Dec 022014

Bamboozled: One of Gucci’s Florentine artisans showcases the baffling intricacies of Gucci’s renowned trademark: the bamboo handle.

MANILA, Philippines – And now, the in-house monogramming service of Gucci allows for your name, initials or any choice term of endearment to be hand-stamped in your artisanal piece.

Nothing tops off an outfit quite like an It bag. With prices reaching six digits while safely secured by monogram hardware, designer bags turn a seeming- ly plain wardrobe into a priceless pièce de résistance.

Yet with all the little details to consider, from a designer’s signature to an age-old label’s insignia, the color, the leather, the size, or the quirky moniker, there are times when all that really matters, in the language of eternal style, is the handiwork.

For 93-year-old Florentine luxury house Gucci, despite its iconic double-G insignia, the truest mark of a quintessential handbag is its immaculate craftsmanship. Founded in 1921 by Guccio Gucci, who served as an immigrant bellhop in an opulent Parisian hotel, Guccio acquired a penchant for impec- cable luggage that came with his well-heeled guests. Being a native of the same Italian town that produced the masters like Cimabue, Giotto, Donatello, and Brunelleschi, Guccio Gucci established a shop with pure traditional artisanal processes and supreme quality leather as foundations, and built that gilded global atelier we know today.

Fast-forward to when industrial processes started to keep up with growing international demand for luxury goods, Gucci, under the tenure of creative director Frida Giannini, remains unfazed by the shortcuts and convenient compromises that plague the other labels. This Gucci proves with “The Arti-san Corner,” a traveling exhibition that proudly showcases the traditional aspects of fabrication, diminutive detailing, and painstaking work that come with each Gucci-stamped deluxe accessory.

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Recently unveiled for the first time in the Philippines at the Gucci flagship store in Shangri-La Plaza Mall, The Artisan Corner features a handful of Gucci Flo- rentine artisans raised on the painstaking methods of building each piece by hand. Walking through the interactive showcase also served as an enlightening tour of Gucci’s glorious history, best exemplified by its headlining tote for the new century, the New Bamboo.


Handle with care

The use of bamboo as hardware has become a sturdy brand trademark, just as much as Gucci’s monogram. Discov- ered in 1947, when the scarcity of metals faced the world after WWII, the largely sustainable and versatile bamboo became Gucci’s move towards a new age of orna- mentation.

The process starts with carefully se- lecting the bamboo cane, thin enough to maintain a streamlined shape, yet sturdy enough to withstand wear and tear. The perfect canes come from a special farm in China, where Gucci has singularly sourced its bamboo for almost seven de- cades now, and where no two are exactly alike. The artisan refines the buds and nodes of the cane for a smoother fin- ish, before moving on to the furnace for bending.

The canes are then manipulated by hand over open flame to create handles, bag closures and loafer embellishments. After hours of scrupulous work, the bent cane is held together by securing straps and left long enough to dry and maintain its shape.

Finally, the wrought bamboo is treated with a natural varnish called shellac.

Made from the resin-like secretions of the wood- burrowing lac bug which are endemic to the Indian and Thai rainforests, the shellac coating gives the bamboo a golden sheen while sealing out moisture from the wood, resulting in a glossy, enduring finish.


Hide and Seek

If there is a singular element of Gucci, it’s the finest-quality hide. Deeply imbedded in the brand’s Florentine genetics, the supplest yet toughest pig- skin, calf or exotic leather is tinted in age-old tanning traditions off Gucci’s leather workshop. These are then patterned, shaped and cut by hand, following that distinct saddle-shape of the New Bamboo.

Compiling these pieces together requires a thoughtful study of mixing meticulous hand-sewing with durable industrial stitching, usually manned by only one person. A typical satchel consists of 130 components, sealed together by a careful comb- stitch, with each panel taking over half an hour to be combined.

To maintain this masterful touch for leatherwork, Gucci only employs generational artisans who were brought up on the specialized craft, or handpicked artisans who graduated at Alta Scuola di Pelletteria Italiana, which heralds the age-old Florentine tech- nique of hide handcrafting.


Cross the line

The humble canvas is an illustrious feature of the company’s past, when it kept the luxury house going amid the fascist Mussolini regime and the material shortages of the Second World War. Now fixed in the fashion imagination through the prominent red and green band, the canvas proves an integral part of each Gucci piece.

Every Gucci bag is lined by Italian canvas or plush Cormo silks to increase durability and pliability with- out adding much to the weight. This lining is incorpo- rated with detailed construction to ensure a thorough,

incorporated finish, from the exterior to the interior.


Tools of the trade

And to top off each archetypal Gucci piece, there’s the iconic emblem: a conscientious practice of de- sign restraint and branding genius, Gucci hardware merges form and function with a tasteful flourish for silent vanity.

This penchant for the brand’s signature also traces Gucci’s evolution in design statement through the years. The Gucci crest — a shield, an armored knight, and a ribbon brandishing the family name — marked the end of WWII and has since become an iconic seal for the city of Florence. The equestrian-inspired snaffle-bit hardware was first introduced in the mod Sixties, while Gucci’s butterfly pattern came with the freedom-loving spirit of the mid-‘60s. Yet, it was the double-G logo of 1964 that introduced the monogram, still timeless today.

“The Artisan Corner” shows how the hardware pieces are fitted to make any Gucci product complete, with each brass piece dipped in 24-karat gold, bound to never tarnish despite tireless toting.


Mark of the master

Yet perhaps the best gilding any Gucci patron can have is a personalized stamp of ownership. Just how each artist signs a masterpiece, the in-house monogramming service of Gucci allows for your name, initials or any choice term of endearment to be hand-stamped in your artisanal piece. This was per- haps the best souvenir the Florentines of the Artisan Corner left Gucci Philippines, when they specially trained the in-house staff of the Gucci flagship with this diligent and ultimately rewarding craft.

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Discover Gucci’s artisanal accessories and special monogram services in the brand’s flagship stores at the first level of Shangri- La Plaza Mall East Wing and at the first level of Greenbelt 4.

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