Life is Gucci
From its humble beginnings as the brainchild of an ambitious 19th Century immigrant hotel worker in Paris …to iconic 21st Century Italian fashion house, Gucci is pretty fascinating, and honestly, just pretty! Gucci’s Renaissance-opulent floral brocades, explosive colors, exotic animal themes and graffiti-chic sayings scrawled across t-shirts jumble together into a magically cohesive brand of luscious, wearable art. You can enjoy the bite-size best of this art on display at the Gucci Garden in one of the world’s top tourist destination cities: Florence, Italy.
Gucci Garden is a diminutive museum/restaurant/boutique located on the Piazza della Signoria in the heart of Florence, the birthplace of the luxury brand’s founding father, Guccio Gucci. For about $10 (the only time you’ll see a 2-digit price tag in the world of Gucci), you can take a relaxed meander through this carefully-curated museum. In just about an hour, you’ll learn about the brand’s history, the artistic sensibility that has inspired past collections, its vision for the future, and just generally surround yourself with Gucci gorgeousness.
You enter through rooms wallpapered in botanica, poetic snippets and bold hand-scrawled questions and sayings prompting you to pause and ponder, if just for a moment, “what are we going to do with all this future?” From there, you enter the museum… and it serves up a visual feast. You’ll see flights of fancy in the shape of shoes, bags, coats and gowns draped in yards of silk and trimmed in opulent furs (though Gucci officially stopped using animal fur with its Spring 2018 collection). Small TV monitors on the walls display runway shows throughout the decades; models strutting down the catwalk in concoctions that range from the outrageous to the ethereal …to the simply chic.
One room showcases leather goods - shelves lined with trunks, suitcases, hatboxes and handbags constructed with legendary Gucci craftsmanship and style, the iconic horse bit hardware polished to a high shine. Even here, you see the brand’s signature avant-guard attitude: Gucci embraces the wit, whimsy and weirdness of fashion-as-art with its arms wide open - and if you come with your mind (and wallet) wide open… well, then you can embrace the fantasy, too.
Like a lot of haute couture, the Gucci garments on display here are more artistic statements than anything you can imagine an actual person wearing, and that’s part of the fun: you can catch a punk vibe here and a tribal vibe there - and get inspired to pair a graphic tee and leopard print belt with your skinny jeans on your next run to the grocery store…after you descend from this colorful couture cloud, and land back on the terra firma of the real world.
In the same way that Andy Warhol was able to transform Campbell’s soup cans into a visual commentary on mundane objects as art, Gucci challenges the notion that clothing has to be utilitarian - or copycat. In 2014, Gucci’s Creative Director Allesandro Michelle (he’s sort of Louis the IV-meets-Russell Brand) collaborated with then-22 year old Spanish photographer/wordsmith Coco Capitan to infuse the brand with shots of what might best be described as a post-modern philosophical vibe.
Since then, Gucci has emblazoned t-shirts, hoodies and bags with Coco aphorisms like “common sense isn’t that common” and “I want to go back to believing a story” - phrases that are presumably intended to make you stop not only to admire the garment on which they’re graffitied, but also to stop and… mull. It’s this quirkiness that makes Gucci more than stylish - it makes Gucci interesting.
Florence is an artistic town, after all, and it’s fun to see the explosion of creativity through the lens of the fashion world. You finish up your tour at a beautiful little gift shop where you can drop several hundred US dollars on a tee shirt, buy your hubby a colorful pair of silk printed smoking slippers (because isn’t this just what every red-blooded American male needs…?!) or snag a sculptural handbag so chic it will put to shame any run-of-the-mill keychain or lip balm that dares to venture inside. For those of us who prefer spending our hard-earned thousands on plane tickets over silk scarves, there are a few lower-priced items that make nice souvenirs: stationery, wallets, business card cases and other smaller mementos to remind you of your hour or so in the presence of Gucci Greatness. A nice bonus: many of the items sold at Gucci Garden are only available here. So, in a way that only haute couture can conjure up, this makes them exclusive, even within the realm of one of the world’s most exclusive luxury brands.
If you visit Florence, Gucci Garden is worth a visit - especially if you’re someone who loves both fashion, and bold pronouncements on the way we look at the world around us. Just as an art gallery gives you a glimpse at the ideas behind a sculpture or painting, Gucci give you more than visual opulence (though there’s plenty of that), it makes you think about what its fashionable creations are trying to say.
On a more down-to-earth note, we did not dine at the Gucci café also located onsite, because Florence’s many other intriguing sights and sounds were beckoning us onward. We did, however, leave the Gucci Garden with a couple of pink shopping bags holding some very special memories, and somehow feeling just a bit more chic then when we’d arrived. Definitely worth the visit!
Click to more about the Gucci Garden museum.