Marco Bizzarri explique l’importance de son logo pour la marque Gucci

THE GEE GEE’S IN CONCERT

Marco Bizzarri explains what the logo means to Gucci

At a recent conference in Versailles, Gucci's CEO set out his view on logos - unsurprisingly he believes they are not over - as well as his new vision for the luxury fashion house's identity. K reports.

Is the logo really over? was the question posed at a session of the New York Times international luxury conference in Versailles in April (postponed from last November following the Paris attacks). "No, but..." was the answer, according to keynote speaker Marco Bizzarri, chief executive of Gucci.

Marco Bizzarri explique l’importance de son logo pour la marque Gucci

You might think that the former CEO of Bottega Veneta, whose slogan was once 'when your own initials are enough', would be keen to play down the importance of emblems or symbols.

Before answering the question in full, however, he wanted to take us on a journey – of desire. First of all, he wanted to make the point that over the last 14 months, since he took over and promoted Alessandro Michele to creative director of the brand, that identity is an evolving process, not a frozen image rooted in some mythical past. "We honour our history without allowing it to suffocate us."

We honour our history without allowing it to suffocate us.

One of his initial decisions when he became chief executive was to have all the historical photographs that portrayed the past ambassadors and celebrities of this Florentine luxury fashion and accessories house removed from the walls of the offices. Most, from Liz Taylor to Sammy Davis Jr were no longer alive and he felt a need for a change of perspective from within. Gucci's legacy was a "tremendous asset" but he wanted the house to return to the arena as a world leader, "regaining its reputation for creativity and fashion legitimacy rather than its storied past."

Emblematic

This 'journey of desire' has apparently given new life and meaning to a logo, and it started when Bizzarri was appointed CEO of Gucci in January 2015. His first task was to find a new creative director, someone with a clear idea of the fresh Gucci positioning, to revive it as a contemporary fashion icon, with the logo as a new emblem of modernity and relevance.

Although he searched widely outside the company for the right person to fit the profile, Bizzarri eventually realised that personal connection and gut instinct were more important than anything. After having a coffee with the then assistant creative director, Alessandro Michele, which turned into a four-hour lunch, he realised he had found his man. Michele was "very nice, humble, a normal person -- a genius" but with his feet on the ground, someone he could work with.

Marco Bizzarri explique l’importance de son logo pour la marque Gucci

Indeed, in a sideswipe at creative people with large egos, Bizzarri said that fashion is not a complicated sector: "there are too many divas: the fashion industry needs to become more 'normal."

He and Michele agreed that Gucci needed to "reclaim its rightful position as a contemporary fashion authority"; to become "the show of the season." They came up with a four-page Declaration of Intent which combined the new creative vision with a fresh business strategy. Published in WWD, the guidelines included specific mention of the importance of the logo: "You invest in a logo for so many years and then you're going to be ashamed because there is a trend outside, and you say: 'I'm sophisticated; I don't use the logo'? That's not sophistication."

Betting on the gee gees

One of Michele's statements went further, "We should invest in a cool rebirth of the GG logo. It is an incredible and powerful asset of Gucci. It is part of its story and it is something any brand would love to have. We should valorise it in a cool and modern way. It should become desirable within the collections as much as a leather bag and not treated just as a money maker of which to feel almost ashamed." Bizzarri reinforced this message, pointing out that after 95 years of the house's existence, the GG signature "is one of the most valuable assets that other brands would die for."

And it wasn't only the new logo (the GG symbol has been updated); the other recognised codes of the brand were given fresh impetus: the bamboo handle, the horse bit and the green-red-green web, sometimes combined in one handbag. As Michele pointed out at the time in a video: "by putting flowers on the Gs, the Gs become very powerful, the flowers even more; the flowers alone wouldn't be the same thing... I couldn't wait to put my hands on [the logo], because it's like drawing on the Mona Lisa... The Gs alone are like a kind of hieroglyphic everyone knows [what they mean]."

Marco Bizzarri explique l’importance de son logo pour la marque Gucci

Bizzarri believes the house has now reconnected with the spirit of innovation "that made us world famous," but also, "We have made a decisive pivot towards the future, in becoming contemporary again." Michele's approach to the logo, "innovative, playful, spontaneous, is an ode to joy (and no longer something to be worn by the Devil."

Snapping the buckle

Bizzarri's response became more emphatic: "Is the logo really over? Of course not! You don't wipe away almost 100 years of history; you don't restore the health of a tree by ripping its roots from the ground."

Has the new logo (and re-emphasis of the brand's codes) been a success? Since June 2015 over 430,000 customers have bought a piece of Michele's collections, 60% being new to the brand's customer base. Within a few months of the fresh identity, fashion influencers had embraced the new direction -- Marc Jacobs proudly instagramming himself wearing a GG-buckled belt. A new jet set, from Lady Gaga at the Super Bowl; Beyoncé in her video Transformation and Madonna during her latest world tour, has joined the old guard of Anna Wintour and Franca Sozzani, who have also been sporting the new look.

They embrace Gucci not for its logo but for what the logo continues to represent: sensuality, contemporaneity, craftsmanship, incomparable style.

Amongst marketing and social media campaigns has been #GucciGram, where creative people were asked to play with the GG signature. Street artist Trevor Andrew, for example, introduced the Gucci Snapchat Ghost.

The final answer to the question, is the logo really over? "No, but...to endure and inspire across the span of time, a logo must evolve; it must adapt; this insight lies at the heart of Gucci's new chapter...it's a sort of talisman, something magical, something hypnotic," Bizzarri claimed. In fact, he believed the brand was making the most of its legacy, "How could we not honour our past by moving ever forward in the present?"

Symbolic

To be timeless doesn't mean to be stuck in time, he contested; rather, the brand is a "benchmark for great modernity in terms of innovation and creativity." It's a way to earn "love and loyalty" from customers, existing and prospective, "they embrace Gucci not for its logo but for what the logo continues to represent: sensuality, contemporaneity, craftsmanship, incomparable style. As Alessandro says, "symbols are the beauty of belonging."