Fashion / Style

Gucci Gets its Groove Back With James Corden Hijinks, Fashion Hacking and a Major Movie

This House is Suddenly on Fire

BY // 04.27.21

Since visionary designer Alessandro Michele took over as creative director at Gucci in 2015, the fabled Italian fashion house has been on a tear, with triple-digit growth and critical adulation. But the pandemic brought Gucci back to earth, as sales plummeted while some fashion critics wondered if Michele’s excessively embellished designs were right for a subdued world.

The company retrenched, ditching the traditional Milan Fashion Week format for a “seasonless” approach with fewer collections and more emphasis on sustainability. By focusing on a new handbag collection, a mind-blowing 100th anniversary collection, a groundbreaking fashion “hacking,” and other creative ideas to tout the brand in a post-pandemic world, Gucci got its groove back.

The company’s latest buzz-making offering came when The Late Late Show host James Corden was enlisted to appear in a series of Hollywood-style faux TV talk show segments with such A-list luminaries as Harry Styles, Diane Keaton, Serena Williams, Awkwafina, Sienna Miller and Dakota Johnson to talk about their latest exploits while holding a handbag from the new Gucci Beloved collection.

In six humorous two-minute videos, which have been widely shared on social media and are available on YouTube, Keaton sings, Williams plays to the audience, Awkwafina becomes combative, Harry Styles won’t let Corden tell a secret story, Miller gets lost in the studio, and Johnson mimics an increasingly combative Corden.

“We decided to show the concept of ‘beloved’ in an ironic way in the campaign, being inspired by the fact that bags are the protagonists in my life and in the lives of many other people,” Michele explains in a statement. “We went back in time to the original TV talk shows, where the protagonist is the bag itself, the big star.”

Gucci Aria red velvet pantsuit
The Gucci 100th anniversary Collection features an updated red velvet pantsuit that pays homage to one worn by Gwyneth Paltrow at the 1996 MTV Awards. (Photo by Cinzia Camela for Gucci)

The new handbag collection combines contemporary styling with archival Gucci motifs. Unlike some of Michele’s trendy creations, the handbags are investment pieces that transcend seasons, which may prove especially appealing to consumers looking for classic pieces that stand the test of time.

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At the heart of the new collection is the Dionysus bag, which features two tiger heads shaped in the form of a spur, an ode to the Greek god who in myth is said to have crossed the river Tigris on a tiger sent to him by Zeus.

Other choices include the Gucci Horsebit 1955, distinguished by a double ring and bar that encapsulates the fashion house’s equestrian heritage, the GG Marmont, marked with Double G logo initials, and The Jackie 1961, known for its curved half-moon shape and emblematic piston closure.

“I truly love and adore my handbags,” Michele proclaims. “Perhaps they will always be my greatest love, my favorite accessory. It was therefore natural for me to call some of the ones I created ‘Beloved.’ The name comes from my own personal experience and my love for them.”

The handbag introduction comes on the heels of a major runway collection that celebrates Gucci’s 100th anniversary. Dubbed “Aria” for its operatic sensibility, it features a whopping 94 looks for men and women, presented in a video set at London’s Savoy Hotel and a dreamy Garden of Eden forest to a hip-hop soundtrack of Lil Pumps’ “Gucci Gang”, Bhad Babie & Lil Yatchy’s “Gucci Flip Flops” and “Green Gucci Suit” by Rick Ross. (Gucci plans to continue to combine its collections into two coed shows each year.)

Michele mined Gucci’s extensive archives for the collection, recreating the iconic red velvet suit designed by Tom Ford, who headed Gucci from 1994-2004, and worn by Gwyneth Paltrow to the MTV Music Awards in 1996.

Michele also put a new S&M spin on the label’s equestrian references, with logo-embellished riding jackets and cape, riding caps, fringe leather riding crops and spit-polished boots. And he embellished evening dresses with sequins and marabou feathers, and created rhinestone-encrusted anatomical heart minaudières in a variety of colors.

A Fashion Hacking

In the collection’s biggest surprise, Michele looked to luxury competitor Balenciaga‘s design history for a series of outfits, jewelry and accessories that combine logos from both fashion houses, which are owned by French conglomerate Kering. Michele declined to call it a collaboration. Instead he labeled it an approved “hacking.”

Whatever it’s called, it is rare for two such famous design labels to join forces, but the combo is expected to quickly sell out among fashion-forward buyers eager to snap up glittery suits, coats, hats and necklaces emblazoned with both Gucci and Balenciaga logos.

Just as the pandemic became full-blown last year, Gucci unveiled an outdoorsy collaboration with The North Face that quickly sold out. The timing was fortuitous as the ’70s-inspired collection of  puffer coats, quilted jackets, windbreakers and vests, along with clothing, sleeping bags, tents and backpacks, tapped into the spirit of the outdoors and dreams of wanderlust during the shutdown.

Kering’s chief financial officer Jean-Marc Duplaix credits the creative capsule collection, retail experiences, and initiatives tailored to high-end clients for Gucci’s rebound. Sales surged by nearly 25 percent in the first quarter of this year, with strong growth in Asia and the United States, although sales continue to lag in Europe.

Gucci’s Movie Moment

As the world continues to come out of COVID with more people being vaccinated, officials are optimistic that Gucci will thrive. More attention-getting 100th anniversary celebrations are planned throughout the year and the brand will likely get a boost from the release of House of Gucci in November.

Lady Gaga in House of Gucci
Lady Gaga appears in vintage Gucci during the filming of “House of Gucci.” (Photo courtesy of House of Gucci)

The film, currently being shot in Italy starring Adam Driver and Lady Gaga, details the shocking true story of Patrizia Reggiani, the glamorous socialite who was charged with arranging the murder of her husband Maurizio Gucci in 1997. The film team was granted access to the Gucci fashion archives and has painstakingly recreated the styles of the era.

“The outfits are everything,” Harper’s Bazaar gushes. “Several paparazzi photos have emerged from the set of House of Gucci, and it’s safe to say that viewers will be dazzled with retro fashion and incredible performances.”

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