Why Gucci Owns Gen Z and Millennials

How an old fashion house became the brand of choice for young consumers.

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It’s Halloween night in 2013. You’re in lower Manhattan. You drunkenly stumble past a dude with with this ridiculous bedsheet over his head, two holes cut out for the eyes, and double G’s painted on the front. He goes by the name: Gucci Ghost.

You don’t think much of it. Actually, you forget about it.

But the Gucci Ghost didn’t.

He was taken by how much people loved his statement of wearing that bedsheet on halloween that he wanted to explore it more. So, he started collecting antiques, worn out objects, anything he could get his hands on, and transformed an old Brooklyn space into a creative studio. Better yet, a Gucci universe. He’d take old furniture and graffiti or paint over it with his own expressions about the way he saw Gucci.

Eventually, actual Gucci gets wind of things. And they promptly send him a cease & desist letter. Right?… WRONG!

The creative director, Alessandro Michele, calls up Gucci Ghost and invites him to Rome, saying they want to discuss a design collab with him. The rest is history.

And that’s the beauty behind Gucci.

Last year, the business told Fast Company that in 2018, 62% of more than $8 billion in sales came from those under-35.

62%? How is that possible for a traditional, luxury fashion house founded in 1921 to have such a strong presence with the youth?

The CEO claimed that it’s a blend of art and science. It’s everything from an investment in quality backend technology (eComm, supply chain), to crafting a thoughtful presence on social media, to the new design direction they’ve implemented.

The idea is that when you remove unneeded cognitive load from young shoppers, they can have a more seamless shopping experience and connection to the brand.

But ultimately, there’s something (or, someone, rather) behind all this that’s the linchpin to Gucci’s emergence into the modern spotlight.

That someone is Alessandro Michele, its creative director. The chosen one.

Imagine if Jesus made a baby with Jared Leto. You’re welcome.

Michele became Gucci’s interim CD in 2015, and since that day he’s evolved the brand dramatically. He’s taken it from your mom has a Gucci clutch buried somewhere, to your kid rocks Gucci slippers to school.

Or fanny packs.

Or chunky sneaks.

It’s remarkable. Gucci went from being just another European design house, to reimagining what it looks like to be luxury for young folks in 2020. They take opulence and inject it with fun, color, and cultural relevance.

Gucci is Michele’s creative playground, pushing boundaries with every decision.

Gucci’s blend of artistry and disrespect

His collabs reflect a mix of two things:

  1. a love for artistry, and

  2. a blatant disrespect towards the rules and authority that guides old fashion.

In 4 years, he’s teamed up with Coco Capitán, Major League Baseball, Dapper Dan, Gucci Ghost, and Disney. DISNEY!

Here’s a sampling of some of the work that came out of these collabs:

Rather than telling you what good design is, part of the shift he emulates as a modern CD is to draw from other creative minds, letting their self-expression guide the brand.

My favorite example of this is the work he’s done with Gucci Ghost. If anything, Michele simply enabled his creativity to have wider distribution. He gave Gucci Ghost the platform to showcase what was already there.

And the work really shows:

Gucci off the Grid

This year, the company launched a shift in how the business (and its parent company, Kering) approaches sustainability. What you get is a collection of broken down, recycled materials that are made into things like windbreakers, bucket hats, sneakers.

It’s Gucci’s effort to reshape how and where they source materials for products (which currently contains a lot of synthetic fabrics), aiming to reduce their carbon footprint, and being more socially responsible. This is becoming a huge issue for younger shoppers, and they’re more conscious of it than ever.

And who did they get to model their debut sustainable collection?

Lil Nas X.


Masculine e Feminine

Is Gucci masculine or feminine? The lines are blurred.

And that’s the way they want it. Michele is vocal about the nuance behind what makes clothing (and people) masculine and feminine. He wants Gucci to be a celebration of the qualities that he believes exist in every human.

It’s part of the reason he and Harry Styles have creative synergy. In short, Harry ain’t afraid to wear a dress.

In all seriousness, where there was once defined rules around what men and women are supposed to wear, Harry is dissolving that norm.

Wrapping things up

Michele has taken the rules and drawn all over them (sometimes, literally). He’s brings innovation to an old guard fashion house and is doing what most wouldn’t dare try and do.

In my view, this is what proper creative direction looks like.

He invites others into the bigger picture. He lets them have a say. For young consumers, buying Gucci isn’t all about exclusivity. It’s about self-expression too.

So, there you go. That’s why Gucci is cool.