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

by Eddie Roche

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…”

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