Gucci at the first show after the departure of Alessandro Michele: Predictions – WWD

MILAN — That was the fashion story of the last two months. Ever since Gucci and Alessandro Michele suddenly parted ways in November, there’s not a single staffer or fashion enthusiast who hasn’t speculated about the causes of the divorce; imagined behind-the-scenes scenarios or weighed in with their two cents on the direction the brand will take or should take.

While many questions remain unanswered, they add to the palpable curiosity surrounding the brand’s men’s show scheduled for Friday at 2pm here, when the post-Michele era will officially begin at the company.

For those who believe in fashion cycles, there is a beautiful symmetry in time. The upcoming catwalk event will take place exactly eight years after the iconic men’s Fall 2015 show that changed the fashion aesthetic and shaped the industry for years to come, putting Michele and Gucci at the epicenter of not only fashion but cultural conversations. Will history repeat itself with a collection of similar destructive power?

Who knows? It goes without saying that the brand’s fall 2023 men’s collection will be presented by an in-house team, which traditionally suggests continuity in moments of transition. But Gucci does not really adhere to convention, because eight years ago the same context did not prevent Michele and a dozen members of the design team from taking one last bow after Frida Giannini’s 10-year tenure and refined lifestyle were exchanged for a completely different image and a collection assembled in just a few days.

Gucci Men’s RTW Fall 2015

Davide Maestri

Buyers are also taking note of the multiple directions the upcoming show could go. “Michele’s vision for his first Gucci menswear collection for the catwalk was surprising, unexpected and refreshing, sharing a distinctly romantic outlook that overshadowed the more overt sexiness the brand was previously known for,” said Bruce Pask, director of menswear at Neiman Marcus. and Bergdorf Goodman. “He imbued Gucci with an expansively creative, eccentric, fantastical vision that importantly saw the blurring of gender boundaries that could continue to inform the brand. I expect we’ll see an evolution of Michele’s vision for the brand, but imagine there will be some aesthetic familiarity as the design studio he led and led during his tenure is said to be responsible for the creation of this collection.”

Ida Petersson, director of womenswear and acquisitions at Browns, said that she “hopes to see strong silhouettes, which will reaffirm Gucci as a menswear brand with elements of fluidity that Alessandro [Michele] introduced during his tenure. I would be very sad to see this part left behind.”

Meanwhile, Rinascente’s head of fashion, Federica Montelli, is already preparing to see the first act of a major change. “I guess the design team is already moving away from [Michele’s] maximalism and moving to a more elegant, sexy look, while still maintaining some kind of continuity in relation to Alessandro’s tenure, waiting for a more visible change in direction when a new creative director will be announced.”

Sam Lobban, executive vice president, general manager of apparel sales and designer at Nordstrom, left all doors open, stressing that “our customers gravitate toward Gucci’s take on Italian luxury, and we don’t know what’s next for the brand given this time of change, we’re excited to see what’s to come.”

However, it seems that some seeds of change have already germinated. If Gucci’s ad campaign released this week featuring Dakota Johnson with different versions of the brand’s Jackie 1961 bag is any indication, Michele’s fantasy world has expanded into a more grounded world, its rich allegories and references replaced by imagery that is more immediate and easier to read.

Dakota Johnson stars in Gucci’s latest campaign.

Ultimately, the demand to launch a major design turnaround to further elevate the brand’s luxury positioning is what reportedly caused a rift between Michele and Gucci and the top management of its parent company Kering, led by Marco Bizzarri and Francois-Henri Pinault. And while many fans of Michele’s vision mourned for days the idea of ​​not being able to share in his dazzling and eclectic style, analysts and observers generally applauded the brand’s decision to start a new chapter, believing it would bring new energy, fresh creativity and business acceleration, as published.

Looking at customer behavior, “we haven’t seen fatigue per se,” Petersson noted, but she acknowledged that there have been a few seasons when the balance between fantasy, “important for positioning,” and more commercial elements “has been disrupted,” and that it will reflect on the sale of clothing.

Asked what would be required from the brand now from a strictly commercial point of view, Petersson still believes that the secret recipe lies in the right combination of these elements and pointed to “a good balance between fantasy, statement and commercial pieces. You need eye-catching pieces to sell a dream, but commercial pieces that are easy to wear are where most of the sales are.”

Montelli’s wishes from the brand would include “highly desirable products, ‘It’ items that can drive hype for the brand, as has been done in past seasons with several successful collaborations,” as well as “a continued focus on leather goods with styles that can speak and younger generations and established consumers.”

Pask did not point to specific product categories, but nevertheless emphasized the need to preserve the element of unpredictability. “As buyers and retailers, we are always looking for collections that surprise and excite us, and that present a point of view that is unique, inventive and will make life extraordinary for our luxury customers,” he pointed out.

While Gucci’s return to a solo men’s show was a decision made before Michele’s departure, this is another key factor that adds to the buzz around the event and reflects the fashion house’s focus on the category.

One of the points that observers made after the split was that, despite their undeniable and long-lasting influence, Michele’s genderless designs also resulted in missed opportunities for Gucci’s menswear business. At a time when menswear is experiencing momentum everywhere, the void was too tempting not to fill.

“The menswear business in general has continued to see exceptional growth in recent years, with designer ready-to-wear, footwear and accessories particularly strong. “Gucci’s decision to re-present the men’s show is another confirmation of the importance of menswear not only to the brand but to the entire fashion landscape and business,” affirmed Pask.

Therefore, Montelli is not surprised by Gucci’s “renewed focus on menswear as a stand-alone business” and believes that “the menswear business will be one of the main forces in the next term.”

“I welcome the return to a separate men’s show,” agreed Petersson. “Women’s is a much bigger deal for most luxury players, and sometimes when there’s a student show, the male element disappears. From what we see, the biggest growing segment in luxury is actually men, so it will be exciting to see what Gucci does to win over this audience.”

Gucci RTW Spring 2023

Gucci RTW Spring 2023

Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

However, the primary question is not what the brand will do but who will do it. Gucci may be waiting for a high-profile designer or looking at internal promotion, as has been the case in the past. While every established name—from Maria Grazia Chiuri to Daniel Roseberry—has been tossed around as a possible candidate for the job, internal candidates so far include Remo Macca, a Gucci veteran who was recently named director of studio design; Davide Renne, also a longtime Gucci designer, and Marco Maria Lombardi, a member of Gucci’s design studio, as reported.

“There are many designers that we in the industry have considered in the ‘succession game’. I would like to be completely surprised by the final choice, and I expect nothing less from such a powerful house as Gucci,” concluded Montelli.

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