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Time Travel

Patricia Gucci, sole heir of late Gucci patriarch Aldo Gucci, begins a new chapter on her own terms.

Patricia with her daughter Victoria, who works in the business

Patricia Gucci is firm on many subjects, but on one she is adamant: “no logos”. We are talking about her ultra-luxury travel-lifestyle brand, Aviteur, a carry-on luggage, bags and accessories for the 0.1 per cent. Having landed in London last week from her home in Gstaad, Switzerland, she is here to put the finishing touches to the brand’s launch at Selfridges, its sixth bricks-and-mortar presence outside of a showroom in Milan and online platforms such as Matches Fashion and Goop.

The brand launched with fanfare at Parisian institution Le Crîllon in 2019, but then had to recalibrate while the pandemic ran its course. “So, this is a major moment for us,” she says.

The suitcases are stunning, and so they should be, with a £5,975 price point. One hundred per cent made in Italy using the butteriest calfskin in black, grey or tan, meticulous hand stitching and lined with plush creamy Alcantara. The handle — a translucent retractable buttonless handle milled from a solid block of Lucite — has its own patent, she tells me. There are also garment bags, weekend bags, passport holders and even a pet carry case.

The epitome of ‘stealth wealth’, there are no logos, no branding, except for a quiet interior label, and, one could argue, a way of firmly drawing a line between her new chapter and the controversy surrounding her last name. “No customer who wants a logo would be coming to us; Gucci [in its current format] and Aviteur are chalk and cheese,” she says.

The Grigio Rosa carry-on (c) Aviteur

She adds: “My inspiration for the brand was how Gucci was when my father and I worked in the company back in the 1970s and 1980s. I grew up in a world of exquisite leather goods. I remember the Gucci stores in Rome and London were Aladdin’s caves of beautiful products, leathers and colours. The bags my mother gave me from the 1970s I still have, and they are immaculate.”

It was while she was waiting for a flight in Heathrow Terminal 5 in 2017 — observing the dull line-up of carry-ons that were wheeled past — that these thoughts began to percolate. She decided the moment was right to set up her own uber-luxury leather-luggage brand.

It came at a time of healing for her. In 2016, Patricia, who has just turned 60, published her story: In the Name of Gucci, a Memoir. It documented a never-before-told story — surrounding the rise and fall of the late Aldo Gucci, her father, son of Gucci founder Guccio Gucci, and the man responsible for turning a small artisanal Italian company into the legendary fashion powerhouse it is today.

Patricia Gucci was born a secret: a lovechild with the then 20-year-old shop girl Bruna Palombo, whose birth could have spelled disaster for her father. It was the early 1960s, the halcyon days for Gucci — the must-have brand of Hollywood and royalty — but also a time when having a child out of wedlock was illegal in Italy. To avoid controversy, Aldo sent Bruna to London after she became pregnant, and then discretely brought her back to Rome with infant Patricia hidden from the Italian authorities, the media, and the Gucci family.  

Patricia with her father, Aldo Gucci, in Hong Kong in 1978

In the book, Patricia describes her isolated childhood, the fact that she did not learn that her father had a wife and she had three half-brothers, until she was 10; her rise as Gucci’s spokesperson and Aldo’s protégé; going on to the board of directors at the age of 19 to the moment when Aldo’s three sons were shunned after betraying him in a notorious coup and Patricia — once considered a guilty secret — was made his sole universal heir; Aldo’s time spent in prison for tax evasion in New York in 1986; and the family feud that caused Gucci’s 70 years as a family business to come to an abrupt end in 1993. Today, Gucci is a subsidiary of French luxury group Kering.

“It’s a story about love and humanity and sadness; people say it has brought them so much emotion. I’m really proud of it and it was cathartic,” she says. “I had to write the book because after my father’s death [in 1990] and even before, the real story was swept under the rug.” The 2021 film The House of Gucci, starring Lady Gaga and directed by Ridley Scott, she believes, was inaccurate.

The years following the sale of Gucci were another tragedy in themselves. “It was not a good time in my life.” Patricia had a daughter, Alexandra, and moved to California with her first husband, and fell pregnant with a second daughter, Victoria. She re-married music executive Joseph Ruffalo and had a third child, Isabella, then divorced after things went bad. A recent breakdown with her eldest daughter Alexandra is the latest turn in a series of unfortunate family events.

Patricia says that her new business has provided a welcome distraction, and her middle daughter, Victoria, 33, is helping to run it just as she once helped her father. Her youngest, Isabella, 29, is in California working as a certified Chinese medicine doctor.

In Gstaad, she has found peach with her partner Gregory and their dog Lola, who provided the inspiration for the Aviteur pet carry case. From their Alpine retreat they make road trips in their Audi to destinations in Europe, driving rather than flying so they can take Lola. She plans to drive to Porto Ercole in Tuscany to spend time with her mother and her younger daughters for a stint by the sea.

And with a luggage collection like hers, there will be no need to pack light.

This article was published in Billionaire's Next Gen Issue. To subscribe, click here.