Kering has named Italian designer Sabato de Sarno as the new creative director for its biggest brand Gucci as it seeks new direction after a period of underperformance.
Gucci brings in more than half of Kering’s annual revenue and three-quarters of operating profit, making the appointment a key decision for investors in the French luxury group, which is owned by the billionaire Pinault family.
The Italian brand has increased revenue more slowly than larger rivals like LVMH-owned Louis Vuitton and Hermes in recent years, and it will be up to De Sarno to reverse the trend.
In a statement, Kering said De Sarno, who is now fashion director of men’s and women’s collections at Valentino, would join the group soon, although it did not provide a date. His first show will be in September in Milan.
Kering chief executive François-Henri Pinault welcomed the change. “With Sabato De Sarno at the creative helm, we are confident that the house will continue both to influence fashion and culture through highly desirable products and collections, and to bring a singular and contemporary perspective to modern luxury,” he said in a statement.
Like his predecessor at Gucci, Alessandro Michele, De Sarno is not a household name in the fashion industry. He has played a key role at Valentino in recent years as the longtime creative director’s right hand and has also worked at Prada and Dolce & Gabbana.
Michele left abruptly in November after seven years. His vintage-infused, colourful designs worn by celebrities like Harry Styles powered several years of double-digit sales growth and nearly tripled revenue at Gucci, putting it on the cusp of reaching €10bn in annual sales before the pandemic.
Michele’s efforts to rekindle the magic that attracted droves of young buyers especially in China foundered despite repeated attempts at a turnround.
Gucci’s woes have led Kering’s share price to lag rivals, despite the two-year luxury boom during which affluent buyers in the US and China drove the industry’s sales to new heights. Its shares have fallen by almost 15 per cent in the past year, compared with a 31 per cent rise for Hermes and 15 per cent for LVMH.
The group’s other brands include Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga, and it also has a growing eyewear business. It will report annual results on February 15.
Additional reporting by Lauren Indvik in London