In an opulent retrospective at 180 The Strand, the legacy Italian label places its namesake at the center of its orbit

Gucci began in 1897, when teenage Guccio Gucci worked as a luggage porter and liftboy at The Savoy Hotel. So asserts Gucci Cosmos, a new exhibition housed at London’s 180 The Strand by contemporary artist Es Devlin and Italian fashion theorist and critic Maria Luisa Frisa. The project was “an extraordinary opportunity for me to traverse the universe of Gucci through an ever-different lens,” says Frisa. To make the journey through this century-long universe, you must start with the man himself.

Gucci Cosmos recreates the lobby Guccio once worked in, down to the black-and-white checkered marble floor for audiences to wander through as they patronize the café or relax in the garden. Attendees then go through the “Ascending Room,” a windowless, red-lacquer elevator. It is here that Guccio—taking in the sumptuous wealth of The Savoy’s patrons—was inspired to return to Florence to start his eponymous leather-goods house in 1921.

For a brand that’s been knocked-off to no end, exalting its iconic motifs in opulent spaces returns them to their original grandeur. “Zoetrope,” a circular room with immersive footage of running horses coupled with a soundscape of galloping hooves, serves as an ode to the horsebit hardware, which Guccio’s son Adolfo Gucci, created in 1953. “Archivo” places timeless bags—including the Bamboo 1947, the Jackie 1961, and the Gucci Diana—in a trippy boutique setting kitted with aqua blue shelving with mirrored ceilings, offsetting the structured elegance of the blood-red leather and polished bamboo of the purses. Pieces from the brand’s many creative directors such as Tom Ford, Frida Gianni, and Alessandro Michele are incorporated throughout the rooms, many of which reference the namesake designer’s ideas. Time is spherical in Gucci Cosmos, emanating from its founder as the center.

This retrospective is not an end but an expansion. Its final room, “Gucci Ancora,” is directly inspired by creative director Sabato De Sarno’s debut collection for Spring/Summer 2024, filled with projections of recorded memories, phrases, and fragments, all in the new signature red. Ancora translates to “again” in Italian. With reverence for the past, Gucci ushers its timeless splendor into the future.