Florence, Italy – In the year of its 100th anniversary, Gucci celebrates its heritage while remaining resolutely turned towards the future.
In collaboration with the men’s salon Pitti Uomo, the brand unveiled its archives here, a striking 30,138 square foot space designed by creative director Alessandro Michele to bring together the brand’s creations under one roof and pay homage to its 100 years. of history.
A few press guests were escorted inside the building, crossing the colonnaded courtyard filtering the blinding sun of a blustery, sky-blue morning in Florence, and were invited to explore the space tucked away in the cobbled Via delle. Caldaie in the Santo Spirito neighborhood.
The archives are kept inside the 16th century Palazzo Settimanni, whose records date back to 1427, located on the left bank of the Arno, where craftsmen and artists set up their workshops and workshops and where the city’s aristocracy has built their sumptuous villas near the Palazzo Pitti, where the Medici family had settled.
The Palazzo Settimanni was acquired by Gucci in 1953 and over the course of seven decades has been adapted to contain the brand’s first Florentine factory, as well as workshops and a showroom. Signs of its past could be seen in its restored version run by the house under the direction of Michele, who sought to return the multi-layered space to its ancient beauty.
The five-storey archives, including the ground floor and the basement, have been stripped of a few recent additions to reveal traces of decorations, trompe-l’oeil frescoes and murals, which are spread out over three centuries from the 17th to the 19th. Renovations to the palace included removing a 90s cladding from the entrance hall to let natural light filter through the portico.
As a nod to its versatile past and the surrounding neighborhood teeming with workshops, Gucci enlisted local artisans to work on the renovation, including the terracotta tiling seen on several floors.
Details such as furniture, display cases, down to the lamps and handles on each door – the latter cast in the shape of scissors – were meant to exalt the craftsmanship of the house, which the archives aim to highlight and enhance. preserve.
“The Palazzo Settimanni, now free of previous additions, is transformed into a magical place to which I have given a feeling of porosity: you walk through it, the air enters it, you can walk through it as if it were ‘a travel. I am porous, absorbent, permeable, ”explains Michele. “I gave the palace an aura of a fairy tale that, for example, allows the small entrance hall to become a gateway to a dreamlike dimension. I envisioned it as a sort of secret place within the house, an interior sanctuary from which one leaves for the holy lands of Gucci, ”he said.
Gucci enlisted the help of Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Fashion Institute of Technology Museum, who offered her curatorial eye for the layout of some of the spaces.
“The archives are a palace of memory,” she said. “Far from being a dusty granary, it is a dynamic system of knowledge and inspiration production. Archives are based on the desire to collect and categorize objects from the past, not out of nostalgia, but because the style of the objects evolves over time. This relationship to time means that a brand like Gucci, which has 100 years of history, is developing archives in order to bring tangible cultural heritage to life, today and for the future.
Each room of the three exhibition floors inside the palace is dedicated to a different theme – and product category – in homage to the brand’s history and named after Michele’s lexicon for the house, including “Radura” grouping together ceramics and household items; “Herbarium” for vintage stationery and “Maison de L’Amour” for hobby items from the 60s and 70s, which included vintage syrup cups and even an offbeat mirror framed by a gold cone.
The ground floor is entirely dedicated to accessories, with vintage handbags taking center stage in the “Swan” room, where different versions of iconic styles, including Bamboo and Jackie bags, are on display inside. glass and steel cases and trace their evolution over the years – while proving their ability to stand the test of time. A 1955 handbag featured the original horse bit which has become a signature element of the house. Many styles are meticulously preserved inside cabinets with a handle in the shape of a ship’s wheel, as in the “Hortus Deliciarum” room, the old palace garden with an ancient fountain.
The adjacent mirror room, called ‘Le Marché des Merveilles’, showcases the house’s jewelry creations over the years, while the small leather goods and luggage creations each have a dedicated space on the ground floor. . In particular, the luggage is exhibited inside the room “1921 Rifondazione”, named after the year the company was founded.
The first floor is dedicated to ready-to-wear, shoes and textile accessories such as scarves, twills and ties, including some scarves featuring patterns that the illustrator and painter Vittorio Accornero de Testa created for the brand, like the signature Flora motif developed in 1966 The painter’s preparatory drawings on paper hang on the walls. Other rooms upstairs house rtw pieces and shoes, cataloged according to the year and season in which they were first presented. Here, too, the rooms are named after Michele’s lexicon, with nicknames such as “Blind For Love” and “Alchemist’s Garden”.
Celebrating its credentials on the red carpet, Gucci installed a room called “Serapis,” which houses a life-size high-tech treasure chest. On request and with the help of a dedicated technician, the chest opens to reveal some of Michele’s best-known red carpet dresses hanging from models, including looks sported by celebrities such as Lana Del Rey, Bjork and Dakota Johnson.
“My task was to bring many items home, virtually helping them return to the family. Towards a place which ostensibly preserves the past, but which is in reality a bridge to the contemporary. An old building is a living being. Like fashion, ”Michele said.
Aiming at the space to bridge the past and present of the legendary house, the Gucci Archives – which are not open to the public – are also set to host the Gucci Education initiative, which provides employees with education and training opportunities. The Florentine space will accompany the brand’s online education platform and community, which already offers training in areas such as retail, supply chain, digital and human resources.
As indicated, in 2018, Gucci also set up the “School of Love” workshop, organized in the company’s ArtLab industrial complex dedicated to leather goods and shoes, which it named the same year in Scandicci, near Florence.