Chic Report

James Scully On Why Frida Giannini Didn’t Fly At Gucci

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You can always count on veteran fashion director James Scully to share his opinion, and last night we were intrigued with his Facebook update with his reaction to Vanessa Friedman‘s recent New York Times article, Beware, Designers: What Frida Giannini’s Departure at Gucci Tells Us.” In the piece she writes: “What’s interesting, however, is that in all the who-ing and fro-ing, what hasn’t come up is just how pointedly Ms. Giannini’s departure reflects on current fashion industry wisdom, and the idea that what is needed right now are clothes for real life.” The article went on to document her turbulent history with the brand: “At a certain point it became very hard to identify what Gucci stood for, aesthetically, anyway, aside from bamboo-handled, made-in-Italy leather goods,” Friedman wrote. Now, Scully shares his thoughts on why things didn’t work out for Giannini…

“What does Frida’s departure tell us? What cautionary tale can designers learn from the “Arch of her Career” What arch? Are you now going to say in hindsight she was brilliant? It was better than we thought? A famous fashion designer once said to me that fashion is about desire, it is about a world, and if people can’t believe your world, they won’t buy your clothes. It’s not a famous quote but I’ll give anyone a prize (a Gucci bag?) if they can take a stab at who said it. I would classify designers into two types: The superstar, the designer who lives his or her world and brings you into it, such as Ralph, Calvin, Donna, Oscar, Tom Ford, Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Herrera, YSL, Valentino. Then, there is the shy, reticent creator Miuccia Prada, Nicolas Ghesquiere, Raf Simons, Rei Kawakubo, Jil Sander, Phoebe Philo. So illusive, full of thought that you’re intrigued into their world. What do they all have in common? Vision. They created desire through their clothes and image, and created a world people want to be a part of. Fashion designers, like Hollywood actors, are about the X factor. Beautiful clothes are not enough. It’s the whole world you create around the product that fuels the desire of consumers.

Look at the hottest houses that have all had remakes over the last 5 years: Celine, Valentino, YSL, Dior, Vuitton or people who have created buzz and already have definitive worldwide images like Alexander Wang, JW Anderson, or Tory Burch. In this short amount of time, all of these houses have created desire and a brand awareness. People can’t get enough of it. They have a strategy, they know who they are, and what they want their brands to project. The average consumer knows exactly what these brands represent and that is why they want to have them in their closets. Frida’s Gucci collections were palate cleansing at best. They weren’t bad clothes, they were perfectly nice, not interesting, like her, no intrigue, nothing fascinating.

Most people I know outside the business in the real world still associate Gucci with Tom Ford. She has made no impression, in their minds they are still holding on to the image he created. I know not one person that was dying to have a piece of it since she took over. You can still go into any city in the world and the above designers’ stores are full of shoppers.  If I had a nickel for every editor that complained they had to shoot Gucci for advertising $$$, I’d be on my own island writing this now. She was not a designer. It was a nice effort but it was too big a job for someone without a vision to move it forward. She was missing the thing that all the other successful rebrandings paired with the right designer have. It’s not her fault she did not have it. She never created a moment. It’s like Sienna Miller: Hollywood will keep trying, but if you don’t draw people into a theater, eventually you won’t make movies. So, the lesson I take away is hire someone who can give people the dream and they will return…”


  1. Helen Oppenheim

    December 19, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    Tom Ford quote ?

  2. Michael

    December 19, 2014 at 5:48 PM

    You forgot VERSACE!!!!!!!!!!!! That family is the brand they created, live and breathe it. Incredible.

  3. Charles-Henry

    December 20, 2014 at 8:45 AM

    The quote is from Alber… ♡

  4. CovetNYC

    December 22, 2014 at 10:35 PM

    Ouch. This is harsh criticism, but I agree with all of it.

  5. M

    December 27, 2014 at 7:44 PM

    I find it odd and a little unsettling that anyone, much less someone like Vanessa Friedman, could choose to construe a multi-year run at one of the world’s best known fashion houses as some sort of cautionary tale. As though Frida Giannini’s particular set of circumstances were to be understood as a warning for other designers to be careful of what they send down the runway or they too risk being out on their collective ear(s). Why is it that I am struck by the notion that the fashion flock had it in for Miss Giannini all along, that she is hated by everyone, like the president Bush of fashions houses, particularly as it was well known that she is romantically involved with Gucci’s chief CEO? I’ll agree, I was never particularly moved one way or another by much of anything that Miss Giannini sent down the catwalk for men or women, however I felt it was perfectly serviceable as a product representative of a brand, fashion moment or no fashion moment. What is fashion if not whimsical, capricious and kind of silly? Mr.Scully states that most of the non-fashion world believes that Tom Ford is still associated with Gucci, if this is the case, and I too suspect it is, how then does that serve the identity of a brand when a sole designer has a stronger presence than that of the house itself? Perhaps a more mediocre designer is the perfect antidote to the over-powering influence of the star designer?
    Tom Ford had the good fortune to be at the right place at the right time, anyone involved in fashion during the mid to late 1990’s can well attest to the fact that he was able to generate many a fashion moment during his tenure at Gucci. However, he was completely unable to deliver any of same magic at YSL, and as far as his own women’s line goes, with the exception of his debut runway show, there has not been much of any kind of moment lately, unless you include the shock, disappoint, and regret associated with his more recent showings. Pasties and platforms? Bra tops and micro-minis? Is this part of any “world” that a modern, successful woman wants to be seduced into living? Is his most recent collection really a testament a to a true fashion talent that is in any way superior to what Miss Gianni created at Gucci- ever? And, does Karl Lagerfeld really have a “world,” or a store “full of shoppers” for that matter? Does Tory Burch have any sort of world wide image beyond flats that look a lot like another brand which are usually worn by women who pair them with their Michael Kors MK bags that resemble bad Vuitton? And, as for Sienna Miller I am not quite certain if Hollywood keeps on trying but Anna Wintour sure does. The fact is, there is no ‘there’ in fashion, it is not who you are, it is who people think you are. Maybe Frida Giannini was not the most talented or lucky designer in history, but her career is hardly what I would call over. And, lastly, I do not know of anyone in any world who would call a decade (in total) designing at Gucci a failure in anyway, shape, or form.

    • Lola

      October 23, 2015 at 4:35 AM

      I totally agree!!!! You’ve pointed out the flaws in the article completely! Kudos to you!!! Also I hate the new stuff Alessandro Michele has been releasing… I thought Frida brought sophistication to Gucci and Michele’s stuff is tacky…

  6. Jay

    May 26, 2015 at 1:54 PM

    The Gucci 2010 Fall Winter menswear started my addiction to Gucci. The 2010 , 2011 and 2012 Collections and the 2013 Cruise Collection are my favorites. So I think Frida G did more than well. I like her creations better than Mr Ford. Sorry.

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