Gucci bets on coats to drive sales at Milan fashion week

The first look of a collection is a kind of setting out of a stall, and Sabato de Sarno put his love of the coat front and centre, opening his show in Milan on Friday with a simple but elegantly cut short coat, belted at the waist. No bells, very few whistles.

But, a personal fan of coats – he reportedly has more than 200 – the Gucci designer wasn’t going to let the coat only speak in whispers, and outerwear ranged from subtle to statement. Overcoats in black and camel were classic on top but salted with sparkle from the waist down; moss green and double-breasted or oversized and navy with subtly statement collars, if that isn’t a paradox. There were leather trenches, in sherbet yellow and pine green, of the kind Anna Wintour is frequently spotted in, pea coats and bombers.

A half moon … Photograph: Claudia Greco/Reuters

Last season’s Gucci show, De Sorno’s first as creative director, was seen as a “factory reset”, a palette-cleanser – a spoonful of sorbet or sniff of espresso beans after the maximalism of the Alessandro Michele years. A potent one was maybe needed given the punchy flavours of Michele’s Gucci, all kitsch and camp and high notes.

Perhaps off the back of some voices in the industry questioning his vision – did the clothes skew too young? Was there enough frisson and newness about them? – this season it felt like we were being asked to tread softly. Read literally, his show notes came across as a plea for patience: “This is my way of dreaming, without hurry, visualising and stratifying aspirations as if they were the bricks of a house.” The soundtrack underlined the message – a Mark Ronson reworking of the song Coronacid, at one point it repeated the words “reset, reset, and smile again”. Messages don’t come much more on-the-nose than that. Tread softly, De Sarno seems to be asking, because we tread on his dreams.

A model in a green leather trench at the Gucci show. Photograph: WWD/Getty Images

In the churn of creative directors – luxury houses have the same problem as Premier League football clubs – those in the top jobs are judged rapidly, given little time to bed in and expected to perform commercially from the get-go.

Kering sales are down and it will be looking to Gucci, its show-pony brand, to revive them. Coats, which were also a sizeable part of De Sarno’s menswear offering in Milan last month, are a savvy bet. As Business of Fashion reported: “With prices rising across the luxury space, clients are drawn to the favourable price-per-wear of coats compared to other ready-to-wear categories one might wear less often.”

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A starry front row included Kirsten Dunst (pictured), as well as Solange Knowles, Salma Hayek and Juergen Teller. Photograph: WWD/Getty Images

As with last season, there was a smart focus on accessories – upon the fortunes of which brands rise and fall. A new top-handle bag called GG Milano was joined by a half-moon silhouette inspired by the equestrian motifs found in the Gucci archive. And last season’s exaggeratedly towering platform loafers were updated into still-towering slingback sandals. Riding boots came with the classic Gucci horsebit reimagined and wrapped around the heel, reminiscent of a spur.

Can coats, shoes and bags save the day? Only time will tell, but it feels like a sensible wagon to hitch your horse to.


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