Sabato de Sarno, the stranger who must wake up Gucci

In the continuous flow of fashion shows, there are still notable moments capable of capturing attention beyond the circle of insiders. In 2023, two stand out from the crowd: the first took place in Paris in June, with Pharrell Williams’ inaugural show for Louis Vuitton, a blockbuster for the LVMH group’s flagship brand. The second will take place on Friday September 22 at 3 p.m. in Milan, when Sabato de Sarno will unveil his collection for Gucci, the flagship of the Kering group, which, since the Covid-19 crisis in 2020, has struggled to return to growth.

The stakes of the parade are immense: for Gucci it is about writing a new chapter capable of resuscitating desire for this brand. And show in passing that the departure of the previous artistic director, Alessandro Michele, was relevant despite the popularity he enjoyed. To tackle this task, the Florentine house made the unexpected choice in January of an unknown from Valentino, Sabato de Sarno. Until his appointment at Gucci, this 40-year-old Italian had always remained in the shadows.

Sunny and happy: that’s the effect Sabato de Sarno had when we met him on September 19 in Brera, the artistic district of Milan. Ahead of the show, under the “Gucci perspective” banner, he exhibited the work of four young graduates from the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in a temporary gallery; after the inauguration, an aperitif is given in a historic bar in the neighborhood, the Jamaica. Sabato de Sarno’s guests are mainly young people, artists, locals who nibble on arancini and cherry tomatoes, seated on the terrace, mingling with passers-by in the street. In short, it doesn’t look like a fashion cocktail at all.

“It was exactly what I wanted, a very moving moment, for the artists and for me”, comments the creative director of Gucci when we meet him the next day in his Milan office. Does the exhibition have a link with the parade? No. “Art is a major source of inspiration, but I don’t want to use a work to make a print or a quote on a t-shirt”, he defends himself, smiling. He talks about his conversation with Noura Tafeche, one of the four artists at the exhibition, who designed flags decorated with symbols with non-Italian-speaking children to converse with them despite the language barrier. “I’m not going to reproduce her flags, but the way she arranges the shapes and colors gives me ideas”explains Sabato de Sarno.

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