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

by Eddie Roche
Gucci

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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13 comments

Helen Oppenheim December 19, 2014 - 3:56 PM

Tom Ford quote ?

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Michael December 19, 2014 - 5:48 PM

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

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Charles-Henry December 20, 2014 - 8:45 AM

The quote is from Alber… ♡

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CovetNYC December 22, 2014 - 10:35 PM

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

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M December 27, 2014 - 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.

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Lola October 23, 2015 - 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…

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H. H. May 22, 2016 - 3:33 PM

Right on – I agree!!

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Jay May 26, 2015 - 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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Prado May 31, 2016 - 4:19 PM

I’m sitting in my office dying on the inside laughing at this article. “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”. lol.

This article is perfect though. He nailed it. Frida is not a visionary. She is a follower. It’s best if she works under someone else’s vision.

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Bruçó December 9, 2016 - 11:57 AM

I,m not agree. The problem of Gucci my dear is only just Gucci. They do not know what they want. Now they are making shots to from Orient… But in ten years they will be with another proposal. Unfortunately, the brand has nothing to do with it. I’m so sorry Gucci … you guys could do a lot of better.

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Chris June 14, 2018 - 8:10 PM

We love Frida. I have not bough a thing at Gucci since her departure. Her line was like having the best of the archives brought up to date. Now it is clown clothing that is unwearable by anyone with a regular job. Bumblebees and men’s slides. Frida we miss you. When you left so did anything worthwhile at gucci

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DH November 7, 2018 - 11:38 PM

This article is so stupid, and so does Vanessa Friedman’s commentary (or rather, bashing), on Frida’s tenure. It does not do justice her whole legacy. If her works was bad and forgettable, then how come she could helmed for 12 YEARS at Gucci which is longer than Ford himself?????

Also, Michele is WAY TOO overrated. Millenials may love his barroque romantic fantasy vision, but not Gucci’s core customers – Frida’s sense was actually closer and truer to Gucci’s house codes : the 70s glam and disco mood. Moreover, Frida actually researched her collection thoroughly when all Michele does is just repeating OVER AND OVER again his maximalism fantasy aesthetic in every season to the point it become intolerable. Yawns.

This article just confirms that most fashion commentary has short-term memory syndrome. Lets see and wait when Frida take over another fashion houses in the future!

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Julian September 7, 2019 - 5:51 AM

Funny that I’m reading this in 2019 and feel like I have to comment:
I honestly think fashion is so subjective that no one can ever really state anything as true or false. Furthermore I think there are a lot of good points in this article and a lot of points that I think are unfair. There are only a few brands/designers who are really able to become so individual and indistinctive that they stand out, for me that was for example the real Alexander McQueen, John Galliano for Dior, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel. What Michele does know for Gucci seemingly works and nowadays it’s easy to identify a Gucci piece, but for me that has nothing to do with the Gucci heritage. Same as Raf or Maria for Dior. They produce collections a lot of people actually love, but for me they have nothing to do with the core of the brand. Right now all the desire, temptation, seduction and wanting to wear something straight off the runway is gone for me at most of the brands. For me the clothes Frida designed for Gucci, the campaigns, commercials, the work with Blake Lively, still to this day are what I want from fashion. I loved her collections for men AND women and that she created pieces I would dream to wear right away, contrary to all the stuff I see on the runways now where I think who would ever wear that. So to sum it all up: I really loved Frida’s work for Gucci, others hated it. Just like I now hate what Michele does for Gucci, others love it. How are we ever really able to make a true statement on wether a designer was good or bad? Yes, you can compare how the company performed during their time, but who says that mainstream’s opinion is the right one. Same goes for me personally, just because I don’t like all the streetwear etc. on the runways right now and wish back the collections from around 2007-2017, doesn’t mean my opinion is the right one.

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