Clean lines, crisp silhouettes, fresh attitude in a collection that mined the Gucci DNA even as it modernized it. Gone was the Brooklyn meets Rome thrift shop fantasy of his predecessor Alessandro Michele. In came crisp clothes that looked and shouted expensive.
De Sarno’s original idea was to stage the show in Brera, outside Bar Jamaica, a century-old cult café famed for the bohemian intellectuals – rich in brilliant ideas if not in money – who went there for a classic Milanese aperitivo.
Due to the inclement weather, he switched the location to Gucci Hub, the brand’s huge hangar in eastern Milan, significantly altering the mood – from cocktail hour to nightclub.
Though there was still a festive air as paparazzi fought for shots of arriving Hollywood royalty – Julia Roberts, Jessica Chastain and Ryan Gosling.
City posters, newspapers and magazines had all been plastered with burgundy red walls this week in preparation, bearing the collection title – Gucci Ancora, or Again, and the exact time of the show.
An audience of some 1,200 taking their place on banquettes in the darkened space before Mark Ronson’s melodramatic Late Night Prelude roared out of the speakers and the first model appeared in mannish sleeveless redingotes, and smart fine wool tailoring.
Does Sabato – whose name means Saturday, but debuted on Friday – think the bra is the new handbag? Given how many bras in crystal, strass and beading he sent out, all paired with mini, mini skirts, one would think so.
Plus, between split pencil skirts, hot pants, knit leotards and sexy slip dresses there was a lot of leg on display.
Some of his strongest looks were leather work jackets in burgundy and anthracite and a cocoon jacket in the house’s signature beige monogram.
For evening, he upped the ante with dazzling crystal mesh dresses – adding some great red-carpet attitude.
“That’s what I call a fashion show! Do you like my look?” asked Julia Roberts, attired in a gray mannish pant suit and flashing one of her legendary mile-wide smiles as she embraced De Sarno. “Oh si!” responded a beaming Sabato, attired all in black.
A maelstrom backstage, as his former boss at Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli saluted him, shouting: “Fantastico!” As De Sarno, formerly design director at Valentino in Rome, bashfully nodded his head, tears in his eyes.
They eventually flowed when he hugged his Neapolitan parents – kissing mum on the cheek, dad on the head.
Pre-show De Sarno had given a series of interviews in which he revealed that the night after signing his Gucci contract, he had slept with it under his pillow.
“Every so often I’d reach out and touch the contract. And I said to myself: It’s all true, can you believe it!”
De Sarno clearly then immersed himself in the Gucci archives in Florence – discovering the Jackie and Bambù bags and even a golden necklace which he used immediately in his first campaign. Veteran supermodel Daria Werbowy shot by David Sims hanging onto the red brick tiles of an Italian swimming pool.
And De Sarno worked hard reinventing Gucci classics – like the red monogram used in a series of great platform sandals and the Bambù given a fresh spin in patent leather.
Not perhaps a home-run collection, and long way from being a paradigm shift, this still felt like an accomplished display from a veteran designer – Sabato also did stints at Prada and Dolce & Gabbana – that came fully prepared for his new role. That is creating the future of Italy’s biggest luxury brand.
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