With his eclectic and flamboyant aesthetic, Alessandro Michele has not just made Gucci the most in-demand brand in fashion; he has altered the entire fashion landscape. After years of pared-back, Céline-style minimalism, Michele’s new Gucci champions a maximalist approach: ruffles, frills, prints, layers, a cacophony of colour – all of which both critics and consumers have welcomed with open arms.
Discretion was the minimalist’s buzzword; anonymous, logo-less handbags replaced the heavily branded “it-bags” of the Nineties and Noughties. Logos became fashion’s anathema. In swinging the fashion pendulum towards flamboyance, Michele has also re-embraced the logo, resurrecting the neglected double G motif of Gucci’s 1980s heyday and reinterpreting it for a modern audience.
“Logos still touch and talk to customers, but fashion is an industry of the new, and if you rely on a logo because of your heritage, you’ll get left behind,” said Marco Bizzarri, Gucci president and CEO, speaking at the New York Times International Luxury Conference last month. Bizzarri explained how Michele has breathed new life into the retro monogram, making it “an ode to joy, not something worn by the devil”.
In a way it was surprising that Gucci’s new direction is led by an emblem from the past. One of Bizzarri’s first moves when he was appointed as CEO in January 2015 was to remove all the historical images from the walls of the company’s Italian design offices. “If you are constantly inspired by the past, how can you do something modern?” It was a move questioned by many of his 11,000 employees, he says. “Everyone thought I was crazy. But I wasn’t trying to erase the past, but relate to it in a different way.”
Bizzarri needed to find a creative director who shared his vision to “make Gucci an iconic fashion house again”. Instead of choosing a high-profile name to follow in the footsteps of Tom Ford and Frida Giannini at the helm, Bizzarri appointed the relatively unknown Michele, who’d worked as an in-house designer at Gucci since 2002. An initial coffee meeting turned into a four-hour lunch, and as Michele discussed his vision for the future of Gucci, Bizzarri began to realise “maybe we have the right guy here at Gucci already”.
After being appointed creative director in January 2015, Michele famously had just five days to create the autumn/winter men’s collection, with the women’s show a month later. “We threw away the collection prepared by Frida Giannini and created a show in five days,” says Bizzarri. “The only way to communicate our future strategy was via the catwalk show.” The double G monogram made an appearance in belt buckles in those first shows, and since then Michele has run with the theme, featuring it on accessories and clothing alongside other Gucci house codes such as the equestrian bit and red and green stripes. Statement made: the logo is back.
“I saw it as a rebirth of the double G logo,” said Michele in a video interview shown at the conference. “In the past, Gucci has been a bit ashamed of its logo, but it should be proud of it as an emblem of 95 years of history. The logo is an incredible powerful asset for Gucci and it should become as desirable as a leather bag.”
Importantly, Michele takes a playful, almost irreverent approach to the Gucci logo, daubing it with flowers or pairing it with cartoonish motifs in accessories that appeal to a younger demographic. “I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the logo,” said Michele. “It’s like drawing on the Mona Lisa. The double G is like a hieroglyph that everyone knows and I use it as the cherry on top of my designs.”
It was a risk – and opinions were divided at first – but one that paid off. “Alessandro had complete creative freedom, within the framework of the brand,” says Bizzarri. “The way he played with the logo was a big success. We sold 600,000 products from the new collection and attracted half a million new customers.”
In line with this spirited new approach was Gucci’s decision to partner with New York graffiti artist Trouble Andrew for autumn/winter 2016, inviting him to tag coats, bags and skirts with his counterfeit ‘Gucci Ghost’ GG. “Social media offers a huge opportunity to interact,” says Bizzarri. “The Gucci Ghost partnership played out over Instagram and Snapchat. It allows us to evolve the logo and give it modernity.”
The logo then is alive and kicking at the house of Gucci, and given the brand’s current status as the hottest label in fashion, it might be time to wave goodbye to anonymity. “The logo is not over, but it needs to find ways to evolve,” concluded Bizzarri. “It requires a playful, spontaneous approach – you need to treat it in a lively way.”
Source: telegraph.co.uk Photo: telegraph.co.uk; Isidore Montag