Sabato De Sarno has been named Gucci’s new creative director following Alessandro Michele’s exit in November last year, and he’s about to step onto a rickety catwalk.
François-Henri Pinault’s conglomerate Kering on Saturday picked the 39-year-old from smaller fashion house Valentino to lead its most prominent brand.
De Sarno said in a statement from Vogue, “I am proud to join a house with such an extraordinary history and heritage that, over the years, has been able to welcome and cherish values I believe in.”
Previously, Gucci sales shot up to nearly 10 billion euros in 2019 with Michele’s bold and daring designs, which he applied lavishly on anything from shirts to sneakers. But at around 10.5 billion euros in 2022, Gucci sales are expected to have risen only 10% since then.
Meanwhile, sales at rival Louis Vuitton, owned by LVMH, skyrocketed to almost 60% at about €20 billion and nearly throttled at now similarly-sized Dior, according to Reuters’ Breakingviews calculations on estimates from Jefferies and HSBC.
The catch is that with De Sarno’s handle on the luxury brand, investors will have to wait to figure out whether a relatively lower-profile industry figure can revive Gucci to its former glory and bolster €69 billion Kering’s depressed valuation.
Ex-creative director Michele, who was similarly unheralded when he emerged from Gucci’s inner ranks in 2015, created his first collection in just five days. However, De Sarno’s debut collection isn’t due until September this year.
The Gucci house remains desirable as one of the top luxury brands in 2022. It was the most searched on social media and shopping apps from the quarter to September, according to fashion technology company Lyst.
If the new creative head De Sarno can temper some of Michele’s fashion excesses while keeping Gucci exciting, the 33% discount Kering trades relative to rival LVMH on expected earnings multiple bases could shrink. But until then, he has some big shoes to fill.