New Gucci designer blends elegance, fantasy with men’s Milan debut

Gucci’s new creative director Sabato de Sarno kicked off Men’s Fashion Week in Milan Friday, blending elegance with fantasy in his first menswear collection for the iconic Italian label as it seeks to revive sales.

The 40-year-old Neapolitan playfully embellished a classic wardrobe with glittering chokers, sequined tank tops and satin bomber jackets.

The autumn/winter 2024-25 programme, which runs until Tuesday, also marks the return of Fendi, which last June selected to present its men’s collection in its new leather workshops near Florence.

De Sarno, who spent 14 years at Valentino after stints at Prada and Dolce & Gabbana, took over at Gucci in January 2023.

He was brought in by French owners Kering to help relaunch the iconic but struggling luxury brand.

Gucci models strutting their stuff inside a huge hangar in Milan’s outskirts showed off ultra-long ties hanging down to their thighs, worn like scarves over double-breasted suits — or even over a bare torso.

‘Joie de vivre’

“It’s a story of joie de vivre, passion, humanity, people, real life, irreverent glamour, provocation, confidence, simplicity, feelings and immediate emotions,” the designer said in the show notes.

The colour palette is on the sober side, ranging from grey to royal blue, black to white, burgundy red and olive green, echoing the shades used in his first women’s collection, presented in September.

Both collections confirm the break with former star designer Alessandro Michele, who was known for his eccentric designs and off-beat shows.

De Sarno’s women’s collection has only been on sale since the beginning of 2024 after Gucci — which represents more than half of Kering’s sales — saw its revenue fall 13 percent in the third quarter of 2023, in a slowing luxury market.

“The Gucci brand is in a transition phase,” said Luca Solca, analyst at Bernstein.

“The creative reinvention under Alessandro Michele brought great results but after a while, as with everything, it got tired.” 

“Today, Gucci must find a new energy and new ideas to excite customers,” he told AFP — adding that in his opinion, the classic look of De Sarno’s first women’s line was not enough, particularly for Chinese buyers.

Younger audience

“Gucci works when it’s over the top,” he said, pointing to previous collections under Tom Ford and Michele, whose designs reached out to a younger and more diverse audience.

The brand was also hit last November by its first ever strike.

Around 40 artisans from Gucci’s design studio downed tools for four hours, saying plans to move much of the team from Rome to Milan was a “mass redundancy in disguise”.

A trade union representative, Chiara Giannotti, told AFP that no collective agreement had been reached since the walk-out but said production had not been affected by the dispute.

Armani, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi are among the other big names showing their men’s collections in Milan, although Valentino is returning to showing in Paris.

Men’s fashion has for a long time been in the shadow of the women’s collections but Solca said this was changing as big names paid more attention.

After a strong rebound from the difficulties sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, with growth of 20.3 percent in 2022, the Italian men’s fashion industry recorded more modest growth of 4.9 percent in 2023.

Turnover in the wider Italian fashion sector rose by four percent last year but performance was uneven, with strong growth in the first quarter falling away as geopolitical tensions rose later in the year.

“These are not years of frenetic growth but at this moment it is important to hold on and we are holding on,” said Carlo Capasa, head of the Italian chamber of fashion.