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As Gucci’s CEO Steps Down, Saint Laurent’s Chief Steps Up

Marco Bizzarri led the Italian luxury giant through a historic expansion before the business struggled to bounce back from the pandemic. Parent company Kering announced the move as part of a broader executive shakeup after which Saint Laurent CEO Francesca Bellettini will oversee all the group’s brands.
Marco Bizzarri, Gucci’s CEO since 2015, is set to exit Italy’s biggest fashion brand.
At Kering, Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri is stepping down as Saint Laurent chief Francesca Bellettini prepares to oversee all of the group’s brands. (Getty Images)

Marco Bizzarri, Gucci’s CEO since 2015, is set to exit Italy’s biggest fashion brand. Parent company Kering’s managing director Jean-François Palus will take the reins for a transitional period from September, the group said Tuesday.

Bizzarri led the brand through a period of exponential growth in revenue and profits alongside creative director Alessandro Michele, who exited the house last November.

Together, Bizzarri and Michele pushed through a radical reinvention of Gucci’s product offering, piling on a maximalist, magpie mashup of brand signatures to “Gucci-fy” items ranging from casual wardrobe staples like chunky sneakers and graphic tees to $2,000 handbags. Gucci’s stores, campaigns and social media all fell in line with the revamp, allowing the brand to maximise the visibility of its exuberant message.

The results were historic: from 2015 to 2019, Gucci’s revenues roughly doubled while profits quadrupled — at one point putting the label within swatting distance of sector leader Louis Vuitton.

But Gucci took a harder hit during the pandemic than mega-brand peers like LVMH’s Vuitton and Dior, then struggled to bounce back, in part due to its high dependence on travelling shoppers and aspirational luxury consumers who broadly bought into Michele’s vision.

By the end of 2022, Gucci had returned to growth, surpassing pre-pandemic revenue levels. But the brand was slow to seduce new customers even as it reinforced its offer with more understated, high-end pieces and emphasised its heritage through initiatives like a monogram luggage program fronted by Ryan Gosling, changes aimed at reducing Gucci’s dependence on Michele’s aesthetic, which was losing traction with many customers, and build a more stable brand platform.

A Broader Shakeup

Kering announced Bizzarri’s departure as part of a broader shakeup in its executive ranks: Saint Laurent CEO Francesca Bellettini has been promoted to Kering deputy CEO, with all brand CEOs reporting to her, in addition to her current role. Chief financial officer Jean-Marc Duplaix has also been promoted to deputy CEO for finance and operations.

The moves come as Kering positions itself to navigate a new phase of more moderate growth for the fashion industry following a post-pandemic boom. While the group’s fast and loud aesthetic overhauls (deployed at Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta in addition to Gucci) helped Kering to outgrow rivals before the pandemic, customers have since flocked to brands that have prioritised more stable identities and iconic carry-over products. Hermès, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton have been able to grow sales volumes despite implementing steep price hikes thanks largely to unwavering appeal for their flagship items.

Gucci’s gap with rivals suggests that the strategy that took the brand’s annual revenues from 3.5 billion euros to 10 billion euros may no longer make sense going forward.

By elevating Saint Laurent chief Bellettini as well, Kering is signalling a shift to a more steady approach to managing its brands. Saint Laurent has grown revenues six-fold since Bellettini’s 2013 appointment with a strict approach to managing inventories and distribution (cutting out wholesale and discounting) and a brand building strategy that was more about aesthetic evolution than revolution.

The management shakeup comes as Kering seeks to win back the confidence of investors: the group’s shares are trading roughly in line with their price 5 years ago, while LVMH’s valuation has nearly tripled over the same period.

While some investors may buy into the upside potential of a leadership change, flagship brand Gucci will now need to juggle a CEO transition at the same time as landing a major creative revamp. New designer Sabato de Sarno, a longtime deputy of Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino, is set to show his debut collection for the brand in September — and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Further Reading

Luxury’s biggest pre-pandemic success story is reinforcing its high-end credentials as it works to transition from an era of fashion-driven ‘reinvention’ to a new chapter of ‘sustainable elevation.’

Gucci’s sales dropped 15 percent during the fourth-quarter while scandal-mired Balenciaga also stalled. Still, shares rose as investors rallied behind a bullish outlook for China.

CEO Francesca Bellettini breaks down how she worked with designer Anthony Vaccarello to more than double sales in 5 years, leaning into an amped-up take on Parisian glamour, seasonless merchandising and rapid expansion in leather goods.

About the author
Robert Williams
Robert Williams

Robert Williams is Luxury Editor at the Business of Fashion. He is based in Paris and drives BoF’s coverage of the dynamic luxury fashion sector.

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