Wednesday, 28 January 2015

A New Era at Gucci – New CEO & Creative Director Lead Re-brand

In the fashion world change is always imminent, and on most occasions required, in order to set new trends, push editorial boundaries and keep a brand relevant. But what I’ve always found most interesting about the industry is how re-branding works in particular, in the sense that when a new designer takes over the role as Creative Director for a brand, they have an opportunity to tell new stories, to alter the vision of the brand and re-invent the pieces that the brand is well known for.

Frida Giannini and Patrizio di Marco (Source: Fastcodesign)

So in hearing that Gucci’s CEO, Patrizio di Marco, and Creative Director, Frida Giannini, were leaving the company, I couldn’t help but feel apprehensive about the future of the brand. A few years back a similar situation took place at Yves Saint Laurent (which has now been rebranded as Saint Laurent Paris), where new Creative Director Hedi Slimane took the opportunity to completely overhaul the stagnant fashion house. At the time, the changes were met with trepidation, but as a few seasons have gone by, many in the industry (myself included) have come to accept and understand the evolution of the brand into a more relevant and perhaps more contemporary offering. It still embodies the elements of luxury that Yves Saint Laurent became known for, but the tone and styling is much more attuned to the millennial customer than before. This is a move that clearly paid off, as within 18 months of the re-brand, the Huffington Post reported a 40% increase in the brand’s overall retail sales, and that many items had sold out within days of the new collections hitting stores.

So although we’ll have to wait and see whether a successful re-branding can be achieved at Gucci, it seems that things are off to a good start. Despite both figureheads departing the company much earlier than expected (most in the industry were under the impression that last week’s Mens collection and the impending Womenswear collection were to be Giannini’s last), Gucci was quick to announce Giannini’s successor, Alessandro Michele (former Head of Accessories), who reportedly reworked the entire mens collection within a span of just 5 days. The re-worked show was clearly a strategic effort on Michele’s part, as the company’s new CEO mentioned in an interview that ‘[Michele] and I are fully aligned on this new contemporary vision needed by the brand and we will be continuously inspired by that new identity in our respective roles and duties.’

Gucci’s New Creative Director, Alessandro Michele (Source: Wall Street Journal)

As I’ve spoken about in the past, the evolution of brands in the luxury sector often involves re-invention, from the clothes down to the brand story. By shifting the creative focus of a fashion brand, you have an opportunity to take a completely new direction, and like with Yves Saint Laurent, address a new customer set and point of view. Although there is always a risk of alienating existing customers and followers of the brand, most people in the industry understand the need for change, and like myself, anticipate it when a brand loses the level of awareness it once had.

I for one will be keeping a close eye on Gucci throughout 2015, and look forward to seeing the changes that the iconic brand will make to realise its new vision.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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