PATRICIA GUCCI WAS born in London and is the daughter of Aldo Gucci, the visionary behind the transformation of Gucci into a global luxury brand.
Patricia worked at Gucci America as fashion coordinator and brand ambassador in the US and Asia. In 1983, she became the first woman to be appointed to Gucci’s Board of Directors.
Now, she’s taking to the skies with her luxury luggage brand, Aviteur.
SQUARE MILE: With your background, you could have chosen to explore anything – from couture to cordwaining. How did you decide on luggage?
PATRICIA GUCCI: It really happened out of the blue. One day at Heathrow Airport I had a light bulb moment to create a carry-on that stood out from the crowd and things evolved from there. Of course, my background helped shape my ideas; luggage and leather is what we started with as a family 100 years ago and I wanted to rekindle some of that heritage, when products were made to last a lifetime and handed down to the next generation.
SM: “What sets Aviteur apart?’”
PG: What sets Aviteur apart is inside-out branding, and mixing tradition with innovation. Aviteur is logoless; our mark of distinction is superior craftsmanship, components in Lucite and aviation-grade aluminium, the quality of the leather, and the instantly recognisable woven panels in the intreccio pattern.
SM: Take us back a bit… Tell us about your earliest memories of your father?
PG: By the 1970s, Gucci had already become a global phenomenon and my father was constantly on the move, whisking in and out of the house like some exotic bird. If I was lucky, I would see him once a month but even then he was still in work mode. During my holidays he would take me to the stores in Rome, London, or New York, which all felt like home away from home. I remember how everyone was in awe of him when we walked through the door, I felt I was in the presence of someone special. He was larger than life.
SM: When did you first start to become interested in the family business?
PG: When my father was alive, he made sure everyone worked in the business, whether we liked it or not. I actually wanted to go into theatre but there was no way I could juggle acting classes with my job at Gucci. My first assignment was as brand ambassador in the US and Asia. Then I was responsible for the window displays in our US stores, but the role I cherished most was as creative director for my first fashion show, which took place at the Pierre Hotel in New York. I put together everything from the clothes, the models, the set, the music, and it was a huge success. The standing ovation from the crowd, with my father beaming in the front row, meant the world to me.
SM: Do you remember the first time you saw artisans at work?
PG: I was ten years old, and it was my first trip to the Gucci factory in Scandicci, outside Florence. It’s a vivid memory because it was also the first time I met my older brothers, who had hitherto been hidden from me. I remember walking passed the workstations and seeing everyone immaculately dressed in their white smocks. There were bolts of leather piled high against the walls. That smell was unforgettable.
SM: You were elected to Gucci’s board of directors at just 19 years old. Can you tell us about those early days?
PG: In the 1980s it was still a man’s world and, at 19 and the first ever woman in the company with a seat on the board, I basically did what I was told. Those meetings were always heated, lots of drama and raised voices. Even though we got together in New York, it definitely felt like we were in Italy. There were often disputes between my brothers and my father, but he always had the final word.
SM: When did the idea come to start Aviteur?
PG: A few years ago I was sitting in the departure lounge waiting to board my flight and noticed how all the carry-ons were either utilitarian or covered in logos. People had beautiful handbags and briefcases but when it came to their carry-ons, they were mostly black and fairly generic, so I decided to make something exceptional.
After a year on the drawing board, the official launch was in 2019 in Paris, in the Hotel de Crillon’s Salon des Aigles, a grand ballroom overlooking Place de la Concorde. We immediately began attracting private customers and retailers who encouraged us to extend the range and, before I knew it, Aviteur was born.
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SM: What were the biggest challenges of launching the brand?
PG: Manufacturing challenges aside – creating products that are entirely handmade, right down to the smallest components, is no small feat – competing with luxury conglomerates requires extensive resources. The big brands have upwards of 20 people developing a single product, and sustained investment in marketing and PR is critical to gain brand awareness. If you combine that with a two-year pandemic and the war in Ukraine, at times the adversities felt insurmountable, but I kept reminding myself to take the long view, stay calm and, above all, stay creative.
SM: What have been your greatest successes?
PG: The international press has been unanimous in its praise and our partnerships with the likes of Harrods, Net-a-Porter, and Matches Fashion, have been extremely rewarding. When Forbes ran the headline: “The World’s Chicest Carry-on Luggage,” I felt I had done my job.
SM: What did you make of House of Gucci?
PG: This was quite possibly the worst movie I have ever seen, not only because it focused on an episode – albeit tragic – that was nothing more than a footnote in our family’s history, but because there was no emotional connection with any of the characters. My father was depicted as a mafioso, an Italian stereotype that Hollywood seems unable to shake off, and a convicted murderer was glorified in a manner that bore no relationship to reality whatsoever. The producers had the opportunity to make a great movie and they totally missed the mark.
House of Gucci was quite possibly the worst movie I have ever seen
SM: Your book In the Name of Gucci: A Memoir received rave reviews. Do you have a favourite line from it?
PG: I do indeed. After the company was sold to Investcorp (contrary to the scene in the movie depicting my cousin with his entourage at the time, my father and I were the only Gucci representatives present in that final meeting at the Beau Rivage in Geneva), I was placed under a ten-year gag order and prohibited from engaging in any activity even remotely connected to the business, nor could I say anything about the story leading up to that moment. To this end, the line “now, it is mine to tell” at the end of chapter one always leaves me with a bittersweet smile.
SM: Have you ever thought about writing another book?
PG: Writing requires time and uninterrupted silence – things that I simply don’t have with my current commitments, but never say never!
SM: Where do you like to go on holiday?
PG: Sicily and Puglia are high on the list of places I still want to visit, but for the time being I love the peace and quiet of the Gstaad valley and pretty much anywhere in the Mediterranean – the Argentario coast, Greece, Ibiza – places where I feel free. I’m often asked for my definition of luxury and, in today’s world, it has to be freedom. H