cover image The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed

The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed

Sara Gay Forden. William Morrow & Company, $26 (351pp) ISBN 978-0-688-16313-6

The brutal 1995 murder of Maurizio Gucci, the grandson of the Gucci company founder, serves as entree into the history of one of the world's most glamorous fashion houses. The author, a longtime fashion writer for Women's Wear Daily, wonderfully describes how Guccio Gucci learned, as a low-level employee at London's Savoy hotel in the 1890s, that luggage functions as a symbol of ""affluence and taste,"" and then went on to create opulent leather goods that caught the world's eye. Forden traces how Guccio--and his descendants--used charisma and intuition, rather than trained business acumen, to create the handbag dynasty. The ""Gucci concept,"" a group of colors and designs largely derived from horse stables, didn't hurt either. But much of the book is devoted to the in-fighting that developed among Guccio's sons and grandsons. This in-fighting as well as the Guccis' inability to adapt to increased competition, professionalize their management and maintain the value of their brand name eventually caught up with them. In fact, Maurizio, having risen to the top of the company in the 1980s by using outside investors to depose his uncle, was eventually bought out in 1993, leaving no family members in the company's top management. (Forden does explain how the Gucci company has since made a comeback.) The book is, at times, too detailed about fashion history and techniques, and some may find the author's use of dramatic re-creations annoying. Nevertheless, he offers an intriguing view of one of the families that helped to create 20th-century style and business. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)