Gucci, the renowned luxury brand owned by Kering, is currently confronted with the task of reviving excitement and desirability while staying true to its timeless aesthetic. To tackle this challenge, Sabato De Sarno, formerly from Valentino, has been appointed as Gucci’s new creative director. With two-thirds of Kering’s profits in 2021 coming from Gucci, De Sarno bears the responsibility of revitalizing the brand.

While Kering executives stress the significance of preserving the brand’s classic charm, industry analysts argue that De Sarno must also introduce fresh and captivating styles. Gucci has always thrived on offering innovative and trendy designs, setting itself apart from competitors who focus more on signature classics, particularly in the handbag segment. For Gucci’s future, Antoine Belge, an analyst with Exane BNP Paribas, believes that nurturing its fashion content is crucial in attracting customers back to the brand.

The departure of former creative director Alessandro Michele in November created a sense of urgency for Kering to find a successor. Michele, known for his eccentric and gender-fluid designs, oversaw a remarkable growth period for Gucci from 2015 to 2019. However, the brand has recently faced challenges, with competitors like Hermes and LVMH’s Louis Vuitton outperforming Gucci, especially in the Chinese market, which has been heavily impacted by Covid-19 lockdowns. According to Luca Solca, an analyst at Bernstein, Gucci needs to make a bold statement to regain its position in the limelight.

The selection of De Sarno as the new creative director has been well-received by analysts, who appreciate his experience and relatively low profile. Similar to Michele’s appointment in 2002, De Sarno also had a limited public presence. Flavio Cereda, an analyst at Jefferies, describes the decision as another bold move that could work well for Gucci. However, Cereda acknowledges the challenges that De Sarno will face, including potential disruption as he integrates into the existing team and the time it will take for the market to understand and embrace the new direction.

De Sarno’s first collection for Gucci will be showcased in September during Milan Fashion Week. Given his experience at Valentino, it is expected that he may bring a less eccentric aesthetic compared to his predecessor. Caroline Reyl, the head of premium brands at Pictet Asset Management, notes that the industry is eagerly anticipating De Sarno’s talent, creativity, and his ability to collaborate effectively with Gucci’s merchandising team. During a transition period, creative directors are often under scrutiny, adds Reyl.

The announcement of De Sarno’s appointment preceded Kering’s earnings release on February 15. The impact of the coronavirus in China likely caused a significant slowdown in Gucci’s fourth-quarter sales. However, the stock price of Kering remained stable following the news of De Sarno’s appointment.

In conclusion, Gucci must navigate the challenge of reinvigorating the brand while preserving its timeless appeal. Sabato De Sarno, the newly appointed creative director, faces the task of striking the right balance between introducing fresh styles and remaining true to Gucci’s classic image. The industry is hopeful that De Sarno’s expertise and collaboration with the Gucci team will pave the way for a successful revival of the brand. All eyes will be on his debut collection in September as Gucci strives to regain its position at the forefront of the fashion world.

Useful links:
1. Gucci’s New Creative Director Faces Race to Rescue Once-Hot Brand
2. Gucci’s Appointment of De Sarno Marks the Beginning of a New Era