How Gucci got its Groove Back
When it comes to luxury brands and second comings, nobody has quite orchestrated a renaissance like that of Italian fashion house Gucci.
Ever since creative director Alessandro Michele took over in 2015, he has singlehandedly inspired a new sartorial conversation, luring a trove of fashion worshippers who are ready to receive the gospel according to the Book of Gucci.
Michele’s rise isn’t exactly unexpected – he worked at Gucci for 14 years before being appointed creative director by then newcomer CEO Marco Bizzari.
But unlike his predecessors, Michele has reinvented Gucci by bringing a softer intensity. He’s swapped sexy ready-to-wear of the 90s for a rebel romanticism that’s now deeply ingrained in Gucci’s progressive DNA.
It’s the reason why the brand is experiencing a dramatic growth in sales – making it one of the top in the Kering Group stable which is also the home of luxury brands like Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga to name a few.
In Michele’s world, Gucci has morphed into gender less looks where prints emerge from one season to the next with a new vision. He is the quintessential artist and curator who rarely gives interviews and on the occasion of the latest Fall Winter ‘18 show in Milan, held a press conference only for Italian speaking media to attend.
He bases himself with a creative team in Rome and takes inspiration from pop culture, film, music, art and historical uprisings like the French student revolution in the 1960s as an example.
Michele has managed to fuse luxury with downtown chic, a luxe take on vintage looks with themes borrowed from bygone eras. There’s a nod to Ancient China as much as there’s repurposing graffiti prints by street artists [google Gucci Ghost as a modern-day example].
He is rewriting fashion rules by not aligning with any; scripting his own uprising and proof that whatever he touches turns to Guccified gold – not to mention the #guccigang hashtag that has taken over Instagram among loyal devotees.
At Milan Fashion Week in March, Michele made worldwide headlines when he set the scene for his runway show as an operating theatre. Held at Gucci’s head offices [that’s a former airport hangar if you’re wondering], the front row was filled with the relevant A-list crowd including Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour and Donatella Versace.
The runway was flooded with LED lighting while rows of invited guests sat on what resembled hospital waiting room chairs. Michele described his fashion style to that of the technique among surgeons – dissecting and stitching the piece of his sartorial story – saving lives – so to speak.
Michele created a Gucci cyborg for winter that was inspired by the feminist manifesto written by Dr J Haraway. If the future is female, then Michele certainly tapped into the girl power frenzy for his own storytelling. He even leaned on the B-grade movie Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! by Russ Meyers for a nod to female empowerment with the logo emblazoned on a sweater.
Alien-like models in pasty white skin paraded various winter gems – from embroidered masks, beanies and balaclavas to velvet gowns, oversized coats, body bags made of netting and tweed in plentiful placement. The Gucci cyborg is more than just fashion agitation though – it’s where ethics and politics inform the bigger picture.
He pimps sneakers with pants worn over netted ones, pairs chunky knits with vests over dresses and pants. There’s logo legwear that draws attention below hemlines. The runway might only go for 20 minutes but it’s jaw dropping in every move- this eclecticism on steroids.
Under Michele’s direction, Gucci got its brand groove back by daring to be different. This season he leans on the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants for an oversized nod to baseball life. Sure there’s Gucci loafers and animalia referencing throughout – the show a playful step into the weird and wonderful mind of the Gucci master. Whatever he’s doing, it’s turning huge profits which is responsible for a 44.6% growth in the brand’s luxury sales in 2017 alone.
Gucci’s newfound groove sees it fly VIP guests from Europe, Asia and Australia to sit front row at their fashion shows in Milan. Their multi-story boutique in Milan has more than 35 staff ready to serve and they have become a luxury brand that’s doesn’t need to discount.
If the queues at its Melbourne boutique on Collins St is anything to go by let alone the FOMO [fear of missing out] energy that is Milan, the Gucci buzz is coming into its own.
The brand dress everyone from Nick Cave to Harry Styles and loans dresses to Lana Del Ray and Chloe Sevigny – but there’s a prerequisite – celebrities need to have quirk, an edge and be reflective of the eclectic. They want DIY warriors, innovators, dream chasers and original content – they don’t need brand associations – they are the one being sought and not hunted for a change.
Michele’s contemporary vision is sometimes controversial [like sending models down the runway holding a replica of their head], always fascinating and leaves us wondering what is next. He’s proved the personal can be political, that fashion is a platform for politics as much as it a canvas for artistic expression and he’s got the cashed up millennial generation in a fashion feeding frenzy just to join his gang.
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