Ready to set sail?
Oversized cross-body duffles inspired by a sailor’s sack to reimmagined horsebit loafers, a look at the key accessories from the Gucci Men’s Spring – Summer 2015 runway collection.
It was all aboard the HMS Gucci in Milan on Monday as the Italian brand showed a collection based around that menswear summer perennial: nautical style.
All the tropes were there – and the characters. A naval captain came out first wearing a crisp cream suit jacket with braiding on the cuffs to denote his rank. The style appeared throughout the collection for spring/summer 2015 – also in red, and a teal green.
The pirate got a showing in stripes on suits and longer shirts and Jack Sparrow-worthy necklaces of shells, while double-breasted blazers and gold buttons on trousers and macs made reference to the yacht club.
There was the sailor coming into port with wide-legged trousers buttoned at the side and oversized duffel bags suitable for months at sea. But it was what could be called first mate style that was most successful. The red boat-necked sweater paired with paint-splattered jeans looked laid back and wearable – even for landlubbers. The clothes were more subtle and all the better for it.
Picking a classic, foolproof seasonal theme is a departure from recent menswear collections from creative director Frida Giannini, which have seen hints of a more experimental approach.
Highlights have included the floral and sportswear hybrid for spring/summer 2014, a collection that got the brand on the radar of younger consumers, and autumn/winter's take on 1960s style, which looked set to do the same.
Spring's collection, by contrast, felt more cautious and pitched to an established customer, who is more interested in twists on classics from their favoured brand rather than a new aesthetic. Perhaps, in reality, the Gucci man likes his luxury a bit more old school. A nautical theme – jet set, traditional, classic – ticks all those boxes.
This change in direction may simply be driven by sales. Last year, Gucci had the slowest sales growth since 2010 – with like-for-like revenues up only 0.2% from the previous year in the final quarter.
That modest growth is in stark contrast to other brands in the Kering group that Gucci is part of – Bottega Veneta and Saint Laurent are thriving. Saint Laurent enjoyed a 42% increase in the same period, while Bottega Veneta was up 13.4%.
The strategy for a revival of Gucci's status is centred on giving it the air of exclusivity that Saint Laurent design director, Hedi Slimane, has cultivated since joining in 2012. Prices will be raised and the number of outlets selling the brand are set to be reduced.
The Emporio Armani show also took place on Monday. Based on the idea of an urban wardrobe, graphic lines covered sporty outerwear including zip-up jackets and parkas and backpacks – with some patterns resembling the bold monochrome of 1960s pop art.
The sweatshirt, a favoured piece for fashion at the moment, was given the Armani treatment with crisp black squares on white. The signature Armani suit – arguably the bread and butter of this Milan stalwart – was tweaked too. For spring, it comes in a one-button incarnation, a fitted jacket and looser-fit trousers, worn with a skate shoe or zip-up boot. Small and subtle changes, just enough each season, is the Armani take on fashion.
• This article was amended on 24 June 2014 to correct the term "land lovers" to "landlubbers". It also initially referred to "frocking on the cuffs to denote his rank". Frocking is a US military term related to personnel promotions, but the bands around uniform sleeves are generally referred to as braiding. This has been corrected.
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