All we can say about the transition that awaits Gucci

The appointment of Sabato De Sarno blows everyone away. Alessandro Michele’s successor becomes the fulcrum of the substantial and delicate transition that awaits Gucci. Hypotheses and advice to CEO Marco Bizzarri abound: which will he listen to?


Ever since Alessandro Michele and Gucci parted ways, many have been busy advising Marco Bizzarri, the brand’s CEO. First, they have suggested to him the names of a motley array of candidates to succeed Michele. But few, perhaps none, expected Bizzarri to choose Sabato De Sarno. Now, instead, indications are raining down on how the CEO should set out Gucci’s vision for the coming years. A concept that should relaunch a brand that is slowing down compared to the super-growth of a few years ago and that will have to face a long and costly period of transition. For De Sarno’s debut, in fact, we must wait until September.

The transition ahead for Gucci

First consideration: a 10 billion euro megabrand could no longer depend on a single fashion designer. Therefore, the advice coming from many quarters to Bizzarri is to reorganise it with a creative manager for each division to have an innovative team involved in decisions. It will be up to De Sarno to be the director and the onus to have the final say. ‘Relying too much on the vision of one fashion designer risks creating instability, particularly for a company the size of Gucci,’ confirms Thomas Chauvet, an analyst at Citi (source Business of Fashion)

Changing vision or not

But the most important crossroads facing Gucci is, perhaps, another, and hence the second consideration about its transition. Should it, that is, with all the pros and cons, continue to follow the path that made it great, dictating fashion and constantly reinventing itself? Or should it gradually move closer to the vision (and positioning) of Louis Vuitton, Chanel or Hermès, launching iconic and timeless products? The dilemma is highly divisive, and Bizzarri has received many suggestions on this issue. The starting point is: what does ownership want?

Last year, François-Henri Pinault, boss of Kering (owner of Gucci), often reiterated the concept of a balance between innovative products and timeless classics. Is it for this goal that De Sarno was chosen? Gucci’s new creative director, they say, is strong in men’s and women’s ready-to-wear (thus in line with Gucci’s need to strengthen in these segments).  But he is weak in accessories and leather goods, critical categories in any luxury brand’s dynamics (and accounts). Not only that: De Sarno is less eccentric than Michele. So Gucci should strike the right balance between fashion and timelessness. Do you know Chanel? Bizzarri, then, is advised to pursue a compromise: rekindle the hype while increasing timeless appeal.

What if it was a mistake?

But targeting iconic luxury brands could be a mistake. Antoine Belge, the analyst at Exane BNP Paribas, thinks so: ‘Gucci’s future,’ he explains to Reuters, ‘is not to become another Louis Vuitton, Chanel or Hermès, but to cultivate its fashion content to bring customers back to the brand’. Luca Solca from Bernstein also agrees: ‘Gucci has to stay over the top to do great things. Basically, it cannot become what it never was. “Making Gucci more timeless can only be done if Gucci makes a strong statement, drawing global consumers to its shops,” they explain from Bernstein (source WWD).

Therefore, Bizzarri is advised to look for fresh energy to reinvigorate Gucci, but without aiming for a complete revolution. Before De Sarno’s appointment, Luca Tintinelli, at the helm of the consulting and strategy firm MTI Consulting, suggested that Gucci’s product offering should maintain the brand’s corporate characteristics. ‘The designer to come could start again from the brand’s history, reindustrialising the products in a contemporary key to give them longevity and aim for an ever higher brand positioning,’ Tintinelli asserted. Will De Sarno listen to him? (mv)

Read also: