Gucci: Michele factor sends sales soaring

Gucci ads AW15

Interesting piece in the Business of Fashion today. Apparently Gucci won’t be marking down Alessandro Michele’s AW15 women’s and men’s collections.

Actually, it might. The company could possibly have just enough left over of the collections that Michele designed in a week during January to supply Gucci’s outlet stores. But that’s not a certainty as sales have been strong.

Gucci CEO Marc Bizzarri told BoF that Michele-designed collections dropped in-store in June-through-August and the sell-through at full-price has been “super-high” so there’s no need to discount, even though many luxury peers are thinking price cuts at the moment.

He also said that discounting would send out the wrong message at a time when Michele is attracting “a lot of new clients, a lot of new customers — different, younger, more fashion-forward” to the brand, while also retaining the previous ones.

Of course, it’s questionable whether there’ll be enough stock left to even think about discounting anyway. The company didn’t over-order Michele’s first collections and was, perhaps, taken by surprise at way his presence spurred such massive interest in the brand.

Maybe they should have seen it coming as it’s something of a given these days that slightly maverick appointment is crucial for luxury brands.

Remember when Renzo Rosso said how sales of the Margiela brand had soared after John Galliano was named its creative chief, even though none of the product people were buying had anything to do with him?

The fact is, Galliano and Michele share one thing – despite very different histories and one having been a relative unknown until January. They both have an X factor that’s part star quality, part mystique, part an ability to think differently.

Gucci’s parent company Kering knows this very well as the company has seen such an approach transform its Saint Laurent brand under the aegis of another fashion star/maverick, Hedi Slimane. And Kering must be hoping to see more of the same now it has appointed Demna Gvasalia of Vetements to the design helm of Balenciaga.

Back with Gucci, the buzz that Michele has created is clear given that, of the leathergoods that are so important to the brand’s sales, only around 25% are from Michele-led collections. By early next year that percentage will still only be a maximum of 60%. The rest were created under Frida Giannini, although as Michele was Gucci’s head accessories designer before his current role, his handwriting is everywhere.

The stores are also Giannini-esque with only three of them currently Michele-designed (Milan, Seoul and Hong Kong). But the company is reworking the rest fast, even though the large number means it could take up to four years to fully remake all of them.

Of course, anything could happen in the next four years. But for now, the Michele bandwagon is powering ahead and Gucci must be feeling pretty smug.

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