The women’s catwalks in September expressed not only a probably timely creative change of pace in a challenging market phase for luxury. From the emergence of quiet luxury to De Sarno’s debut at Gucci via the announcement of significant comebacks, the catwalk shows were much more than a matter of style
A turning point, a change of pace and a renewed sense of ‘normality‘. By ‘normality’ is meant the desire to keep what Giorgio Armani has called ‘the effete‘ out of collections and fashion shows. In September, the women’s fashions on display in London, Paris, New York, and Milan sanctioned the imposition of something old, which, however, after years of maximalist excesses (for some very close to the limit of bad taste) seems brand new and appears to be the right style at the right time. Once we called it minimalism, now we pass it off as a quiet luxury.
Changing the factors, however, the result does not change. While the market struggles even for luxury, fashion chooses to tone it down, hoping to achieve the most immediate business effect possible. The same thing, in essence, that everyone expected to happen to Gucci after Sabato De Sarno’s debut in Milan on Friday, 22 September. It didn’t, showing how the relaunch of the Kering house label is more complicated than expected and how fashion shows are much more than a matter of style.
Much more than a question of style
‘This is a debut, and it is not human to expect perfection at first glance,’ Angelo Flaccavento wrote in Il Sole 24 Ore. That said, the new Gucci is underwhelming: earthy, every day, at times even banal, with a fresh, youthful ease. The expression is a little restrained, perhaps out of fear, which is always bad advice’. This is a politely edgy comment for the first collection (name: Ancora) designed by Sabato De Sarno and which took the label beyond Alessandro Michele. There were few risks, a lot of cleanliness, and a lot of work on the archives needed to be more to get insiders, investors, and analysts excited.
Those at Bernstein – proving that a fashion show is much more than a question of style – were much harsher, downgrading Kering’s shares and revising Gucci’s 2024 projections from +6% to +2%.
What did not convince
Bernstein expected (nay, hoped) for a collection that would trigger Gucci’s ‘rapid acceleration‘. Instead, they were surprised to see more commercial looks, much more exposed to the risk of competition, without that ‘over-the-top’ originality capable of triggering customers’ imaginations. Not only that, they say there was also a lack of attention to accessories, especially bags. ‘We don’t see any new it bags; there is little innovation in the Jackie and Bamboo models’. Morally, Bernstein does not believe Gucci will recover soon. “A sprint like we saw in 2016 seems off the menu,” reads the report quoted by WWD.
Be that as it may
Whatever the case, Sabato De Sarno’s catwalk debut for spring/summer 2024 achieved one thing. He archived Alessandro Michele’s creative model by declining a stylistic vision diametrically opposed to the style we knew. The garments presented are a scrupulous reinterpretation of all the Maison’s codes. Leather played a leading role, and the bags, although they did not express a strong innovative charge (as Bernstein lamented), had a certain level of centrality thanks to the importance given to the Jackie model.
De Sarno’s choice fully represents the direction that a certain type of fashion has taken in recent years and that the Milan fashion shows have – for the most part – certified: that of quiet luxury. A discreet and measured luxury, a style focused on a work of subtraction that returns clothes to the catwalk within everyone’s aesthetic reach. Will this be enough for Gucci to relaunch itself and for the fashion industry to emerge from its current stand-by?