It’s Gucci’s 100th Birthday. They’re just getting started.
Happy Birthday Gucci
It’s Gucci’s 100th birthday.
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To commemorate it, they threw a runway show in April. Online. It’s a short film introducing their latest collection to songs like Gucci Gang (Lil’ Pump) and Green Gucci Suit (Rick Ross).
Apparently, as of today, there are 22,705 songs out there with the word Gucci.
Here’s that runway show. It’s fantastic.
A few months later, they teamed up with 100 Thieves—on Gucci’s 100th birthday, no less—only one of the hottest lifestyle brands and gaming companies focused on Gen Z.
There’s also House of Gucci, the starstudded series about to hit streaming services this November, starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver.
Father, son, and House of Gucci, this brand is everywhere!
Oh, and Gucci recently told Fast Company that in 2018, 62% of more than $8 billion in sales came from shoppers under the age of 35.
62% for a brand that was founded in 1921. We’re not talking about Shein here (which has taken Gen Z by storm on TikTok). That’s 62% for a brand founded in 1921. Incredible. But, it hasn’t always been this wavy for Gucci. They used to be just another European fashion house. Now they’re at the forefront of luxury fashion, reimagining what it looks like to create luxury that appeals to young folks in 2021.
So, then, how does a traditional European design house have such a strong pull among the youth?
The origins of Gucci Ghost
We’re gonna wind the clock back to explore how they’re constantly reinventing themselves.
It’s Halloween night. 2013. You’re in Manhattan and you drunkenly stumble past a dude with a bedsheet over his head, two holes cut out for the eyes, and double G’s painted on the front. As is custom with all New Yorkers, you're fazed by nothing, so you forget about it.
His name is Gucci Ghost, and he was taken by how much people loved his wearing a bedsheet that night, that he made it his M.O. He started collecting antiques, worn-out objects, anything he could get his hands on, and transformed an old Brooklyn space into a creative studio. He’d graffiti shapes and objects onto the furniture. This became his playground, a form of self-expression.
Eventually, actual Gucci gets wind of things, and they call up Gucci Ghost to invite him to Rome, saying they want to “discuss a design collab” with him. The rest is history.
And that’s the beauty behind Gucci.
They take opulence and inject it with a kind of fun, color, disrespect, and cultural relevance that few other houses possess. Gucci is no longer your mom’s favorite clutch or your dad’s go-to belt buckle. It’s the fur slippers your kid rocks to school. Or fanny pack. Or chunky sneaks.
In that interview with Fast Company, the brand’s CEO attributes its success to having a blend of art and science, everything from investing in quality backend technology (eComm, supply chain), to crafting a thoughtful presence on social media, to the new design direction they’ve implemented.
The idea is that when you remove unneeded cognitive load from young shoppers, they can have a more seamless shopping experience and connection to the brand.
And that may be true, but there’s something (or, someone, rather) stronger at play.
If Jesus and Jared Leto made a baby
Call him Gucci’s Lord & Savior.
Let’s be real, though. If Jesus made a baby with Jared Leto, that someone would be Alessandro Michele, its creative director.
Alessandro is a kind of savior for the brand. In many ways, he’s responsible for Gucci’s emergence into the modern spotlight. Here’s why.
A creative playground
Michele was appointed by Gucci as the interim CD in 2015. Since then, he’s reinvented Gucci’s place in culture many times over.
“Fashion is not finished and will never finish,” he said, in an interview with WWD. “Fashion is a representation of life and can self manage.”
Michele is communicating one thing: Gucci is his creative playground. It’s a space where he pushes boundaries with every decision.
His decisions carry a combination of two things: first, a love for artistry, and second, a blatant disrespect towards the rules and the authority that guides “old fashion.”
And his collaborations reflect that. Since he’s taken the creative reigns, Gucci has teamed up with everyone from Coco Capitán and Major League Baseball, to Dapper Dan, Gucci Ghost, and Disney.
Here’s a sampling of some of the work that came out of these well-thought-out partnerships:
Rather than telling you what good design is, part of the shift he emulates as a modern CD is to draw from other creative minds, letting their self-expression guide the brand.
My favorite example of this is the work he’s done with Gucci Ghost. If anything, Michele simply enabled his creativity to have wider distribution. He gave Gucci Ghost the platform to showcase what was already there.
And the work shows:
Sustainability: Gucci off the Grid
Recently, the company launched an initiative called Gucci Off The Grid, an effort to show how the business (and its parent company, Kering) approaches sustainability. Their collections are a culmination of broken-down, recycled materials that are made into products like backpacks, bucket hats, sneakers.
Here’s a backpack they designed for the 100 Thieves collab. Just because it’s made with recycled materials don’t make it cheap!
It still costs $2,500.
But their focus on sustainability is important, especially for luxury brands to watch and learn from. It’s Gucci’s effort to reshape how and where they source materials for products (which currently contains a lot of synthetic fabrics), aiming to reduce their carbon footprint, and being more socially responsible. This is a huge issue to younger shoppers.
And who did they get to model their debut sustainable collection with Gucci Off The Grid?
Lil Nas X.
Is there anyone more representative right now of Gen Z culture than Lil Nas X? I think not.
Blurring the boundaries between masculine and feminine
Is Gucci masculine or feminine? Who knows.
And that’s by design. Michele has been vocal about the nuance behind what makes clothing (and people) masculine and feminine. He wants Gucci to celebrate the qualities that he believes exist in every human.
It’s part of the reason he and Harry Styles have creative synergy. In short, Harry ain’t afraid to wear a dress.
In all seriousness, where there were once defined rules around what men and women should wear, Harry is dissolving that norm.
We’re not getting any younger (except Gucci)
Michele has taken the rules of luxury fashion and drawn all over them (sometimes, literally). He brings innovation to fashion’s old guard, doing what most wouldn’t dare try and do.
This is what proper creative direction looks like.
He invites others into the bigger picture. He lets them have a say. And for young consumers, buying Gucci isn’t all about exclusivity. It’s about self-expression too.
All of this keeps pointing back to one thing, and it's Gucci's superpower: they're successful because they're constantly reinventing themselves. And that's a good thing.