Gucci’s highly anticipated showcase at Milan Fashion Week has garnered mixed reviews from industry insiders, with some feeling that Gucci Ancora's debut collection under the new creative direction of Sabato De Sarno lacked the anticipated fervor.
The collection, named "Ancora" meaning "anchor" in Italian, marked a tabula rasa moment, erasing any remnants of the whimsical style that had previously defined the brand. It was a comprehensive reset, a rare occurrence not witnessed since Tom Ford's transformation of the house in 1995 and Alessandro Michele's reimagining in 2015.
Resetting a fashion powerhouse of Gucci's magnitude, whether once or twice in a decade, presents a formidable challenge. As a subsidiary of Kering with an annual turnover of 10 billion euros, Gucci caters to a luxury clientele who, despite their appetite for novelty, also seek consistency and a connection to the brand's heritage. The collection offered no vestiges of its former inclinations under Mr. Michele, not even a subtle nod, such as a classic pussy-bow blouse. Thus far, Gucci appears to be a brand in a state of flux.
Both Mr. Ford and Mr. Michele earned acclaim for revolutionizing the fashion landscape, reshaping the industry, and inspiring numerous brands and designers. While Mr. De Sarno's collection exuded an undeniable chicness, embracing a more understated luxury that resonates with today's consumer sentiment, it did not mark a revolutionary moment in fashion. The eccentricity that has been associated with Gucci in the past seemed notably absent.
Gucci’s new look
Mr. De Sarno's collection elevated the brand's core offerings, featuring silhouettes that showcased ample leg, with micro shorts, thigh-skimming skirts, and knee-length dresses taking center stage. Trousers were conspicuously absent, except for a few denim ensembles. The opening look featured tiny shorts paired with a charcoal peak-lapel coat, a gold necklace, and platform loafers, with the latter being a defining footwear style throughout the collection. Bag designs drew inspiration from the brand's archives, updated with softer leather, refined hardware, and straps. The colour Bordeaux, now referred to as Gucci Rosso, dominated the palette, especially in leather and accessories.
The collection's simplicity, exemplified by babydoll dresses and tailored pieces, belied the extraordinary craftsmanship that underpinned each creation. Gucci wants its heritage and savoir-faire to shine through, avoiding any overshadowing of past eccentricity.
Critics from publications like Business of Fashion questioned the vision for the future of the brand, suggesting that the micro shorts and tops resembled commonplace streetwear in Italy.
It would be unrealistic to expect a single collection to entirely transform a fashion house. Mr. De Sarno will need time to refine his vision and solidify his imprint on Gucci in the forthcoming seasons and years. While long-standing tenures are no longer the norm in the fashion industry, with contracts averaging three years, this timeframe should suffice to orchestrate a comprehensive revamp, spanning store design to beauty and cosmetics, and regain market share.
Meanwhile, Kering, the parent company, has been diversifying its investments, possibly recognizing that overreliance on its flagship brand may not yield the desired returns. Recent investments in brands such as Valentino, where Mr. De Sarno spent over a decade working alongside creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, and Creed, are viewed as prudent strategies for future growth of the group.