New advertising campaigns always sends social media into a tizzy, but waking up to half of Twitter breathlessly claiming the exclusive on the new Gucci pre-fall ‘15 images was, initially amusing, followed swiftly by disappointment.
A new campaign under new creative director Alessandro Michele presenting the house’s new direction – except it wasn’t. A reimagining of outgoing designer Frida Giannini’s final collection, stuffed into a set left over from a Nineties Corinne Day shoot. A bit of Frida flash tempered by a dingy apartment and slightly shabby velvet sofa. Obviously a marriage between the two creative directors’ styles, a bridge between Giannini’s controversial exit, along with her husband and CEO Patrizio di Marco, and Michele’s aesthetic.
Those requisite handbags, the cornerstone of Gucci’s business, are present and correct but, apart from that, product is thin on the ground. A million miles away from the glossy Mert & Marcus campaigns of previous seasons. A glimpse of what’s to come, maybe, but also a hint of the struggle ahead.
For a fashion house so entrenched in craft and luxury, you have to wonder how Gucci will sell the menswear collection allegedly put together in a week come autumn? Whilst Michele’s women’s collection cemented some of the ideas he’d shown in January, it was also low on the exotic skins, Mongolian lamb and fur which had marked out Giannini’s reign. Without these totems of luxury, the collection felt buttoned-up and modest, admittedly a fresh look for Milan, a city where too much is almost never enough. As well as redefining Gucci, is Alessandro Michele also attempting to redefine luxury?
Luxury is probably the most overused, yet most misunderstood, term in fashion and retail, but whose root is from the Latin Luxus meaning “growing apart”, a difference, a step aside from usual conventions. Luxuriance means something characterised by richness and extravagance, often leading to excess. Where does Michele’s librarian chic fit into this?
Fellow Kering brand Saint Laurent, helmed by Hedi Slimane, has already succeeded in this to a certain extent, his critically-panned yet commercially-successful collections proving that the luxury customer, usually considerably older than the 19 year-old rock chicks on his catwalk, is ready for a more discreet product. It’s also worth considering that China, the world’s largest luxury goods market, recently introduced legislation cracking down on the country’s culture of gift-giving, and “ostentatious” luxury goods are now considered unappealing. Possibly one of the reasons for Gucci’s operating profit declining by 6.7% in 2014.
Gucci’s new direction may prove to be a dangerous commercial gamble for parent company Kering, a conglomerate which is also in the throes of repositioning itself as a thought leader in corporate social responsibility. Whatever the outcome, ripples are bound to be felt throughout Milan, and throughout fashion.
Photographer: Glen Luchford. Stylist: Joe McKenna
Article written by Lee Clatworthy (@bombfashion) for www.katiechutzpah.com