Gucci, one of the most storied names in global fashion, has a new designer at its helm: Sabato De Sarno.
Mr. De Sarno, currently the fashion director of men’s and women’s ready-to-wear at Valentino, was unveiled on Saturday by the French luxury group Kering as the new creative director at its marquee brand. The move comes two months after the surprise departure of Alessandro Michele, who had been in that top job since 2015.
After several months of speculation, the hire of an Italian who is relatively unknown outside fashion to lead one of Italy’s heritage names is in line with recent industry trends, which have prioritized cultivating a new generation of talent rather than buying up an already-established famous fashion name.
The financial stakes for Kering are considerable. Gucci accounted for two-thirds of the group’s profits in 2021 and brought in almost 10 billion euros, or nearly $10.9 billion, in revenue. But after years of stellar sales powered by the vision of Mr. Michele — one of kooky inclusivity that embodied a wider cultural conversation around gender, sexual identity and race — momentum had started to slow. In November, he abruptly left the brand.
The aim for Gucci now is to evolve from being a fashion-driven brand to becoming a more “timeless” luxury brand, along the lines of Louis Vuitton and Hermès, which have both continued to grow despite economic instability caused by the coronavirus pandemic across the world.
Already, marketing initiatives, like a recent campaign for the Jackie 1961 handbag starring the actress Dakota Johnson, have framed the brand’s products as classic rather than the kind of quirky, funky products synonymous with Mr. Michele.
The hire of Mr. De Sarno — who under Pierpaolo Piccioli has helped steer Valentino in an elegant yet commercial direction beloved by fashion purists — underscores the about-face in approach. At a time when the industry is being compelled more than ever to think about inclusivity, his arrival is also a vote for familiarity, not diversity.
Born in Naples, in southern Italy, Mr. De Sarno, an industry veteran, worked in the design studios of Prada and Dolce & Gabbana before joining Valentino in 2009.
In a statement from Kering on Saturday, Gucci’s chief executive, Marco Bizzarri, said that Mr. De Sarno brought with him “a vast and relevant experience” and “distinctive vision that will help write this exciting next chapter.”
According to the statement, Mr. De Sarno said that he was “deeply honored” to take on the role. His first show will be at Milan Women’s Fashion Week in September.