With the recently announced departure of Gucci Creative Director and CEO, the industry is one again filling up content quotas by ruminating on who might be the next creative director. And, for the first time since Hedi Slimane’s appointment at Saint Laurent, this could be really exciting!
You’ll remember, the label formerly known as YSL had languished for years under the creative direction of Stefano Pilati, turning out interesting-enough collections and branded belt buckles that served more as a place holder for a once great brand rather than a bonafide powerhouse. Exit Pilati, enter Slimane, and the fashion world was blessed with one of the most exciting runway debuts of the decade.
So, what does this have to do with Gucci and its recent ouster? Well, like pre-Hedi Slimane YSL, present day Gucci doesn’t much stand for any one thing. They have big, dazzling runway shows and sometimes the clothes are thought provoking to some degree, but, like so many once-illustrious Italian luxury brands, they have simply failed to keep up with the times. In our brave new post-Recession world, it simply isn’t enough to douse your label with all the trappings of a “luxury” brand and expect that to be enough - that logo overload died with those halcyon days of pre-2008 conspicuous consumerism. Today, cutting edge ready-to-wear brands must increasingly step outside their comfort zone to stay one step ahead. Givenchy has tapped into the urban community to fantastic results, both in terms of critical reviews and sales numbers. Saint Laurent too, has made a go at decidedly non-luxurious themes, including teenage rockers and 70’s excess for inspiration, to similarly successful results. Gucci, under the leadership of Giannini and co., however, has remained stuck, alongside other increasingly outdated brands like Dolce & Gabbana and Dsquared2; brands that, for years thrived on their iteration of Italian luxury, only to be found wanting in the age of social media and a high-meets-low aesthetic.
But why is this exciting? Well, because, like Saint Laurent before it, Gucci has the infrastructure and brand name recognition to do something tremendous in these coming months. Big name appointments have come and gone recently (think: Alexander Wang at Balenciaga and Jason Wu at Hugo Boss) but those brands, despite the enormity of their impact in the upper echelons of luxury fashion, don’t command the same reverence from consumers, be it aspirational or otherwise, that Gucci traditionally has. This is a chance for Gucci to shed it’s gaudy logo-centric aesthetic and scattershot runway designs that defined the Giannini era and become a driving force in fashion once more. Francois-Henri Pinault remembers those days, just over a decade ago when Tom Ford guided Gucci to commercial and critical success. It makes sense that he’d want to do it again.