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Milan Men's Fashion Week 2015

Gucci after Giannini: new-look androgynous menswear collection for autumn-winter 2015

Label defies expectations after departure of design director

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 January, 2015, 1:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 January, 2015, 10:46am

Gucci’s design director, Frida Giannini, left weeks before the brand’s menswear autumn/winter 2015 collection  was shown in Milan this week. Under such challenging circumstances, the design team would have been forgiven for sending out a collection centred on classics. Instead they confounded expectations and were rewarded with a standing ovation from the front row.

The first outfit signalled the change that was afoot: a long-haired, gangly young model in a red blouse, sandals and loose high-waisted trousers was hardly the jetsetting, grown-up muse Giannini used for her men’s collections. The louche, androgynous and slightly ’70s mood continued with boys in pussy-bow blouses, lace tunics and chiffon, some in backless mink-lined loafers. The few female models in attendance wore similar outfits, suggesting a wardrobe that could be worn by both sexes. 

While this move is not new – labels from Prada to JW Anderson have dabbled in such gender blurring recently – it felt edgy on the Gucci catwalk. The show notes referred to “contemporary non-conformists”, self-expression and idiosyncrasies of dress.  By contrast, Gucci’s previous spring collection played it safe with a nautical theme designed to appeal to yacht-owning luxury consumers.

Speculation has been growing over Giannini’s replacement – and how they will rekindle the excitement Gucci enjoyed under Tom Ford in the 1990s. Possible contenders including Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, and New York designer Joseph Altuzarra have been mooted by the media – along with the wildcard idea that Ford might rejoin the brand.

Another strong candidate is Alessandro Michele, Giannini’s deputy since 2011, who was involved in designing this collection.

Gucci has previously picked insiders – Giannini was one herself, having worked under Ford before he left in 2004. The announcement of her successor is expected soon, though not in time for the autumn/winter womenswear show at the end of February.

Giannini’s departure is widely believed to be connected to declining sales. In 2013, Gucci experienced its slowest growth in three years – with like-for-like revenues up only 0.2 per cent from the previous year in the final quarter. By contrast, sales at Saint Laurent, also part of the Kering stable, rose 28 per cent, boosted by Hedi Slimane’s rebooted rock’n’roll aesthetic.

While red lace for men, as seen at Gucci on Monday, is hardly the most commercial of ideas, the introduction of a new design voice is a way to make this luxury Italian brand relevant, cool and desirable once again. This collection was a pleasant surprise and there is much anticipation for the spring/summer 2016 show scheduled for later this year – by which time the new designer should be in place.

Guardian News & Media