag and introduce the new made-to-order service. We asked company reps to share the history of the Gucci merchandise most in demand in Atlanta:

The new Jackie bag in Coral Python, $5,700

The original round-edged Jackie bag debuted in the 1950s and became the preferred accessory for Jacqueline Onassis, who was photographed toting numerous versions throughout the 1960s. She was so devoted to the style that the bag soon assumed the moniker ‘The Jackie’.

Creative Director Frida Giannini, reinterpreted the iconic bag for the Spring/Summer 2009 collection. The New Jackie is oversized and has a deconstructed ultra-soft body.  The bag, featuring handcrafted leather topstitching borrowed from artisan saddle making techniques unique to Florence, takes seven to 13 hours to produce.

The new Bamboo Bag in Coral leather, $1,830

The "New Bamboo" is based on the original Bamboo handbag, designed in 1947 as a compact purse with a curved bamboo top-handle. Gucci artisans, faced with wartime shortages, chose bamboo for its sustainability as well as for its richly textured appearance, which met Gucci’s discerning standards. It quickly became one of fashion’s most coveted accessories appearing on the arms of countless celebrities and royals throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

Giannini reinterpreted the bag for the 2010 Spring/Summer collections giving it a larger body, fringe tassels and in addition to the bamboo handle, a second, long leather strap. The handle is made using bamboo cane softened by a flame and curved into a distinctive ‘u' shape. The 140 separate pieces are hand-assembled by an expert artisan in Gucci’s Florentine workshops in the same manner as the original bag and each requires 10 to 15 hours of work to complete.

The Gucci Horsebit Loafer, $495

The iconic Gucci horsebit loafer was first introduced in 1953 and in early years graced the feet of celebrities such as Clark Gable, John Wayne and Fred Astaire. They also graced the feet of former AJC columnist Lewis Grizzard, who wore a pair of the white loafers without socks, and took every opportunity to rhapsodize about his beloved shoes.

In 1980, the men’s horsebit loafer was added to the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Today, the classic loafer (still handmade in Italy) is available in a variety of fabrications (calfskin, suede, exotic skins) and colors. Even the soles can be modified to create the “Heritage” loafer.

The Diamante Large Carry-on Duffle, $1,890

The Gucci "Diamante" print taken from the Gucci archives decorates this bag created in the mid-1930s. The pattern was first woven onto hemp and used on luggage as an innovative solutions to pre-war leather shortages. The criss-cross pattern is actually Gucci's first signature print and served as a design precursor to the famous GG logo, which would become Gucci’s globally iconic symbol of recognition.