How Gucci ruled 2016

These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a fashion insider or enthusiast who’s not a fan of Gucci’s Alessandro Michele — which is a rarity of anyone or anything in the industry, especially those that just popped onto the scene. (Look at the prevalent attitude toward new technology in general and bloggers in particular.)

Maybe it’s because they know that, in the traditional sense, Michele has paid his dues — before being appointed creative director in January 2015, he worked for Gucci for 14 years, most recently as head of accessories. Or maybe there’s no denying that he’s the creative genius he’s constantly portrayed to be.

This year, his designs — which alone have shifted the dominant fashion aesthetic from stark and minimalist to “more is more” — earned him rave reviews, fans for life, and top awards from the most prestigious councils. They were part of pop culture’s most iconic moments — and they changed the vibe of Gucci by Tom Ford–era proportions. In turn, the brand kept up by maintaining social channels and an e-commerce site that showcased them beautifully.

As a result, Gucci sales have increased by double digits since January. For a closer look at the brand’s eventful, standout year, we decided to break it down. Consider this your month-by-month guide to what it takes to reach it-brand status.

Just shy of a year after his first Gucci runway show, Alessandro Michele debuts his Menswear Fall 2016 collection in Milan. Like his previous menswear lineups, it’s ’70s and feminine — themes that have spread like wildfire to menswear collections this season — yet it’s comparatively bolder, hinting that Michele has a newfound comfort level in his role. (“Some grumbled that it was more of the same, but that was precisely the point. More!” Tim Blanks reported for Business of Fashion.) His fearless attitude is echoed in his new Spring 2016 campaign video, inspired by a movie based on Berlin’s drug underground.

Beyoncé releases the video for “Formation,” which features multiple looks from the Gucci Spring 2016 collection; Lady Gaga works a red Gucci suit to sing the National Anthem at the Superbowl; Jared Leto and Brie Larson choose Gucci for the Oscars — and that’s just the start of it. The Gucci Ready-to-Wear Fall 2016 collection — featuring the work of famed graffiti artist GucciGhost (aka Trevor Andrew) — drops in Milan to much praise and excitement.

February 6: Beyonce releases her “Formation” music video,
which features multiple looks from Gucci’s Spring 2016 collection

“That show was one of those moments in fashion that I will always remember,” said Sarah Stallmann, a fashion editor and stylist who commemorated the event by getting a GucciGhost tattoo. “It has been a bonding experience for my friends and I to follow [Michele’s Gucci]. We send each other screenshots of its Instagram Stories with dramatic text captions, a lot of emojis and far too many exclamation points. To have that kind of connection with a brand and what it represents is really what fashion is all about.”

Gucci announces that it will create Michele muse Florence Welch’s looks for the Florence and the Machine “How Beautiful” tour launching in May. Weeks later, it debuts its Pre-Fall 2016 campaign video lensed by Glen Luchford, which centers on flora, fauna and models decked out in fantastical prints and fur slippers. “In this chaotic and cluttered wonderland, more is definitely more,” states the press release.

March 29: Gucci’s teases its Pre-Fall 2016 campaign video, shot by Glen Luchford

Gucci launches a trend and takes gender fluidity to the next level by announcing plans to combine its menswear and womenswear shows staring with its Fall 2017 collections. Later, Kering — Gucci’s parent company — announces that Gucci saw a 3.1 percent increase in sales in the first quarter of 2016. At that point, only about half of its available merch was the work of Michele.

The brand has a large presence at the “Manus x Machina”–themed Met Gala — Michele attends with Welch and poses with other Gucci-clad attendees including Dakota Johnson and Charlotte Casiraghi. At the Cannes Film Festival, Kirsten Dunst has a red carpet moment in a pale pink gown with red flower appliques. A bit later in the month, Michele takes his 87-piece English–inspired Menswear Cruise 2017 collection to London’s Westminster Abbey. Upon review of the presentation, GQ describes the collection as “absolutely bonkers in the best way.”

Michele’s Ready-to-Wear Resort 2017 runway show picked up where the boys left off: In the confines of Westminster Abbey. The location was chosen for its “punk, eccentric and eccentric” feel, which mirrored the featured clothes. The Menswear Spring 2017 collection debuted soon after, in Milan. Among the included looks was a knee-length green coat paired with cropped pink pants. Jared Leto may or may not have had a love-at-first sight moment when he saw it, but he was at the show — and he did wear it to the “Suicide Squad” premiere in London.

Gucci launches a Pre-Fall 2016 campaign video directed by Sofia Coppola and also Gucci DIY, a service that lets customers customize its bags with monograms, patches and more. At the CFDAs, Michele takes home the prestigious International Award “for his creative contribution to the international fashion stage.”

June 20:Trevor Andrew posts an Instagram photo
featuring Jared Leto at the Gucci Menswear Spring 2017 show

Gucci uses Snapchat Storytelling to launch its #24HourAce campaign: 24 artists who created 60-second films inspired by Gucci’s famed Ace shoe have the opportunity to take over the brand’s Snapchat for an hour to promote their piece. Also, 2016 first-half earnings are announced, revealing the first “tangible” results of Gucci’s rebranding: In the three months ending on June 30, comparable sales increased by 7 percent.

The brand debuts its ad campaign for the Gucci Guilty fragrance, featuring Jared Leto and a model naked in a tub. Thanks to Leto taking over Gucci’s Snapchat during its shoot in December and Gucci launching a corresponding #GuiltyNotGuilty hashtag, the campaign saw more than 400 million impressions before its release.

Michele takes home the Designer of the Year award at the GQ Men of the Year Awards. “I received a lot of awards this year,” Michele says. “It’s kind of a joke.” Many theorize that his flashy Ready-to-Wear Spring 2017 collection that debuts soon after is inspired by Elton John, who presented him with the award. In addition, Michelle Obama wears a Gucci on “The Ellen Degeneres Show,” and Tom Hiddleston and Vanessa Redgrave are named faces of the brand.

Melania Trump stirs up much press by wearing a Gucci pussy-bow blouse to the October 10 presidential debate that many theorize is directly tied to Trump’s widely reported “grab them by the pussy” comment the same week. Third-quarter earnings reveal Gucci’s first double-digit sales growth since 2012: 17 percent, 50 percent of which came from online sales.

October 10: Melania Trump wears a Gucci pussy-bow blouse to the presidential debate

The 2016 L2 Digital IQ Index is released, proclaiming Gucci the year’s digital leader in the luxury space. The report highlights its successful e-commerce, digital marketing and social media initiatives, as well as its smart investments in shoppable style guides and lookbooks.

“In 2016, Gucci presented an array of intelligent investments that enhance the overall digital aptitude of the brand and present a strong base for future success,” said Amay Makhija, a research associate at L2. Building on its digital-centric reputation, it releases a holiday campaign via a “Gucci Garden” video that references the Garden of Eden.

Gucci is nominated for British Fashion Awards: International Business Leader (Marco Bizzarri), International Accessories Designer and International Ready-to-Wear Designer (both Michele). Three wins at today’s event would make for a fitting ending to Gucci’s year of domination.

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