Making your creative director debut when your predecessor was responsible for one of fashion’s most profitable and prolific success stories is a daunting task, let alone having your show venue changed less than 24 hours before your first model was due to step onto the runway.
Yet, if Gucci’s new designer Sabato de Sarno was rattled before he took his bow for the Italian luxury house at Milan fashion week on Friday, he didn’t show it.
Originally planned to take place under open skies in Milan’s cultural hotspot Brera, when rain threatened to drench the production, it was moved back to the sprawling Gucci Hub, former creative director Alessandro Michele’s chosen venue for the majority of his seven-year stretch.
De Sarno would have presumably liked to have had a change of scenery to distance his vision from that of Michele’s tenure, which saw Gucci profits quadruple in four years and become a sartorial yardstick for the industry.
However, it fell to his clothes to ultimately do the talking in front of an A-list crowd which included Julia Roberts, Ryan Gosling, Jessica Chastain, Kendall Jenner and Julia Garner.
Coining the collection “Gucci Ancora” (a word in Italian that has multiple meanings in the region of ‘still’ and ‘again’), 40-year-old de Sarno reinvented the Gucci codes with the experience he brings from previous roles at Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Valentino over the last 20 years.
Where Michele was an overt maximalist with retro references, de Sarno mined the Gucci archive and codes in a more stripped-back way. Its distinctive red and green webbing featured subtly on the vent of a tailored wool coat, while the reinvented Bamboo and Jackie bags — first shown in 1947 and 1961, respectively — appeared on nearly every arm.
The multidimensional oxblood red that dominated the collection in embossed patent leathers, called “Rosso Ancora,” was a reference to the elevator of The Savoy hotel in London, where Gucci founder Guccio Gucci worked as a porter in the late 1800s.
Elsewhere, platform loafers with the iconic horsebit — already destined for cult status — came in glossy and monogrammed leather and were worn with the majority of the 55 looks.
In the show notes, De Sarno called the collection “a story of objects — shiny, tactile and cold to the touch but warm to the heart and soul, these are desirable to collect, not for a museum but to enrich everyday life.”
The Naples native was appointed by Gucci owner Kering in January, but officially took up office in late July. Within weeks, he released a teaser campaign featuring his long-term friend and fashion favorite, Daria Werbowy, wearing a bejeweled thong reminiscent of the Tom Ford Gucci era that prompted predictions if would riff of the highly sexualized aesthetic.
It turned out to be something of a red herring, as de Sarno’s style is more peacoat and pencil skirt than one-piece. The bling was, in fact, a reference to the Marina jewelry collection that appeared in Gucci campaigns in the late 1960s. The rest of the embellished crystal designs were inspired by embroideries de Sarno found on 1960s clutch bags in the Gucci archive.
A lot of thought went clearly went into sculpting de Sarno’s vision for the house and delivered a highly shoppable wardrobe that kept close Gucci fans spanning the decades.