Late last month, the likes of Hari Nef, Saoirse Ronan, Petra Collins, and Kai watched as models took to the late night, flame-lit paths snaking through the Promenade Des Alyscamps in Arles, France, showcasing Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele’s Cruise 2019 collection. Attendees were invited via telegram. The collection’s inspiration: “[ossuaries], the crypts of the cardinals, of the monks in the 15th century... widows from another century, groupies, and unconventional beauty from the end of the Roman Empire.”
This is the unique brand of baroque-kitsch that has come to define this new era of the fashion house, and made Gucci the most coveted brand of our generation, as well as the highest-selling Italian fashion brand. The rise of Gucci as “goals” is a culmination of the brand recognition laid first by Tom Ford in the 1990s and early 2000s, then the monumental brand shift orchestrated by Michele after 2015, and their forward-thinking utilization of social media and e-commerce.
The first known definition for "gucci" in the Urban Dictionary (a.k.a. our modern Merriam-Webster) dates back a decade, to July 10, 2008, reading:
good, chill, cool, awesome...Comes from Gucci as in the fashion label… because Gucci is rich and ballin’ therefore he is good, cool and just pimpin’
"It’s all gucci."
It stems from hip hop culture’s embrace of the brand - first in the 1980’s with famed Harlem bootleg designer Dapper Dan, then with the glossy, ultra sexy, and very Hollywood Tom Ford era of Gucci, with rappers like Jay-Z and Diddy giving the brand and its iconic interlocking Gs their stamp of approval. The references within rap, today still given by the likes of Frank Ocean, Migos, Cardi B, A$AP Rocky, Drake, and Lil Pump, trickled down into street culture. There, the brand’s name became enigmatic for an entire energy of its own, a particular sense of being, a certain gold standard - more than a label, but a behaviour or mood in and of itself. A line from Urban Dictionary’s sixth definition for "gucci" probably sums up the thought process best: “Gucci is the definition of luxury.” This becoming of an adjective - the “be all, end all” status - has brought on a new breed of brand recognition. People completely unaware of the brand itself or the fashion industry entirely know when "it’s all gucci."
That recognition is amplified by the visibility and accessibility of social media. The year Alessandro Michele took over as creative director for the fashion house in 2015, Gucci was valued at $12.4 billion USD, according to Business of Fashion. By 2017, it saw a 115% increase in growth, with over $61,798,514 earned in media value. During September of that year, Gucci saw a 44.5% increase in revenues. Analysis showed that Gucci was the most-talked about brand on social media that year within the luxury fashion space. Today, the brand’s sales have grown another 49% so far this year, elevating the shares of its parent company - Kering - by over 70%.
All of this growth can arguably be traced to the brand’s success in the digital space. Alessandro Michele recognizes Gucci’s place within our modern vernacular, and over these three years has worked towards matching that in brand visibility. He’s cultivated an aesthetic for Gucci (which differs greatly from those before it) far surpassing the clothing, collections, and shows themselves. Like Demna at Balenciaga, or Phoebe Philo at Céline, or (most similarly) Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent, Michele has intricately crafted - through casting, marketing, imagery, and obscure, specific, and varied inspirations - an entire Gucci universe. Through “collaborative art projects” - collaborations with Instagram artists with strong followings like Guccighost, Jayde Fish, Coco Capitain, Petra Collins, and Unskilled Worker, as well as partnerships with influential celebrities like Jared Leto, Lana Del Rey, A$AP Rocky, Elton John, Harry Styles (whose tailoring campaign with the brand just launched), and other social media and YouTube influencers, even creating a board of millennial advisors, Michele has aimed for the heart of the young generation, creating a fantastical, whimsical, off-kilter universe of refuge, where admittance is just one purchase away and everything literally is Gucci.
All in all, it’s Alessandro Michele and Gucci who are proclaiming themselves as “goals” - the pinnacle of all that's cool, chill, and good. They sell that to the Instagram influencers, the musicians, and the actors who pop culture deem cool, reinforcing the #goals ideal to fans and consumers. In turn, anything cool is gucci and anything Gucci is something to work towards obtaining - and so the cycle continues.
Though BoF reports that 85 percent of luxury expansion last year came from our generation, the vast majority of us can’t afford that ticket to Gucci’s alternate reality. And I’m sure Michele realizes that. What he knows we can buy into, however, is the projected experience his fantasy universe offers. If we keep telling ourselves (and each other) that “everything’s gucci,” and seeing on Instagram what that would look like, maybe one day it actually will be.
But it’s all just that - fantasy.