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Giannini, who is 39, is wearing a long silk dress in a brilliant burnt orange that evokes the films of Luchino Visconti at his most sumptuous. (Gucci donated money to help restore the director’s epic drama Il Gattapardo.) She tells me that Gucci has two souls, one aristocratic and elegant, the other rock ’n’ roll. Today she’s channeling the former. Tastefully made up, with minimal jewelry, she has a pretty face, with dark eyes, beautiful plump skin and a rich, musical voice. Nathalie Massenet, the founder of Net-A-Porter, says Giannini is “the embodiment of the modern Gucci woman”—someone Cheap luxury handbags China who creates clothes that fit her “glamorous, jet-setting, successful” life. Yet Giannini, like the discount handbags brand she represents, has a more traditional side. “She loves nothing better than to go to her beach house, ride her horses and play with her dogs,” says Olivia Mariotti, a communication and brand advisor who has known the designer since her days at Fendi. “She’s not a party animal.” Born and raised in Rome, Giannini is the only child of an architect and an art history teacher. She credits her maternal grandmother, who had a clothing boutique, with inspiring her love of fashion, and her uncle, a DJ, for introducing her to music. After studying fashion design, she was hired by Fendi, where she worked on iterations of its popular Baguette bag. In 2002, Tom Ford tapped the then-29-year-old to design handbags at Gucci—not an insignificant job, given that leather goods account for 80 percent of the company’s business. Two years later, when Ford left after a contract dispute with PPR, which was then run by French tycoon Fran?ois Pinault and now by his son, Fran?ois-Henri, she was eventually named his successor. What was Giannini’s reaction when she learned the news? “I was screaming,” she says—and then, because of mounting stress, she developed stomach ailments and dermatitis and had trouble sleeping. It was not the easiest of transitions. A newlywed, she also faced the burden luxury handbags sale of knowing cheap wallets she’d be compared to the man who was then the biggest superstar in fashion. She lacked Ford’s charisma, ego and theatricality. She was shy and didn’t like speaking in public. Her appointment had the earmarks of a disaster, except that retailers and customers liked her mix of rock-chic and classic luxe. “I thought she was strong right from the beginning,” says Ron Frasch, president of Saks Fifth Avenue. Critics, however, were cool, if not outright hostile. In 2008, Robin Givhan, then of the Washington Post, penned a withering review in which she criticized Giannini for turning the brand “into just another company hawking handbags and shoes.” Gucci, Givhan wrote, “had lost its panache.”