Gucci’s New Ringmaster

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  • Courtesy of Ronan Gallagher for Gucci

When Guccio Gucci founded Gucci in Florence in 1921, who knew that it would go on to become one of the most valuable luxury brands of today with a brand value of $12.4 billion. Along with his three sons, Aldo Gucci, Vasco Gucci and Rodolfo Gucci, Guccio expanded the company to include stores in Milan and Rome. Its signature double-G symbol combined with its prominent red and green brands went on to become the company’s logo. Soon Gucci turned into an international status symbol with celebrities around the world posing in its clothing, accessories and footwear, thereby contributing to the company’s growing reputation. Shweta Bhatia discovers the brands’ journey

Gucci’s distinctive lines made it one of the most frequently copied brands in the world. Its iconic designs such as the bamboo handbag handles and butterfly patterns became the brands biggest selling points. In the 1960s, the use of the double-G logo for belt buckles and other accessories further enhanced the brand’s image. One of its famous icons was the ‘Jackie’ bag named after, none other than, Jackie Kennedy. The bag, as per Gucci, held a place of honour in the fashion house.

But despite the brand’s prosperity, internal family disputes caused the company to face numerous failures. In 1990, Tom Ford was hired to design the Ready-to- Wear collections, and he later moved up to become the Creative Director of the brand. Ford proved to be instrumental to Gucci’s progress and the company built on its success again. Frida Giannini, who stepped into his shoes in 2006, was aware of Ford’s caliber and pursued his vision by giving it a new image for the next few years, but when Alessandro Michele became Creative Director in the beginning of 2015, a new Gucci came aboard.

Michele’s arrival revived a freshness to Gucci, with his hunger for a new retro youthfulness. He deliberately erased the glossy version of Gucci’s past stating that he wouldn’t want to change a concept that was executed so perfectly by Tom Ford and taken forward by Frida Giannini. “That would be like trying to repaint the Sistine Chapel,” he said in an interview.

The next step for Gucci was to move out of Florence with their creative offices shifting to Rome and the business offices to Milan. The move helped to incorporate Michele’s vision as he worked from his office in Rome. He changed certain aspects of his workplace to give it a homely feel, such as bringing in his own sofa. The building, as chosen by Frida Gianni, in itself was a work of art. As one of the few palaces left, it housed creations of the legendary Italian architect and painter, Raphael. Michel loved the contradiction of the place; a melding of the past and the future.

The brand’s radical makeover was a chance for Michele to really show off his vision for the brand. When he debuted his creations with the Cruise show in New York, everyone sat up and marvelled at the art that was on display. The collection fleshed out handcrafted details that seemed inspired from all over the world. Embroidered jackets had motifs like tigers, bumblebees and serpents from Japanese tattoos, brocade jackets and kada work from India and brooches covered in fur. But Michele stayed true to the heritage with the double-G’s visible in fine details all over the ensemble. Michele’s vibe was that of a free spirit with an almost bohemian touch. As per the creative genius, the streets, antiques and vintage wardrobes of the world inspired him. Michele believed that the way a person dressed depicted their freedom to express and love. He firmly suggested that instead of roaming around the world, one must roam around with the clothes they wear. Michele brought about a dramatic change for Gucci with its ultra-bling and uber glam status quo.

In his first menswear show, Michele boldly put men in women’s clothing, a move that dropped jaws. A month later, for his first women’s show, he displayed the women in a mix of granny clothing and loose fitted suits leaving no room for high-octane sensuality. The models were accessorised in nerd eyewear, jewellery he dons himself and leather mule slippers with tufts of fur. He believed that his mingling of male and female dress codes was a hippie renaissance of fashion. Just like the ringmaster himself, Michele’s women were spiritually unchained with an anarchic soul. Creating that desire in women worldwide was his mission at Gucci.

A collector of jewels, Michele’s hands and neck are always accessorised. One of his favourite pieces is a Georgian ring and one gifted to him from his mother. But the Creative Director loves his diamonds. “Diamonds let me dream, not because they are precious but because they are a testament of the past. They are something you put on you just because you need to remember something, like a marriage or someone who has died. And they can decorate the way you talk,” Michele said.

Inspired by photographs, paintings and movies from around the world, Michele tried to translate the beauty of the brand in a different language. An introvert by nature, Michele found that showing himself was one of the hardest things he had to do. He preferred to show his work but when it came to being on camera for interviews, he felt and still feels completely overwhelmed.

When all is said and done, one cannot underestimate the colossal gearshift Michele has brought to the brand and the gumption he has displayed while steering the company in an entirely new direction. For him, the pressure of meeting sales targets did not seem to be a bother and that is how he found his creative space to put together his modern retro collection with a freedom of thought.

Describing his job to the likes of being in love, one can visually witness the passion brought out by the love affair between Michele and Gucci. He makes retro look modern. His clothes are aspirational in a way that feels more tangible with the sensual and evocative Gucci characters, which are cemented in the new collection. Michele has taken Gucci on a wild brave ride that has moved the fashion house from its comfort zone, making it, once again, one of the most talked about brands.

Pictures courtesy: Gucci/ Kevin Pachman/ Ronan Gallagher