Gucci Gucci coup: Will Tom Ford return to head the fashion giant's house?

Frida Giannini has seemingly left the building early

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

On Monday, the autumn/winter 2015 Gucci menswear show is presented in Milan. The usual finale to that has been a bobbing bow from Frida Giannini – at least, since she took over the brand’s menswear in 2006. But today? Who knows? Back in December it was announced that Giannini and the label’s chief executive Patrizio di Marco would leave the label this year – di Marco left on 1 January, but Giannini’s departure wasn’t slated until after her February womenswear show. However, it seems that Frida has left the building early. Will she bow today, or won’t she? Such are the short-sighted concerns of the fashion industry.

I didn’t really believe Giannini had already vacated her post. Until Gucci confirmed the departure, it seemed like  the sort of baseless  rumour-mongering that fashion thrives on.

Here’s the latest: Tom Ford, the mastermind of Gucci’s 1990s success, will return to head the house. I wonder who dreamt that up. It’s fanciful, although not unprecedented. Jil Sander is the comeback queen, in her volatile relationship with her namesake brand. She has returned twice, first leaving her label in January 2000 following a clash with management after the sale of a 75 per cent stake to Prada. The label is no longer owned by Prada, but Sander exited for (perhaps) the final time in October 2013. In a similar way, Karl Lagerfeld returned to Chloé in the early 1990s after a decade-long hiatus, to revive flagging sales. It was never quite the same – just as Sander’s return didn’t bring about the grand revival in the label’s fortunes that many of the money men hoped for.

Perhaps that makes Ford more of an obvious choice than is initially evident. After all, Ford’s focus powered Gucci from brand into luxury conglomerate, the Gucci Group. It bought brands including Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent, before itself being acquired by Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (now Kering).

So what does Ford have that Gucci may want? Well, his clothes are hitting the hyper-moneyed clientele most brands are salivating over – both men’s and womenswear. And how about that cosmetics empire that allows him a remarkable degree of freedom? Ford doesn’t have to fret about his clothes selling to everyone. Enviable, certainly.

Nevertheless, isn’t it much more likely that Kering will look at designers in brands they already own to power Gucci forward? How about Tomas Maier, currently ensconced at Bottega Veneta, the Italian Hermès. That label’s focus on high-quality, high-priced leather goods pre-dates a recent policy instigated at Gucci to raise both prices and prestige – an approach that’s buckled luxury trends, with profits rising 15 per cent in the first three quarters of 2014. That’s a good indication of a designer that works, regardless of the label.