In the early ’90s, Gucci famously sued Harlem tailor Daniel Day (aka Dapper Dan), whose custom-made puffer jackets and tracksuits—plastered in bootleg Gucci prints—were embraced by the likes of Run DMC, Salt-N-Pepa, and other hip-hop royalty.
Three decades later, Gucci has come full circle: Creative director Alessandro Michele paid homage to Day in his 2018 cruise collection and made him the face of the new men’s couture campaign. Gucci also sponsored the recent reopening of Day’s Harlem atelier and is introducing a capsule collection with him this spring.
It’s part of CEO Marco Bizzarri’s broader strategy to modernize the fashion house, owned by conglomerate Kering, and appeal to a new generation of luxury consumers. “The company was a little dusty with too much emphasis on heritage,” Bizzarri says. While Michele’s riotous, streetwear-savvy designs have delivered a creative jolt, behind the scenes, Gucci is seeking out partnerships with iconoclastic fashion influencers from transgender actress and model Hari Nef (face of the new Gucci Bloom fragrance) to rising social media stars such as 21-year-old Atlanta native Reese Blutstein.
For the brand’s new watch collection, Gucci tapped artists to create cheeky #TFWGucci memes that poked fun at the once-imperious brand. Bizzarri has also committed to going fur-free this year. The approach is working. Gucci reported a 49% jump in revenue, to $1.82 billion, in the third quarter of 2017, with in-store sales growing 51% and e-commerce tripling. Half of Gucci’s revenue now comes from 18- to 35-year-olds. “I’ve read that millennials these days are not loyal, that they switch from one brand to another,” says Bizzarri. “This may be true, but it doesn’t apply to us.”