Fashion Editorial: “Gone Gucci” by Marilyn Kirschner

I remember the first time I walked into the Gucci boutique located on 5th Avenue and 55th Street, in the elegant St. Regis Hotel. It was the 1960’s, and the fabulous jewel of a shop (where you could easily rub shoulders with Jackie Kennedy at any moment) was small, elegant, and special, and just being inside you were magically transported to Florence or Rome, without having to get on an airplane. And I certainly remember my first Gucci purchase. It was a pair of the iconic brown suede loafers, on a low stacked heel, punctuated with the company’s signature gold horse bit. Luxurious, low keyed, and immediately identifiable, they symbolized all that the famed house (which began as a small saddlery shop in Florence), stood for. Well, goodbye to all that. Forget “Goo-be-Gone”. This is more like “Gucci-be-Gone”. Well, for the time being anyway.

Alessandro Michele taking a bow after his debut
Menswear 2015 Collection

It is now under the creative direction of Alessandro Michele, who has been on the job for about two months. He was promoted from head accessories designer and deputy to Frida Giannini (who was ousted, along with her husband who was CEO of the company, in an attempt to bolster sagging sales). And from my point of view, the label, is all but unrecognizable. His much talked about debut (for the Fall 2015 menswear collection in Milan last month), was gender bending, offbeat, rule breaking, eclectic, and streetwise, as was his Fall 2015 Womenswear collection (perhaps a bit too much so), which was unveiled last week. He was certainly making a statement and distancing himself from the past. Actually, the word “grunge” comes to mind, and I’m of the belief that nobody over the age of 18 should wear “grunge”.

Gucci Fall 2015 RTW Collection

It immediately recalled Marc Jacobs’ landmark grunge collection for Perry Ellis in 1992, which was made up of the kinds of clothes Marc has always loved (and the sort of things his friends and contemporaries actually wore). While the press were immediately enamored, the powers that be began to question whether or not, customers would pay so much money for clothes that looked “a little bit fucked up”, (in Jacobs’ words), and he found himself out of a job (and you can see how that ‘ruined’ his career LOL!)

Gucci Fall 2015 RTW Collection

In any event, I know that change is good and change is needed, and it’s important to make luxury relevant for our times. But surely there’s a better way to do that than by filling the runway with a group of models made to look like nerdy kids dressed as though they raided the vintage and thrift shops of the lower east side. And notwithstanding the good pieces and good ideas, that was the overall effect of Alessandro’s runway show.

Gucci Fall 2015 RTW Collection

We have to give the designer some time to settle in, I wish him the best of luck, and hopefully, he has a plan.  There is no one blueprint for remaking an iconic luxury label. When Hedi Slimane took over as head of design for the venerable house of Yves Saint Laurent, he quickly got rid of the word Yves, but otherwise started out slowly, paying homage to the house’s famed archives for his first collection. It was then that he began to put his own imprint on it: pulling things apart, making it hip, and youthful with a rock n roll edge. While his efforts initially met with mixed reviews (especially from the Parisians who have always glorified all that YSL stood for), one thing became obvious: he had his fingers on the pulse of today’s fashion (even Cathy Horyn has since warmed up).

On the other hand, Nicolas Guesquere’s first few collections after taking over the reins at Louis Vuitton, were by and large met with universal praise. Highly focused and smart, he has thus far, been successful at putting his own personal spin on the house, making it appealingly wearable, and seeing to it that the handbags (by introducing new shapes) become even more highly sought after than before. Most importantly, he has kept the luxury quotient high.

Gucci logo handbag fall 2015

Alessandro Michele has said that he wants to make Gucci more contemporary, more romantic, and more democratic, and proudly boasted that there’s nothing of the house’s archives in the Fall 2015 collection (accept for one GG logoed bag on a small gold chain). Am I missing something? Doesn’t there have to be some link to the company’s luxurious saddlery past? Shouldn’t there be something of the company’s DNA intact in order to fuel desire, drive sales and rationalize the hefty price tags? Does Alessandro really believe that the 20 something lower East Side kids (the ones who are now apparently the face of the label), should really be the target customer for luxury items that sell for well into the 4 figures?

This past Saturday, I attended a memorial service for former Harper’s Bazaar executive fashion editor June Weir who recently passed away (she was also a former fashion editor at WWD and W). She was remembered as a woman of many talents with an almost childlike curiosity and wonderment about the world; a consummate communicator, with flawless manners and an almost unparalleled love and knowledge of fashion (Ralph Rucci, who was one of the major designers who had benefitted from June’s knowledge and wisdom, was also in attendance). Afterwards, I had lunch with two colleagues and we were all talking about the new Gucci. Unsurprisingly, since we are contemporaries, we were all in agreement (I have no doubt this is a generational thing).

Gucci Fall 2014 RTW Collection

While I may not have been a fan of everything Frida Giannini did in her tenure as head designer, I have to say that her last few collections (Resort and Pre-Fall 2015) looked especially good, and I thought that Fall 2014 was right on the money (everything from the colors, the perfect proportions, the furs, the exotic skins, the use of denim, the fabulous boots, and the bags). To me, it was chic as all get out (and really, is there anything wrong with that?) and in fact, there were more than a few things in the collection that I obsessed over. On the other hand, I can’t say there is one thing on Alessandro’s Fall 2015 line that would entice me enough to buy. He’s lost me (for now, anyway).

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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