Image: Gucci

Regular FT Style readers hardly need to be reminded of Gucci’s staggering results in the last few quarters. For the first half, revenues at the Kering-owned company rose 43 per cent from the prior-year period, to €2.8bn.

The success has been steered by the powerhouse duo, creative director Alessandro Michele and his chief executive Marco Bizzarri. The pair have proven unstoppable, surpassing all investor expectation and becoming one of the most enviable partnerships in the industry. And they’ve done it by taking creative risks.

“I’m a gambler,” said Michele shortly before his SS18 show in Milan on Wednesday. “But Marco is a bigger gambler still. He’s the one who has to answer to the zeros.”

Michele’s vision is exuberant, wide-ranging, immersive and consistent; his SS18 collection was a glorious jumble of references, from 18th-century mysticism and monarchs to 19th-century architects and contemporary LA street gangs. There were so many ideas it hardly seems relevant to talk about individual pieces. If you could imagine it - diamanté chinstrap, brocade boxer shorts, purple sequin papal robe, prim tweed skirts and purse belts, circus ringmaster jacket with blouson sleeve, Bruce Jenner-era tracksuit top, 1980s robo-roller disco tops and matching sparkly tights - it was out there.

Michele’s vision is not without its detractors, who find his eclecticism a bit samey (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms), but the designer makes no apology for his style. “Fashion is one of the only languages that likes to keep the old codes,” he explains of his unwillingness to embrace new trends, or make a statement about a skirt or a dress. “I don’t care about a dress. I care about the person inside it. I’m not very connected to fashion in that sense. My design is inspired by everything else I see in the world.”

One could argue that much of Michele’s “playground” spirit is merely a sideshow to the bread-and-butter business he does with his bags. But here’s the fun fact: while the brand’s strongest category is still handbags, its ready-to-wear and shoe categories are now growing in tandem with the new flow of millennial money. A senior source at Kering told me earlier this summer that the majority of sales at Gucci are now made to millennial clients. And they’re buying clothes and shoes.

The new clients are disrupting the luxury market. Where once the average customer was an older woman in search of a loafer, today she (or he) is just as likely to be a twenty-something skateboarder looking for a sequin-embroidered sweatshirt with a metallic motif and sporty webbing detail - or a graffiti-print T-shirt by collaborator Coco Capitán.

Michele knows this. His “cinematic” all-inclusive collections skew towards the youth, but he remains mindful of the client who will only ever visit the brand via a handbag, or a belt. In throwing everything at his collections, and celebrating diversity, he’s found a way to keep everyone happy.

Asked to explain his particular success, Michele smiled like a magus. “Many people do things that are similar,” he said. “But sometimes one person becomes a phenomenon. The secret belongs to the mystery of the universe.”

Quite how all these millennials are finding the money to buy a sequin-encrusted bomber jacket embellished with diamanté beading is another mystery entirely. Perhaps when you know you will never afford a home of your own, you buy a new wardrobe instead.

Additional Images from the Show:

This article was originally published by the Financial Times.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017.

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