A Gucci Garden Blooms in London Concrete

Sabato De Sarno on Monday night offered his own take on “lo stile inglese,” a term the Italians use for English style, in a cruise collection inspired by the country’s lush gardens, greenery and fabulous fabrics.

He staged the show at the Tate Modern Tanks, a vast underground concrete exhibition space. He laid down a carpet of greenery on the poured concrete floors, hung jungle-y vines from the ceiling and planted “Jurassic Park”-style plants and trees all around the room.

His team even considered the greenery’s afterlife. Gucci said it plans to donate around 10,000 plants from the show to community projects in London, including the not-for-profit organization Grow to Know.

Prior to the show, the Tanks smelled dewy and fresh as if it had just rained which, of course, made the Brits in the 700-strong audience feel right at home. Spring has kind of arrived in London, but it’s still blustery and chilly, with rain expected later this week.

And just like the British weather, which can swing through four seasons in a day, this collection was a tale of contrasts: hard and soft, skinny and loose, oversize and petite.

De Sarno was thinking about “dichotomies” and said Tate Modern was the ideal backdrop, “with its great Turbine Hall that welcomes and gathers everyone, and with the Tanks, generators of ideas.”

He saw this show as “English-ness with an Italian accent,” and he certainly delivered. He sent out enough chiffon pussy bow blouses to dress the entire cast of the Sloane Ranger Handbook.

Unlike the traditional Sloanes, De Sarno’s ladies of the manor like to mix their bows with leather or suede jackets and capes, some embossed with a double-G pattern.

One of De Sarno’s great inspirations was the icon of Sloanes, Princess Diana, and the American-style, oversize green varsity jacket she wore when she took her boys to school in the 1990s.

The designer pumped those jackets to oversize proportions and paired them with long and fluttery plissé dresses in delicious shades of petal pink, mint and melon.

He also added pastel flair to check coats and flowers to tailored suits. A plaid baby blue double-breasted style and a pretty pink coat with rounded shoulders were standouts, as were little suits and coats with bracelet sleeves covered with daisies.

De Sarno paired them with — what else? — flat shoes. They were sensible, with ballerina flair, Gucci signature bits, and sexy straps across the front. What a contrast from the vertiginous platforms of past seasons, but what fitting footwear for these flower children.

Bags were just as statement-making. There were giant Jackie styles, while the ever-so-sleek Blondie emerged from the Gucci archive, looking better than ever with its neat top handle. Three stock keeping units of the Blondie will be available in a handful of Gucci stores from Tuesday.

“It was all really wearable, the coats were strong, and everything felt elevated. It’s different than before, but really desirable,” said Bosse Myhr, director of menswear and womenswear at Selfridges, while one of the guests, Daphne Guinness, described it as “light, colorful and dramatic.”

The designer has been working closely with management to jump-start sales at the house and restore it to the money-spinner it was under his predecessor Alessandro Michele, although even parent Kering admits it will take some time. De Sarno has been prioritizing craft and handwork, and that all came through in this show, and the preshow marketing.

Look at Gucci’s Instagram, and it’s all wall-to-wall scissors, glue, busy fingers, darting needles and smiling craftsmen on a mission to make the brand more exclusive, and appeal to a customer who sees luxury in detail, color and texture, rather than in beacon-like logos or excessive embellishment.

It’s clear that De Sarno is still finding his way with this brand, which is laden — some would say overburdened — with history and memory and meaning. But the seeds are being planted, the soil is rich and this gardener isn’t giving up.


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