Gucci's Power Couple on the Future of the Brand
LIKE MANY WORKING PARENTS, Gucci's Frida Giannini and Patrizio di Marco spent a recent morning struggling to Skype with their young daughter. The transmission from their Beverly Hills hotel room froze Giannini's image, raising concerns about how 9-month-old Greta, at home with her grandmother in Rome, might regard this potentially scary picture of her mama.
'We need to figure out FaceTime,' di Marco grumbled as the couple fought off jet lag and prepared to tackle a busy A-list weekend in Los Angeles. Rarely do their duties as Gucci's creative director and chief executive require them to travel to the same city, but their schedule on this trip left little time to be alone together. The agenda included attending a film premiere with Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, as well as hosting the Art+Film Gala for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where Sting performed for a crowd that included Warren Beatty, Amy Adams and Brian Grazer. (The pop star paid homage to his hosts by announcing, 'Here I am in my new Gucci suit.')
Together, Giannini and di Marco are warm, not cuddly, and maintain a wariness that suggests they are still learning to navigate public life as a couple. Pairings between executives and designers are not unheard of in the fashion industry, yet news of the involvement between Giannini, who is Gucci's 41-year-old creative director, and di Marco, 51, the brand's chief executive, created a sensation two years ago. Facing global headlines, the couple felt obligated to pinpoint the moment their professional relationship had turned personal--during a June 2009 business trip to open a new Gucci flagship in Shanghai--and to field intimate questions about the fallout if the relationship ever soured.
It's commonly believed that two parents are good for raising a child. But it's possible that, as a couple, Giannini and di Marco are also better at steering Gucci than either would be separately. The fashion industry requires unusually close working relationships between the business and creative sides--and the frank discussions and campaigning permissible between lovers have well served other labels: Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli; Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti; and Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé are but a few examples.
Even so, the Giannini--di Marco partnership began inauspiciously. Di Marco, who insists his dream was to be a comic book artist and paint, was feeling in control and comfortable as the chief executive officer of Bottega Veneta when he was offered the top job at Gucci in 2008. He'd quit smoking and hadn't had a cigarette in four years. When François-Henri Pinault--chief executive of Kering, the luxury giant and parent company of both Gucci and Bottega Veneta--called, di Marco viewed Gucci, adrift after the departures of Domenico De Sole and Tom Ford, as a career risk. 'The first thing I did the next morning was go out and buy a pack of cigarettes,' he says. 'I was anxious.'
Di Marco wrote a 150-page document outlining his do-or-die strategy for Gucci, presenting it to Pinault during a three-hour meeting in London in July. By October, they had hammered out the details of a plan, with one vital issue unresolved. Di Marco wasn't satisfied with the products he'd seen in Gucci stores, which were packed with logo goods. Also, Giannini's collections, like her 'Flora' print revival, had sold well commercially, but they had largely failed to make fashion critics swoon. 'There was just one question mark,' he says, 'and that question mark was Frida.'
Giannini, who had worked at Fendi before joining Gucci in 2002 and taking over its creative direction in 2006, heard rumors that she could be out of a job. But, she says, 'Patrizio was the fourth CEO I'd had at the company, and I was still there, so I thought, I can survive.' Instead, she worried that he would put the brand's sexiness on ice. 'I was scared because I didn't want to go too much in the direction of Bottega Veneta. I thought, We can't lose this edgy sexiness.'
Like two lions sizing each other up, they met for the first time on October 10, 2008, in Giannini's former office in Florence. Di Marco took the train down from Milan. Giannini was expecting someone short, based on photographs she'd seen online. Di Marco, who stands more than six feet tall, found himself maneuvered onto a low couch, while Giannini towered over him on her chair. 'I thought it was on purpose,' he says. He asked to move to a table.
'We were studying each other,' Giannini says. Di Marco agrees, 'smelling each other. A bit of marking the territory. We had to come to a conclusion.'
Giannini produced a thick document detailing her collections and what she had done at the brand and her reasons. It wasn't an approach that he expected from the creative side of the business. 'I call her the most German Roman I have ever met,' di Marco says.
For eight hours, Giannini and di Marco talked and smoked, without eating, discussing logos, luxury goods and brand image. 'The office was in a cloud,' says Giannini, who took their mutual smoking as a good sign. Di Marco says he realized that much of what Giannini was designing wasn't making it into stores because the brand was pushing its logo products and not manufacturing her collections. 'She did very nice products, but they were just in the showroom, not in the stores.' By the end of the meeting, there were no sparks flying, they say. But, Giannini notes with a grin, 'When he left the room, I thought, He's quite handsome.'
On his return to Milan that evening, di Marco stopped in Modena to visit his mother. Pinault contacted him there, saying Giannini had emailed him to say the meeting went well. At the memory, he smiles.
Things heated up nine months later in Shanghai. Di Marco found himself phoning Pinault--who he often calls his 'shareholder'--to ask for a meeting in Paris. Pinault chuckles when he recalls the conversation that took place between the three of them. After explaining their involvement, di Marco offered to quit his job. Pinault batted the suggestion aside. 'My first answer, you know what? I've been working with my family for 30 years. What is the issue here?
'It's very demanding,' Pinault adds. And if things go sour, he notes, 'That's their own issue. I don't want to be involved in their private life.'
ALL THE CHATTER about Giannini and di Marco's office romance may have clouded the news of a more tectonic shift at Gucci. Take a look at any of the brand's flagship stores these days and you will witness the reincarnation of the brand's bamboo-handled bags, an array of loafers in every color, plenty of wearable daywear, even a children's collection. You will not see a pile of fabric logo products. The famous GG logo bags, so easily counterfeited, have taken a backseat to luxurious leather goods with more subtle logos--black-on-black embossed leather, for instance.
The once-flashy brand has executed a U-turn as it aims for wealthier consumers, with a focus on sensuality and its Italian heritage. This strategy has paid off, with a 17.7 percent rise in profits before interest and taxes, to $1.26 billion in 2012. Today, 72 percent of Gucci's revenues are of leather goods and shoes, says di Marco, while a few years ago 85 percent was of fabric products. The tricky part has been maintaining Gucci's sexy image throughout.
'What has been done by Patrizio and Frida was to rebalance Gucci,' says Pinault. It's only a beginning, he concedes, but notes, 'Gucci is already becoming perceived as being more luxurious than it was.'
This repositioning is essential to Pinault's plans for Kering. Before he took control of the company from his father, François Pinault, the brands of Kering (then called PPR) were left to operate autonomously, with little reliance on one another. 'We were in a format that was called a conglomerate,' says the younger Pinault. Now, he says, 'More and more we are developing brand synergies at the Kering level.'
Those synergies coalesce around Gucci, which Pinault calls 'the spine' of Kering. More than its biggest luxury brand, Gucci serves as Kering's innovation incubator. Its leather goods factory in Florence has also been used as a research laboratory for other Kering brands including Alexander McQueen, Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta. Its apparel factory in Novara creates samples and prototypes for Kering ready-to-wear lines like Stella McCartney, enabling the giant to leverage the skills of its top artisans across its luxury universe. Di Marco is one of Pinault's key players, with influence that extends beyond Gucci. He now sits on Kering's executive committee, where he may weigh in on issues impacting the company's 15 luxury brands and five sport/lifestyle brands, from Brioni to Puma.
At Gucci, di Marco has backed Giannini in taking a deep dive into the label's own Florence-based archive. Di Marco recently engineered the purchase of a financially distressed Italian porcelain maker, Richard Ginori 1735, preserving both its name and its fine artisanal methods to produce products for Gucci as well as for Ginori.
Gucci is simultaneously moving away from the vampy edge that made the company's name in the go-go '90s, when then-designer Tom Ford riveted attention on Gucci with stunt advertisements (shaving a 'G' in model Louise Pedersen's nether parts) and sending a male model down the runway in a logo G-string. Pinault and di Marco pay Ford homage for building, in Pinault's words, Gucci's 'fashion authority.'
'Gucci as a company exists because of what Tom Ford and Domenico [De Sole, then-CEO] did,' says di Marco. These days, the label is downplaying overt sexuality. Buttery silk dresses and stiletto heels suggest but don't shock. A brand film shot by Bruce Weber focuses on a pretty model kissing a foal and long shots of meadows.
It's a tricky transition. Focus groups conducted by Gucci have shown that young people have little memory of pre-Ford Gucci with its demure horse-bit loafers and Jackie bags, says di Marco. They know the brand only for its flash and GG logo and may have a harder time connecting to the new-old Gucci. Removing the high-selling cloth logo bags from stores means leaving eager customers literally empty-handed. Pinault says he is braced for revenue to take a hit in the near term--particularly after such strong growth in 2012--but that the strategy should pay off over time. 'This is deliberate,' he says. For now, Giannini's ability to create desirable bags and luxe accessories while infusing wearable clothing with decadence--a net top made of laser-cut leather appeared in her spring 2014 collection--has held the attention of the fashion world.
Gucci also recently emerged from a production overhaul, undertaken in 2004 to certify that its supply chain meets the 'SA8000' standards of the independent inspection group Bureau Veritas. The effort promotes work practices that, among other things, meet the conventions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Though it's expected to raise Gucci's public image, the move was costly. It took three years and caused Gucci to sever ties with a number of its longtime suppliers in Italy. 'You can have your own Bangladesh in Italy: Workers working over weekends; cots in factories. We had to make a lot of changes,' says di Marco. 'We respect every law. That's a big statement I'm making.'
Giannini has also stepped beyond the confines of her design studio, pursuing a scale of philanthropic activity that is unusual for designers. Gucci has become one of the biggest corporate donors to Unicef's Schools for Africa program (cofounded by the Nelson Mandela Foundation), paying nearly $15 million to build schools and cover pupils' fees. It has paid another $3 million for HIV/AIDS relief and disaster response initiatives, according to Unicef. Caryl Stern, president and chief executive of the U.S. Fund for Unicef, says Giannini has been so hands-on that the two have become friends, noting that she doesn't believe their philanthropy is just part of a marketing strategy. 'Nowhere do you see 'brought to you by Gucci,' ' she says. 'What you see is schools and no school fees.'
Giannini herself conceived of Chime for Change, a global campaign for girls' and women's empowerment that launched last February and was celebrated with a June concert at London's Twickenham Stadium. The concert was headlined by Beyoncé, Florence Welch, Jennifer Lopez and Mary J. Blige. Violence against women is a particular concern in Italy, where the disturbing trend of women assaulted by husbands and boyfriends has been making headlines. 'In the south of Italy, it's like the Middle Ages,' says Giannini, who grew up in a Roman household that her parents agree was a matriarchy.
GIANNINI ADMITS THAT when she first came up with the idea behind Chime--as 'a new Live Aid, but for women'--in the spring of 2012, the timing was terrible. 'Chime for Change was the worst timing for myself,' she says. 'I started talking about it, and then I learned I was pregnant.'
Like their relationship, Giannini and di Marco kept her pregnancy secret until she was so obviously with child that a colleague confronted her at work. This moment was inadvertently captured by a documentary film crew--Giannini forgot she was wearing a microphone--and can be witnessed in The Director: An Evolution in Three Acts, which follows Giannini through two fashion seasons as she designs and shows her collections. The film was produced by James Franco, the actor, who is also a paid model for Gucci.
Franco says the intimacy was a hard-earned moment in the film, which took 18 months rather than the three months he'd anticipated. 'In fashion, they're used to controlling their image,' Franco says. 'They're used to overanalyzing everything they put out. Getting used to the camera is a hurdle for everyone. It just took them longer than most.'
The actress Salma Hayek Pinault, whose daughter Valentina Pinault is 6, shared mothering tips with Giannini before she was prepared for some of the grittier aspects of child rearing. 'She was giving me a lot of advice about breastfeeding, and I was looking at her like she was a space alien,' says Giannini. 'Because before you have experienced it, you don't know.
'Salma said, 'You know, if the baby has an ear infection, the milk is the best thing for healing--in the ear.' I was like--what?!'
'Ha,' says Hayek Pinault, who is married to Franciois-Henri Pinault. 'She was a mother before she had a child.' Giannini's large belly preceded her onto the runway the following February as she presented her fall 2013 collection. Greta arrived 10 days later.
In September, Giannini took another runway bow for her women's spring 2014 collection--donning skinny black leather pants just six months after giving birth. Yet she says motherhood has had an impact in invisible ways. 'I feel myself more balanced as a person,' Giannini says. 'I am more calm. She changed my interior balance.'
In addition to a nanny, Giannini's mother, Sandra Vellani, an art history teacher, takes care of Greta, and Giannini jokes that her mother looks forward to her departures ('When are you leaving?') so that she can have the baby to herself. During the trip to L.A. in November, with Greta back in Rome, Giannini decided to go shopping. She stopped by Poppy Store, a trendy children's shop in the Brentwood Country Mart. 'Two hours free,' she says. 'And what did I do? I went shopping for Greta. Nothing for me. That's the first time.'
With the constant travel demands of the job, Giannini and di Marco spend only eight or ten days together each month and find themselves calling each other's assistants to make appointments to meet. They try not to have difficult conversations on the phone, which might end with someone unhappy and alone in a hotel room. 'Because when you have a phone call that's bad, it's really bad,' he says.
One might say that disagreements are predictable for two strong-minded professionals whose first meeting became an eight-hour negotiation. Though they aren't married, the two concede it's difficult to live with one's work partner. They sometimes take sticky problems home, where discussions can turn into arguments. 'She's like a river of words that goes on for three hours,' says di Marco. He says he listens and waits for his turn. 'And then I say, 'Okay, now...' And she says, 'No, no, I'm too tired.' '
Giannini nods. 'Usually, when I've had enough, I leave the room,' she says.
Di Marco wears a simple platinum ring on his pinky--a gift from Giannini. The executive's eyes moisten as he holds it out to reveal the inscription inside, which is a date. It isn't the anniversary of their tryst in Shanghai, nor the birth of their daughter. The ring is inscribed with the date of that meeting where she relegated him to the short couch: 10/10/2008.
最近的某个早上，像许多上班族家长一样，古驰公司(Gucci)的弗里达·贾娜妮(Frida Giannini)和帕特里奇奥·迪马尔科(Patrizio di Marco)试图通过Skype和他们年幼的女儿通话。从他们在贝弗利山庄酒店房间里传出的信号定格了贾娜妮的影像，引发了这样的担心：与外婆一起呆在罗马家中的九个月大的格蕾塔(Greta)会如何看待她妈妈这张可能有些吓人的画面。
迪马尔科说：“我们需要搞懂怎么用FaceTime。”这对情侣当时正不顾时差、准备应对在洛杉矶的一个繁忙又重要的周末。身为古驰公司的创意总监与首席执行长，他们的职责很少要求两人到同一个城市出差，但这次行程的时间表并没有给他们留出多少单独在一起的时间。他们的日程包括与马丁·斯柯塞斯(Martin Scorsese)和莱昂纳多·迪卡普里奥(Leonardo DiCaprio)一道出席一场电影首映式以及为洛杉矶县艺术博物馆(Los Angeles County Museum of Art)主持艺术和电影盛典(Art+Film Gala)，出席盛典的嘉宾包括沃伦·贝蒂(Warren Beatty)、埃米·亚当斯(Amy Adams)和布莱恩·格雷泽(Brian Grazer)，斯汀(Sting)在现场演唱了歌曲。（这位流行音乐巨星向主持人致意时宣布：“我今天穿了新的古驰西装来这儿。”）
人们普遍认为，双亲共同努力只有在养育孩子这个问题上是有益的。但贾娜妮和迪马尔科以情侣身份共同执掌古驰很可能也要比其中一人单打独斗更好。时装行业要求商业和创意双方之间建立无比亲密的工作关系——爱人之间的坦率讨论以及在许可范围内发起的活动都会给品牌带来好处，这在其他一些品牌身上已经得到了验证：缪西娅·普拉达(Miuccia Prada)和帕特里奇奥·贝尔泰利(Patrizio Bertelli)、瓦伦蒂诺·加拉瓦尼(Valentino Garavani)和詹卡洛·贾梅蒂(Giancarlo Giammetti)、以及伊夫· 洛朗(Yves Saint Laurent)和皮埃尔·贝尔热(Pierre Berge)不过是其中的少数几例。
尽管如此，贾娜妮-迪马尔科搭档开始并不顺利。坚持认为自己的梦想是当漫画家、从事绘画的迪马尔科2008年被委以古驰公司最高职位，当时他是宝缇嘉公司(Bottega Veneta)的首席执行长，感觉自己对公司的掌控如鱼得水。他当时已经戒烟，四年没有抽过一根烟。当弗朗索瓦-亨利·皮诺(Francois-Henri Pinault)——奢侈品巨头、古驰和宝缇嘉的母公司开云集团(Kering)的首席执行长——打来电话时，迪马尔科认为古驰在多梅尼科·德索莱(Domenico De Sole)和汤姆·福特(Tom Ford)去职后就处在风雨飘摇之中，对于自己的事业来说是个风险。他说：“第二天早上我做的第一件事就是出去买了一包烟。我忧心忡忡。”
那些协同效应是围绕古驰（皮诺称其为开云的“脊梁”）进行的合并重组。古驰不仅仅是开云集团最大的奢侈品牌，它还充当了开云集团的创新孵化器。古驰在佛罗伦萨的皮具工厂也被用作开云所属其它品牌的研究实验室，其中包括亚历山大·麦昆(Alexander McQueen)、 罗兰(Saint Laurent)和宝缇嘉。古驰在诺瓦拉(Novara)的服装工厂为开云下属的斯特拉·麦卡特尼(Stella McCartney)等成品系列创作样品和原型，让这个时尚巨头能够在它的奢侈品世界中利用上它那些顶级工匠的技术。迪马尔科是皮诺团队里的关键选手之一，其影响力延伸到了古驰之外。他现在坐上了开云执行委员会的交椅，在这里他可以对影响到公司15个奢侈品牌以及包括布里奥尼(Brioni)和彪马(Puma)在内的五个运动/生活品牌的事务发表自己的意见。
在古驰公司，迪马尔科支持贾娜妮全身心投入到该品牌自己在佛罗伦萨的档案馆建设之中。迪马尔科最近策划了对意大利一家财务陷入困境的陶瓷制造商理查德·基诺里(Richard Ginori 1735)的收购，使该品牌的名称和它为古驰及基诺里公司所生产产品的精美工艺得以保留了下来。
形象转变是很不好处理的问题。迪马尔科说，由古驰发起的关注群体调查显示，年轻人对福特之前古驰端庄的马衔扣乐福鞋(horse-bit loafers)和贾姬包(Jackie bag)没有什么记忆。他们只知道这个品牌奢华的外表和它的GG标识，可能很难将新旧古驰联系起来。从店铺撤走销量很高的印有古驰标识的布包意味着让满心希望买到东西的顾客差不多空手而归。皮诺说他已做好了收入在短期内受挫的准备——尤其是在2012年那么强劲的增长之后——但是随着时间的推移，这项策略应该会收到成效。他说：“这是深谋远虑。”眼下，贾娜妮在把颓废派风格——一款由激光切割的皮革做成的网眼外套出现了在她的2014春装设计展中——注入可穿戴服装的同时，设计极具吸引力的包袋和华美的配饰的能力也已经引起了时尚界的注意。
古驰最近还顺利通过了一项生产彻查，2004年进行的这项检查旨在证明它的供应链可以满足独立检验机构必维国际检验集团(Bureau Veritas)的“SA8000”标准。这项措施在实现各种好处之余，还促进了工作的实际履行，使其符合《世界人权宣言》(the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)和《联合国儿童权利公约》(UN Convention on the Rights of the Child)的约定。虽然这项举动可望提高古驰的公众形象，但它的代价也很高昂。活动耗时三年，致使古驰与它在意大利的很多长期供应商断绝了关系。迪马尔科说：“在意大利你自己身上也可能有发生在孟加拉的那些情况：工人周末加班；工厂里安放有行军床。我们必须做出很多改变。我们遵守每一条法律，这是我发出的郑重声明。”
贾娜妮也突破了设计室的禁锢，从事对设计师来说很不寻常的慈善活动。古驰已经成为联合国儿童基金会学校(Unicef's Schools)非洲项目（与纳尔逊·曼德拉基金会(Nelson Mandela Foundation)共同创办）的最大企业捐赠者之一，认捐了近1,500万美元（约合人民币9,080万元）用于修建学校和负担学生的费用。据联合国儿童基金会透露，古驰另外还捐赠了300万美元（约合人民币1,815万元）用于艾滋病病毒感染者/艾滋病人的援助和救灾行动。联合国儿童基金会美国基金分会(U.S. Fund for Unicef)的总裁兼首席执行长卡里尔·斯特恩(Caryl Stern)说，贾娜妮事事都那么亲力亲为，以致她们两人已经成为了朋友。她还指出，她不认为他们的慈善行为只是营销策略的一部分。她说：“无论在哪儿你都看不见‘古驰赠与’的字样。你看到的就是学校和免费入学的情形。”
贾娜妮亲自构想了希望响钟(Chime for Change)活动，这是一场去年二月发起、为女童和妇女争取权益的全球运动，并于去年六月在伦敦的特威肯纳姆体育场(Twickenham Stadium)举办了音乐会。音乐会由碧昂斯(Beyonce)、弗洛伦斯·韦尔奇(Florence Welch)、詹妮弗·洛佩兹(Jennifer Lopez)和玛丽·J·布莱姬(Mary J. Blige)领衔担纲。针对妇女的暴力行为在意大利是一个特别让人关注的话题，妇女遭到丈夫和男朋友殴打这一令人不安的趋势屡见报端。贾娜妮说：“在意大利南部，情况宛如中世纪。”她生长在一个父母双方都认同的女家长制罗马家庭。
就像当初处理他们之间的关系那样，贾娜妮和迪马尔科没有透露她怀孕的消息，直到她怀有身孕的体态实在太明显，一个同事上班时当面说穿了这事。那一时刻无意中被一个纪录片摄制组捕捉到——贾娜妮忘了自己戴着一个麦克风——并且可以在《Gucci王国的变革》(The Director: An Evolution in Three Acts)一片中看到。这部纪录片跟踪记录了贾娜妮在两个时尚季里设计和展示她作品的过程。担任该片制片人的是演员詹姆斯·佛朗哥(James Franco)，他同时也是古驰雇用的一名模特。
演员萨尔玛·海耶克·皮诺(Salma Hayek Pinault，她的女儿瓦伦蒂娜·皮诺(Valentina Pinault)六岁)在贾娜妮尚未准备好勇敢面对养育孩子的一些事情时把她的育儿经讲给贾娜妮听。贾娜妮说：“她给了我很多有关母乳喂养的建议，我看着她，好像她是一个外星人，因为你在亲身经历之前什么都不懂。”
除了一名保姆之外，贾娜妮的母亲桑德拉·韦拉尼(Sandra Vellani，一名艺术史教师)也在照料格蕾塔。贾娜妮开玩笑说，她母亲盼着她出差（“你什么时候出差？”），这样孩子就可以完全归她了。11月到洛杉矶出差期间（格蕾塔留在罗马的家中），贾娜妮决定出去购物。她走到波比商店(Poppy Store)时便驻足不前了，这是布伦特伍德乡村集市(Brentwood Country Mart)上一家时尚的儿童商店。她说：“两个小时的闲暇时间，我都做了些什么？我去给格蕾塔买东西了，没给自己买一丁点儿。那样的事还是头一回。”