Gucci hits runway as fashion world awaits new designer

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Gucci kicked off Milan fashion week on Friday with a lineup of slouchy, androgynous menswear styles, forging ahead with its latest collection while the industry waits for owner Kering to name a new designer for the label.

French luxury group Kering faces pressure to quickly find a replacement following the abrupt departure in November of Alessandro Michele, the flamboyant designer who was a favourite of Harry Styles and Lady Gaga, and reignite sales growth at its largest brand, which accounted for two thirds of profits in 2021.

The question of who will steer Gucci’s creative direction loomed over the megabrand’s first men’s show in the Italian fashion capital in three years. Events run through January17, drawing an audience that includes major retail buyers sizing up which styles might be future top sellers.

There were echoes of Michele’s eccentric, gender-fluid styles at Gucci’s catwalk presentation on Friday.

Models circled a darkened room to the growling music of live band Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, parading oversize suit coats with wide lapels and ample, pleated trousers in pale beige and pastel tones, with new renditions of house classics, along with reminders of Michele’s tenure, including furry, horse-bit embellished slippers.

“A palette cleanser from the collections we have seen across the past few seasons,” said Simon Longland, head of menswear and womenswear at London department store Harrods.

He said the show provided a “new approach” to house styles, with a range of fabrics and jacket shapes that would likely appeal to fans of its signature looks as well as new customers.

Show notes, which buyers scrutinize for signs of the label’s next steps, referred to improvisation and collaboration.

“When the free impulses of individual minds interweave, collective expressions are conceived,” the brand’s notes said.

Shimmery silver pants and quilted motorcycle boots added touches of flamboyancy to the neutral-colored looks, which were taken in by celebrities in the audience including K-pop star Kai, American football player Jalen Ramsey and Italian rock band Maneskin.

UBS expects Kering’s February 15 earnings release will show the label’s fourth quarter sales declined by around 11%, likely one of the more pronounced slowdowns among the world’s top fashion labels, as strict COVID-19 restrictions weighed on business in China.

“The longer the wait for a new Gucci creative director, the worse the outlook for Kering,” said Luca Solca, analyst with Bernstein, noting that “more of the same” would not help the label regain its relevance with shoppers.