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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Money, mayhem, murder, and a sharp-looking handbag: This is the history of Gucci in a nutshell. Between the company's birth as a small leather goods concern in 1921 and its just-in-time reinvention as a cutting-edge fashion house in the '90s, the story of Gucci rivals any soap opera for drama and turbulence. Sara Gay Forden's The House of Gucci delivers, as promised, "a sensational story of murder, madness, glamour, and greed," liberally laced with gossipy asides that will intrigue even the most jaded fashionista.
Forden, a longtime resident of Milan and observer of the fashion scene, airs the Gucci family's dirty laundry with almost as much verve as they themselves showed. The business and the family were dominated -- and eventually torn apart -- largely by the flamboyant and volatile Aldo, Rodolfo, and Maurizio Gucci. Their story is a compelling one, featuring stretches of astonishing creativity and cooperation punctuated by periods of all-out warfare. Tempestuous relationships were as much a Gucci specialty, within the company and the family alike, as the trademark horse-bit loafer, and Forden's account of their internecine battles is juicy and gripping.
At stake was an enormously lucrative business that had been dangerously diluted by financial malfeasance, gross mismanagement, and promiscuous licensing. Maurizio's struggle to retain control of the company against the hostility of the rest of the Gucci clan, while handicapped by his own managerial limitations, is the stuff of tragedy, if tragedy can ever be said to lope along carrying an expensive set of custom-dyed crocodile luggage.
After Gucci's acquisition by an investment group, the story of the company becomes less histrionic, but the ascent of design director Tom Ford, and Gucci's subsequent renaissance as a major fashion player, make for an absorbing, if less turbulent, story. Bringing Gucci into the cutthroat fashion world of the '90s was apparently no small feat, and Forden captures the inventiveness and bravado that were necessary to pull it off.
The more bloodthirsty reader will be relieved to learn that the story returns to tumult once more when Forden explores the murder of Maurizio, the last Gucci to run the company, at the command of his estranged wife Patrizia. It's the final fillip that makes The House of Gucci downright riveting: luxury goods, family strife, and a crime of passion make for a wickedly good read.
Julie Robichaux is a freelance writer; she lives in New York City.