‘Where people are sharing energies’: why Sabato de Sarno is bringing Gucci’s latest show to London

<span>‘Where aristocracy, bourgeois and artists could finally mingle together’ … rapper Little Simz in London for Gucci.</span><span>Photograph: Gucci</span>
‘Where aristocracy, bourgeois and artists could finally mingle together’ … rapper Little Simz in London for Gucci.Photograph: Gucci

An image of an early nineties Diana, Princess of Wales on the school run in a varsity jacket and midiskirt makes easy Instagram fashion fodder, but this outfit has fashion influence beyond the throw-away feed. Sabato De Sarno, the creative director of Gucci, credits outfits like this as one of his London inspirations – and part of the reason that the Italian brand will show their latest collection in the capital.

The show is set to take place at the Tate Modern on Monday night. “I have been to London countless times, mostly for work, and there are many places, people, works of art, and songs that have inspired me during my stays,” the designer says ahead of the show. “I wanted to show how the city, and people who live here, have influenced me over time.”

Part of the appeal is London’s eclectic mix. “To me, it’s a place where people are sharing energies and ideas, no matter where they are coming from,” says the designer. “More than a specific style, what fascinates me about this city is the ability to bring opposites together, to make them coexist in a unique way made of conversations and exchanges.”

De Sarno heads up a luxury brand, so it perhaps makes sense he sees Diana, an aristocrat, as an example of this distinctly London style. “[The] jacket seems to have been stolen from a wardrobe that is not hers. I like personalities that speak about something contradictory, that bring together what seems distant and make it work.” Contemporary Londoners from less well-heeled backgrounds – including Little Simz and Kate Moss – are also in the mix. They both appeared on Gucci’s social media platforms in the run-up to the show.

Gucci is a brand that feels inherently Italian – it was founded in Florence, regularly stages fashion shows in Milan and most of its products are still manufactured in Italy. But it does also have a historical connection to London. Founder Guccio Gucci, the man who gave the brand its trademark double G logo, travelled to London as a teenager, and worked as a porter at the Savoy hotel in the late nineteenth century. It was here, so the brand legend goes, that the founder learned about luggage as well, says De Sarno, as about London as a “place where aristocracy, bourgeois and artists could finally mingle together”. All of these experiences no doubt informed the foundation of Gucci, originally a luggage brand, when Guccio set it up in his native city in 1921.

De Sarno has been creative director of Gucci since 2023, taking over from Alessandro Michele. He has introduced a minimalist, more wearable aesthetic. The designer describes his time so far as “building a house, room by room, taking care of every detail. The first women’s show was an introduction to my wardrobe – the classics, in my opinion. The second a very specific idea of sensuality.” This collection, he says, will be “about romanticism, and I’m doing it in my way”.

The designer was appointed as Michele’s dressing-up box look – one so successful that revenue more than doubled between 2015 and 2022 – began to flag with consumers shifting to a quiet luxury aesthetic post-pandemic. However, De Sarno’s Gucci has yet to make an impact financially. In the first quarter of 2024, Gucci parent company Kering reported that sales of the brand had fallen by about 20%. De Sarno, and those in the boardroom, will be hoping a trip to London can help bring Gucci to life again, just as it did for Guccio all those years ago.