How Gucci’s status as a designer’s brand rests on its past — and not the future

The comment by Nancy Jo Sales on Business Insider that Gucci President and CEO Marco Bizzarri’s business plan could “solve” the brand’s “long-standing image problem” was well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful. In a way, it inadvertently reinforced the problem rather than making it better. The statement summed up the prevailing view that Gucci is “everything to everyone,” when in fact the brand still needs to make itself a designer’s choice.

Views on the Gucci aesthetic vary vastly, depending on whether you’re a fan of the brand or not. The styles are ill-defined and have nowhere to go. It’s one thing to have a halo that pulls together the image of Gucci through its archive — it’s a different thing entirely to make clothes that are incredibly trendy, but would never do for Gucci. For many people, the Gucci brand is not Gucci. It is a style-driven company for people who, like myself, crave brand consistency.

With the “House of Gucci” — an exhibition exploring the designer’s legacy that re-creates his offerings in a fully immersive, high-tech environment at the brand’s studio in Milan — some things are clear:

• There’s no problem with the collection — it has a lot of potential.

• The stories and inspirations behind it are spot-on and its production and presentation are impeccable.

• Gucci designers like Alessandro Michele, the current creative director, are gorgeous creators.

• While there will inevitably be some bad moments, they are outweighed by the glories of the exhibitions and the company’s exhibition facilities — they will probably never be as good as Maison Martin Margiela’s at Maison Margiela.

What should not be said, though, is that Michele is a rare visionary for the Gucci brand. At heart, Gucci is a designer’s brand. It was founded on the principles of luxury and craftsmanship, and has lived and died on the fortunes of the collections that came before it. It cannot change the past.

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