Sabato De Sarno’s Gucci Menswear Debut Had Drama in the Details

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MILAN — At Gucci, it was “Ancora” ancora.

For his first menswear show at Gucci, new designer Sabato De Sarno sought to drive home the message from his women’s debut in September. He reinterpreted many of that show’s key looks for men and even employed the same lighting, stripped-down set-design and Mark Ronson-directed soundtrack, which blended Italian songstress Mina with Romy’s delicate-yet-thumping lounge hit “Loveher.”

Designers often play with time, seeking to propel audiences into the future or nostalgically invoke the past. But at a moment when Gucci is under pressure to revive excitement around its brand, the choice to transport audiences to an event that happened just four months ago stumped many in the audience.

Gucci Menswear Autumn/Winter 2024
Gucci Menswear Autumn/Winter 2024

Still, there was drama in the details: double-breasted tailoring with high collars and contrast lapels looked sharp, while ultra-long overcoats featured exaggerated shoulders and slits straight up the back. Finger gloves were matched to bags and wispy cravats were fastened with classic Gucci hardware. De Sarno seemed to be going for a deconstructed, gentle take on menswear (by contrast, the gender-fluid fashion of predecessor Alessandro Michele at times scrapped the notion of conventional masculinity altogether).

Celebrity stylists welcomed the reinforced offer of dressed-up looks with photo-ready details: “There was a lot for me to work with,” said stylist Felicity Kay, who dresses actor and Gucci ambassador Paul Mescal, among others. “You had the classic elegance but then it was subverted with the details that made it very contemporary.”

Retailers, meanwhile, focused on the outerwear and shoes. Selfridges’ fashion director Bosse Myhr noted the “nice jackets and coats, very wearable with a beautiful colour palette.” Relaxed teddys and padded leather bombers looked ready to be pulled on to run an errand and were rendered in retro shades of honey and forest green that recalled Italian furniture’s 1970s glory days (not to mention De Sarno’s “Gucci Rosso”, a seductive shade of oxblood that the brand is working to build into a signature hue). Shoes included creeper styles that put a collegiate twist on Gucci’s flagship loafers.

“From a trend perspective, the show affirmed a lot of what I’m seeing going into fall, that sense of style curated by decades,” Nordstrom men’s fashion director Jian DeLeon said. “With items like the embellished cardigans or the overcoats you could see ideas that resonate with the current ‘grandpa-core”’ aesthetic. But they were elevated with a hint of glam, coming from details like studs or shimmery finishes.”

Ultimately, De Sarno faces a tricky brief at Gucci: the creative director is under pressure to revive excitement around its designs while also reasserting the timelessness of its brand DNA. For menswear it can be an especially tough balance to strike, as it doesn’t take much to alienate conservative dressers if they think a brand’s garments might be “too much.” On the other hand, hype-chasers with more exuberant taste can be fickle beasts, easily bored and constantly jumping from brand to brand.

There’s opportunity in the middle, if the brand can get it right. While Alessandro Michele drove blockbuster success by engaging various customer niches, ranging from streetwear blokes to die-hard fashionistas, the designer’s maximalist concept often left behind less adventurous clients (including many older, wealthier, wardrobing-focused shoppers) and overshadowed the brand’s longstanding codes.

But appealing to the mainstream without seeming “mid” can be a challenge. While many of De Sarno’s products are appealing, he has yet to cultivate a clear universe around them: a chicly renovated flagship in Milan and a book of art inspirations have hinted at a desire to invoke references to Northern Italy’s prowess in contemporary art and design during the late modern and post-modern period. But are Magistretti sofas and Lucio Fontana paintings a bold or legible enough platform to engage customers at the scale of Italy’s biggest brand? Meanwhile, growth in the luxury market is now being driven by ultra-wealthy clients among whom Gucci’s standing has slipped.

Friday’s menswear show — whose celebrity guests included only a few global household names and involved little fanfare aside from the clothes — was in sharp contrast to the sprawling, cross-cultural happenings staged by top rival Louis Vuitton, where new designer Pharrell Williams took over Paris’ Pont Neuf for his debut runway show, putting on a star-studded concert and block party last June.

Nonetheless, De Sarno’s focus on coats may prove to be a savvy move: with prices rising across the luxury space, clients are drawn to the favourable price-per-wear of coats compared to other ready-to-wear categories one might wear less often. Coatmaker Moncler has remained among the industry’s fastest growing brands even as luxury demand cooled following a post-pandemic surge, with its sales in the first nine months of 2023 up 17 percent.

That’s an outcome Gucci would dream of, but markets are no longer betting on a swift turnaround. Analysts at UBS expect the brand to grow 2 percent in 2024 compared to a 6 percent average for the luxury sector. Restoring Gucci’s fashion authority and timeless luxury appeal is a tall order, and a project that is sure to take time.

THE NEWS IN BRIEF

FASHION, BUSINESS AND THE ECONOMY

Burberry's re-opened flagship store on New Bond Street in London.

Burberry shares plunge as company slashes profit forecast. Adjusted operating profit should be £410 million to £460 million ($523 million to $587 million) in the year through March, Burberry said Friday. The stock fell as much as 15 percent in London, the steepest intraday decline in more than a decade.

Abercrombie & Fitch lifts holiday sales forecast on robust demand. The company, which has benefited from focussing on fresh styles, now expects fourth-quarter net sales to rise in the high teens percentage range, compared with its previous forecast of net sales up low double digits.

American Eagle Outfitters lifts holiday quarter revenue view on strong demand. The multi-brand apparel retailer now expects fourth-quarter revenue to increase in the low double digits percentage range, compared to the previous outlook of a high-single digits rise.

Neiman Marcus says holiday sales fell. The group says it saw a single-digit percentage drop in online and in-store shopping last year. CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck said he was “pleased” with the pace of holiday shopping. The last time holiday sales fell year-over-year was in calendar year 2020.

Shein files with Chinese regulator for planned US float. The company would be subject to Beijing’s new listing rules for Chinese firms going public offshore. The move could delay the fast-fashion giant’s plans for its initial public offering which is likely to face tougher-than-expected scrutiny from US regulators

Used Rolex prices show signs of stabilising. An index of prices for used Rolex watches eked out a small gain last month in a sign of stabilisation after more than a year-and-a-half of steep declines. The index is still down about 7 percent over the past 12 months and about 30 percent in two years.

Tiger Woods and Nike end partnership after 27 years. Despite signing a 10-year contract extension in 2013, Nike ceased manufacturing golf equipment — such as clubs and balls — three years later. Woods did not indicate whether he plans to sign with another sportswear label.

Kering backs biomaterials company Mogu is $12 million funding round. The €11 million ($12 million) series A was led by CDP Venture Capital and the European Circular Bioeconomy Fund. The size of Kering’s investment was not disclosed.

UK Christmas retail sales disappoint as shoppers pull back. Total sales grew 1.7 percent in December, compared with almost 7 percent growth a year earlier, the British Retail Consortium and consultancy KPMG said in a report. The weak data may stoke concerns that the UK economy could tip into a recession.

Harry Styles invests in S.S. Daley. The singer has taken a minority stake in emerging British label S.S. Daley, they winner of LVMH Prize for Young Designers in 2022. The announcement came immediately after designer Steven Stokey-Daley’s show at Pitti Uomo.

Boohoo considers closing UK factory set up to improve workers’ treatment. The struggling online retailer is consulting with up to 100 workers at the site two years after it was opened to great fanfare with the intention of using it for “supplier learning and development,” creating 170 jobs. The retailer also came under fire for placing “Made in UK” labels on potentially thousands of clothes produced in Pakistan and other countries in South Asia.

Italy regulator tightens rules on influencers after Ferragni scandal. The country’s communications authority AGCOM has approved rules designed to improve transparency on social media posts. Any advertising content posted will need to be clearly labelled as such in order to be recognisable, otherwise the social media stars risk fines of up to €600,000.

New York Fashion Week schedule includes Thom Browne and Ludovic de Saint Sernin. The preliminary schedule features around 70 brands and will run from Feb. 9 to Feb. 14. After sitting out last season, CFDA chairman Thom Browne returns to New York this season, and will close the week on Feb. 14.

Fashion firms agree to compensate garment workers in Mauritius. Fashion brands including Barbour and PVH have said they will pay £400,000 to garment workers after an investigation found that migrant workers were forced to pay thousands of pounds in recruitment fees.

Retailers rush to avoid delays to Spring collections due to Red Sea attacks. Retailers worldwide are stocking up on goods and seeking air or rail alternatives to transportation via the Red Sea in a scramble to avoid empty shelves this spring. The diversions have raised fears of another prolonged disruption to global trade.

THE BUSINESS OF BEAUTY

Dr Barbara Sturm products stacked up.

Puig acquires Dr. Barbara Sturm. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but sources close to the company say retail sales reached $150 million in 2023. Puig said it aims to expand the brand internationally, growing its existing network of spas and boutiques.

L’Oréal confident on China despite tensions over trade secrets. China is phasing in rules making cosmetics firms supply data spanning from ingredients to details of manufacturing processes. China “will remain a very important source of growth for L’Oréal and the beauty market because middle classes are going to be increasing,” CEO Nicolas Hieronimus said.

Thai beauty retailer Konvy secures $11 million investment. Konvy retails about 20,000 beauty products from more than 1000 global and local brands, including Estée Lauder and Shiseido. Robinsons Retail Holdings’ investment arm New Day Ventures, Alibaba International Digital Commerce Group and existing investor Insignia Ventures Partners participated in a second Series A round.

Biologique Recherche names Jean-Guillaume Trottier as CEO. Biologique Recherche co-owners and current co-CEOs Pierre-Louis Delapalme and Rupert Schmid will remain executive board members. Trottier joins Biologique Recherche this month and will take over as CEO in May 2024.

L’Occitane names new group CEO. Laurent Marteau has been named CEO of the L’Occitane Group, effective April 1. Marteau joined L’Occitane in 2022 as group managing director and will maintain those responsibilities.

Laura Mercier and Bare Minerals owner Orveon names new CEO. Crate & Barrel alumnus Neela Montgomery will join the company as its second chief executive on Jan. 18. Pascal Houdayer, its founding CEO, departed in November 2023.

PEOPLE

Versace Announces New Hires

Versace announces revamped leadership team. The Capri-owned Italian label has appointed Caroline Deroche Pasquier communications chief and used the occasion to highlight the long list of key hires made by new CEO Emmanuel Gintzberger, including new regional presidents.

Rent the Runways lays off 10 percent of corporate staff. The reduction will affect 37 employees and will be implemented by the second quarter of fiscal 2024. The restructuring will allow the company to direct more resources toward growth, CEO Jennifer Hyman said.

Rothy’s announces executive overhaul. Co-founders Stephen Hawthornthwaite and Roth Martin have stepped down from their roles as chief executive and president, respectively. Jenny Ming, who has served as a Rothy’s board member since 2022, will step into the role of chief executive.

John Lewis appoints Peter Ruis to lead the chain. Ruis will start next week, replacing Naomi Simcock, who has been interim boss since the abrupt exit of executive director Pippa Wicks almost a year ago.

Chanel’s changing of the guard continues. The luxury megabrand’s former Japan head, Richard Collasse, is the latest executive to leave two years into Leena Nair’s tenure as CEO. Other executives that departed in the past year include former COO John Galantic.

Palace founder Lev Tanjou joins Fila as creative director of its new Fila+ line. Tanju will remain creative director of Palace. The first Fila+ collection will be presented to buyers later this month ahead of a marketing campaign set to be released in June.

MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY

A woman sits on a couch wearing Apple's Vision Pro headset.

Apple’s Vision Pro Headset to go on sale in US stores on Feb. 2. The $3,499 mixed-reality headset will be available for preorder on the company’s website on Jan. 19. The Vision Pro, first unveiled in June, marks the first new hardware category for Apple since the company introduced its smartwatch in 2015.

TikTok and LVMH work on a plan to limit fake items sold on the app. The deal could be a major move to help TikTok Shop’s reputation among brands and shoppers in key new markets. The luxury group has an agreement in place with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to fight fake goods on its online Tmall marketplace.

Launchmetrics sold to France’s Lectra at $200 million valuation. Lectra will pay around $85 million for 50.3 percent of the company with plans to acquire the remaining shares by 2030 in 5 annual tranches at prices adjusted for growth. Launchmetrics is expected to report 2023 revenues of around $45 million and an adjusted EBITDA of around $5 million.

Walmart expands rollout of generative AI shopping search. The tech will allow shoppers to search for products by specific use case. The feature is available on Walmart’s app on iOs devices.

Compiled by Yola Mzizi.



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