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MILAN: Gucci’s new designer Sabato De Sarno sent out a glamorous, skin-baring lineup of minimalist designs for his first fashion show on Friday, drawing praise for a highly anticipated debut which owner Kering hopes will help revive sales at its flagship brand.

Models filed down a darkened, concrete runway at the label’s Milan headquarters, a former aircraft factory, parading short shorts paired with suit jackets, strapless mini-dresses, trim sweatshirts and tank tops with plunging neck lines.

Bollywood actor Alia Bhatt, who was named as the first Indian global ambassador for the brand earlier this year, was also in attendance.

Alia Bhatt named as Gucci’s first Indian global ambassador

De Sarno “knows what we need in the moment, clean luxe sportswear that isn’t cheeky sexy,” said fashion critic Kenneth Richard, editor in chief of industry publication The Impression.

Federico Giglio, chief executive and business manager of Italy-based high-end fashion retailer, said the collection was “a new way to see luxury - wearable without the need for excess, that keeps with the times.”

Friday’s catwalk presentation serves as the aesthetic foundation of a broad reset of the French group’s prized label – key to creating buzz and reigniting sales, even if the new designs won’t hit stores until early next year.

 Francois-Henri Pinault and Julia Roberts pose for a photo on the day of the Gucci Spring/Summer 2023 collection show during Milan Fashion Week in Milan, Italy. Photo: Reuters
Francois-Henri Pinault and Julia Roberts pose for a photo on the day of the Gucci Spring/Summer 2023 collection show during Milan Fashion Week in Milan, Italy. Photo: Reuters

Thomas Chauvet, analyst with Citi, said the first glimpse of De Sarno’s vision for the brand showed “a clear evolution from prior brand aesthetics, likely to attract a slightly older demographics and command higher price points.”

“Gucci is the opportunity to fall in love with fashion, ancora,” De Sarno said in a post on Instagram in the run-up to the show, using the Italian word for “again.”

The brand plastered the word “ancora” on huge advertisements that marked the date of the show, alongside the Gucci logo – in white lettering, on a burgundy backdrop – covering buildings around the world, including in New York, Chengdu, Bangkok and London.

Sabato De Sarno to hit Milan catwalk on Friday with high stakes Gucci debut

A forecast of rain prompted a last-minute venue shift to the Milan headquarters rather than outdoors in the swanky Brera district.

Debut collections can generate mixed reactions, and even positive press reviews are not always a proxy for future commercial success. However, the fashion show will “definitely impact investors’ perception of De Sarno’s capacity to trigger an inflexion in Gucci’s aesthetics,” said Antoine Belge, analyst with Exane BNP Paribas, before the show.

“The climax is not for right away – it’s sometimes the second or third shows that are the most important,” Kering CEO and Chairman Francois-Henri Pinault told reporters ahead of the show, before greeting front-row guests Julia Roberts and Ryan Gosling.

One of fashion’s biggest success stories in recent years, Gucci has fallen behind rivals like LVMH-owned Louis Vuitton and Dior that capitalized on strong post-pandemic appetite for luxury goods.

Since parting ways in November with previous creative director Alessandro Michele, whose eclectic, gender-neutral styles were credited with soaring sales and profits in the 2015-2019 period, the group has been laying the groundwork for the brand reset with more elevated and timeless looks.

Gucci’s long-time CEO Marco Bizzarri is due to leave the company after the show, to be replaced by managing director Jean-Francois Palus - Pinault’s right-hand man - for a transitional period.

Kering shares closed 1.5% higher after the show.

At their current price, Kering shares are trading at the equivalent of around 14 times expected earnings over the next 12 months, according to LSEG data. That forward PE compares to 42 for Hermes and 22 for Moncler.


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