In a groundbreaking turn of events for the fashion world, Gucci, Italy’s iconic fashion brand, is embracing a new narrative of youthful elegance. This transformation is masterminded by none other than Sabato de Sarno, the creative director tasked with reinvigorating the brand’s growth.
Gucci, long known for its bold aesthetic choices, took a different route under De Sarno’s guidance. His debut show at Milan Fashion Week resonated with a message of youthful, street-smart style, even though it had to be relocated from the bustling streets of Brera to a stark concrete show space to evade the threat of rain.
De Sarno’s inaugural collection as creative director introduced a core wardrobe designed to resonate with contemporary women. Sartorial, menswear-inspired overcoats were effortlessly paired with mini-shorts and statement jewelry. These coexisted with alluring crochet ensembles, sparkling birthday-girl dresses, and understated yet perfect grey zip-up pieces.
What makes De Sarno’s approach distinct is his refusal to pander to the attention economy’s appetite for extravagant design. While still retaining iconic Gucci elements, such as loafers, bags, and GG belts, he presents them in a more subdued manner, departing from the recent era of logomania. Oxblood shades now grace these signature items, destined to become a hallmark of De Sarno’s vision. The interlocking G monogram is subtly woven into double-sided jacquard leather, and the stripes from Gucci’s iconic webbed straps find expression in a cropped python jacket and matching shorts.
Investors are showing confidence in Gucci’s new creative direction, with shares in its parent company, French group Kering, rising by 4.2 percent immediately after the show. They closed the day up 1.6 percent, a stark contrast to France’s CAC40 index, which experienced a 0.4 percent drop.
Multi-brand buyers also express enthusiasm for the products, even as questions linger about how Gucci will generate excitement around this more understated offer. Holt Renfrew CEO Sebastian Picardo describes the show as a “palate cleanser and reset,” emphasizing that the collection offers pieces customers will feel confident investing in while retaining the unmistakable Gucci flair.
Gucci experienced tremendous growth between 2015 and 2019, driven by Alessandro Michele’s exuberant designs, innovative digital marketing, and opulent merchandising. However, the brand faced challenges during the pandemic, and its recovery was slower compared to top rivals like Hermès and LVMH’s Louis Vuitton, which reported unprecedented surges. Vuitton, luxury’s largest brand, more than doubled its annual turnover to €20 billion since 2018, intensifying competition in the market.
François-Henri Pinault, Kering chairman, emphasizes the need for patience, stating that Gucci’s transformation is a process that will take time.
The Reviews Are In
Critical reception of De Sarno’s show was mixed. While most editors acknowledged his mastery of Italian chic, some wondered whether he had pushed the aesthetic boundaries far enough.
Fashion writer Andrea Batilla praises De Sarno for presenting a collection that reflects the present, but questions whether fashion’s role should solely be to describe or if it should also imagine alternative worlds and possibilities for rebirth.
Others wished for a more powerful creative vision from the designer. Cathy Horyn of The Cut suggests that De Sarno may be a pathfinder, and this collection is just the beginning of his journey.
The impact of De Sarno’s collection on clients and sales will become evident when the Spring collection arrives in stores in February. However, some products are set for an early drop in December.
Gucci plans to focus on reaffirming its heritage story and luxury appeal alongside De Sarno’s vision. A significant marketing push centered on footwear, particularly the brand’s iconic loafers, is in the works.
De Sarno’s collection complements the brand’s heritage drive. The opening look featured horsebit loafers, a Jackie bag, and a GG belt, signaling a commitment to a more stable image while retaining the brand’s iconic elements. The use of exotic materials like python and alligator further elevates the brand’s positioning in the luxury market.
At a brand of Gucci’s stature, designers are expected to oversee a comprehensive creative universe. De Sarno’s challenge lies in defining this universe, and this aspect was a common point of discussion during fashion week.
It’s important to note that De Sarno has had to prepare his debut amidst a significant changing of the guard at Gucci. Longtime marketing and communications chief Robert Triefus left in April, and CEO Marco Bizzarri’s departure was announced in July. Alessio Vannetti, previously Gucci’s worldwide communications director, returned to the brand as executive vice president and chief brand officer, adding another layer of complexity to the brand’s transformation.
As Gucci navigates this new era under De Sarno’s leadership, a book of key inspirations from the realms of art and photography will offer further insights into his creative world, providing a glimpse of the future for this iconic fashion house.