Named after their first-born child, Genny was the brainchild of Arnoldo and Donatella Girombelli, who founded the company in 1961. Genny Holding SpA then became one of Italy's foremost fashion companies, designing, manufacturing, and distributing its own ranges including Genny, Genny Due, Complice, Byblos, and others. From relatively humble origins as a small clothing factory based in Ancona, Italy, the company was operating at an industrial scale by 1968. During the 1970s it experienced rapid growth when its founder made radical changes in the company structure, steering it towards a more fashionable product in terms of garment styling. These changes did not, however, alter the company's original commitment to the production of high quality, predominantly tailored garments. As an early protagonist of the "Made in Italy" label, Genny assumed a leading role during the 1970s when the Italian fashion industry took its first steps toward becoming a serious competitor with French ready-to-wear fashion.
Genny is typical of a number of Italian fashion companies manufacturing high fashion lines designed for them by leading names in the industry, yet launched under the company's own label. Fashion writer Colin McDowell has described this very successful, as well as lucrative, format as a form of "moonlighting." Considerable financial reward, coupled with the high quality of the Italian ready-to-wear product, has meant there was no shortage of well-known designers willing to supply their creative talent for such companies. Genny's earliest working relationship with an outside designer was with the young, virtually unknown Gianni Versace who designed his first collection for Genny in 1974. Versace was also responsible for designing the early Byblos collections, a younger range introduced in 1973 to complement the classic Genny image.
After the death of Arnoldo Girombelli in 1980, his wife, Donatella, assumed a leading role in the company and chaired its board of directors. Described by fashion retail entrepreneur Roberto Devorik as "a rare catalyst for design talent," Donatella Girombelli continued her husband's policy of employing top designers to create lines for the Genny labels, and have included a who's who of top designers like Stefano Dolce, Domenico Gabbana, Alan Cleaver, and Keith Varty.
The position of Genny and its other labels were not quite cutting edge, nor dramatically avant-garde or barrier-breaking, but rather top quality ready-to-wear clothing with a strong design element. This style was what led to the company's widespread success in the international market. By the mid-1990s Genny produced over two million items under its different labels, which were distributed worldwide through the company's nearly two dozen freestanding boutiques and in better department stores in the U.S., Middle East, Europe, and Japan. A growing number of carefully controlled licensing agreements encompassed such products as eyewear, fragrances, bridalwear, leather handbags, belts, and shoes sold worldwide.
Heading into the later 1990s, Genny had undergone restructuring from top to bottom. New designers were brought in and others let go; among the new faces were Americans Rebecca Moses and Richard Tyler, the longtime Byblos design team of Cleaver and Varty was gone, and Donatella Girombelli focused on a more American feel for Genny's womenwear. Commenting to Women's Wear Daily, Girombelli said she aimed for a "succinct combination of straightforward American sportswear and Italian flair." Next came John Bartlett, who signed with the Italian firm in 1997 to produce his existing menswear designs as well as to create a new womenswear line.
In the new century, Genny and its varied holdings seemed to have a revolving door with designers. The latest were Martine Sitbon and Sandy Dalal at Byblos, and Girombelli had approached Lawrence Steele to sign on as a consultant to freshen the Genny labels. Yet despite Genny Holding's frequent overhauls and team changes, it continues to be a well known and widely respected Italian fashion firm.