Sabato de Sarno

How Sabato de Sarno is ushering in a bold new era for Gucci

When it was announced that there was to be a changing of the guard at Gucci, the spotlight fell quickly on Sabato de Sarno. Relatively unknown in the fashion world, yet with impeccable credentials, his fresh vision is ushering in an exciting new era for the iconic Italian house. 

It’s hard to think back to a time before the reign of Alessandro Michele at Gucci. So impactful was the way in which he fused the brand’s signatures with a more modern, maximalist aesthetic. In fact, under Michele’s stewardship, Gucci’s revenue almost tripled from €3.9bn in 2015 to €9.7bn in 2021 and the brand regularly made headlines for its thought-provoking runways and gender-fluid collections. So, in 2022, when Michele exited the role that had made him a household name, there was a big question mark over who would be stepping into his shoes, and how that person would usher in the next phase of Gucci’s evolution. 


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Sabato de Sarno overseeing a fitting in Gucci’s headquarters

While Michele was universally praised for broadening Gucci’s appeal (by focusing on inclusivity in his runways, for instance, and creating collections whose hype spoke to a whole new customer), his was an eclectic vision that departed somewhat from the history of timeless luxury on which Gucci’s reputation had been built. And eventually, there came a sense that, despite Michele’s undeniable genius, the brand had to change in order to continue on its path of impressive growth. For Kering that meant hiring a designer that could reconnect Gucci with its heritage and open the brand up to a deeper luxury market — enter Sabato de Sarno.

“The new era of Gucci, it seems, is all about an appreciation for the smaller details and a sensibility that is distinctly Italian.”

Among the many names that fashion commentators predicted as Michele’s potential successor, De Sarno’s was not, generally speaking, one. But with impressive credentials including graduating from Milan’s Istituto Secoli, stints at Prada and Dolce & Gabbana, and a longstanding role as Pierpaolo Piccioli’s right-hand man at Valentino (working as the Fashion Director of the brand’s men’s and women’s ready-to-wear), De Sarno was a respected, behind-the-scenes force in the fashion community. For Gucci, De Sarno’s appointment presented the opportunity to reimagine house codes with a more sensual, contemporary and ultimately wearable spin. And after all, this wasn’t the first time that Gucci had put their faith in a relative unknown (Michele himself was pulled from obscurity for the Creative Director role, and went on to do truly great things for the brand). 

Travelling trunk show for Ancora

You only have to look at De Sarno’s debut collection for Gucci (unveiled last September in Milan) to see the significant shift he is perpetuating. Where Michele’s Gucci was camp and costume-like, with clothes that elicited wonder and created an eccentric uniform for followers of the brand, De Sarno’s is grounded in craft, quality and cut. The air of eclectic extravagance that underpinned Michele’s tenure has been replaced by a clear mandate of wearability, sensuality and ‘Italianity’ under De Sarno, who wants to dress his customers for everyday life: for going to work or going on dates or going out. The new era of Gucci, it seems, is all about an appreciation for the smaller details and a sensibility that is distinctly Italian. In essence, it plays into the ‘quiet luxury’ trend that has seen fashion consumers choose understated over opulent, simple quality over loud logos. Although De Sarno himself would point out that you need only look closely at his designs to see that the ‘luxury’ isn’t so quiet after all. It exists in every stitch and every sleek silhouette, each piece a carefully-constructed expression of craftsmanship and design. Speaking with Vogue last year, De Sarno said, “[Gucci is] a very Italian brand with a huge heritage. Italian in craftsmanship, Italian in taste, and we lost that I think. I want to bring it back. Italianity is part of my story for sure.” 

Gucci Women’s Fall ’24 Collection

In De Sarno’s debut collection for Spring Summer 2024, titled ‘Ancora’, the designer was quick to showcase his distinct direction. Not only did he separate his womenswear and menswear shows (the two were combined by his predecessor) but the former was a sensual ode to Italian style, where ultra miniskirts and seemingly simple tank tops met expertly-cut overcoats, timeless tailoring, platform-high iterations of the classic Gucci loafer and plenty of pieces rendered in what many were calling the colour of the season — Gucci Rosso, or ‘Ancora’ red (a deep crimson that spoke clearly to the history of the brand). On the surface, De Sarno’s Gucci feels a simplification, but in reality, it is the result of meticulous engineering, with no detail left to chance. “My overcoat has a shape that is the result of a curating process,” De Sarno said in an interview earlier this year. “We tested it and we chose for wearability,” referring to how he studied the textile in depth with his fabric suppliers. “At the end you see a grey coat,” he continues, “but it’s a little more than a grey coat.”

Gucci Women’s Fall ’24 Collection

“De Sarno himself would point out that you need only look closely at his designs to see that the ‘luxury’ isn’t so quiet after all. It exists in every stitch and every sleek silhouette…”

In his menswear collection for Fall 2024, De Sarno continued to build on this pragmatic design language, creating clothes that married sharp, simple silhouettes with glamorous details. Here, clean-cut suiting sat alongside unbuttoned satin shirts, chunky knitwear, elegant outerwear and touches of sparkle that only hinted at the opulence of old. In the show notes, the designer said, “It’s a story of joy, of life, of passion, of humanity, of people, of real life, of irreverent glamour, of provocation, of confidence, of simplicity, of immediate feelings and emotions, of a specific type of art, of words.” 

Gucci Men’s Fall ’24 Collection

De Sarno deciding to give both his women’s and menswear collections the titles of ‘Ancora’ is important. Meaning ‘again’ in Italian, this word points to the designer’s overarching manifesto of exploring and expressing Gucci’s heritage through a fresh lens, and of opening the brand up to a new luxury customer.

Already achieving widespread acclaim for his simple but subversive approach that breaks the rules in a wonderfully understated way, De Sarno is fast becoming known as a contemporary designer who truly recognises what people want to wear. And as his collections seem to get better with every season, it will be interesting to observe how his unique design language impacts the Gucci legacy long into the future.

Shop Our Editors’ Picks
Sabato De Sarno’s Debut Collection
Gucci Women’s Fall ’24 Collection
single breasted wool grisaille jacket from Gucci
extra fine rib cashmere knit top from Gucci
gg embossed mid-length skirt from Gucci
double-breasted long wool coat from Gucci
double-breasted wool mohair jacket from Gucci
wool mohair bermuda shorts from Gucci
cotton lace polo t-shirt from Gucci
original gg canvas jumpsuit from Gucci

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