Giannini, Frida

▪ 2009

born 1972, Rome, Italy

 As the creative director since 2006 of the fashion house Gucci, Frida Giannini was credited with having made the name the world's most coveted luxury brand, a status that was confirmed in February 2008 by a Nielsen ratings survey. In addition, her efforts increased sales at Gucci by more than 10% in two years.

      After studying at Rome's Accademia di Costume e Moda. Giannini went to work in 1997 at Fendi, where she rose to become a designer of leather goods; there she was responsible for the Baguette, Fendi's opulent handbag that ignited the hugely profitable accessories craze. Tom Ford, then artistic director of Gucci, hired her in 2002 as director of handbag design, and Giannini took on more responsibilities (creative director of Gucci accessories from 2004 and creative director of women's ready-to-wear and accessories from 2005) until she was named creative director in 2006.

      Though critics doubted that Giannini had the experience and vision to reinvigorate Gucci, the company's management reasoned that as a young, female European, Giannini could identify with the customer. In addition, she had performed brilliantly as creative director of accessories, overseeing the merchandise that generated 80% of the company's revenue. In 2004, for example, she introduced the Flora collection—handbags, ribbon-embellished sandals, scarves, and limited-edition watches—which incorporated a perky floral print created originally in 1966 for Princess Grace of Monaco; the line was an unqualified triumph for the firm.

      The classic spirit of Flora epitomized Giannini's new direction for the brand. According to Gucci's CEO Mark Lee, her contribution was a “warmer, reinvented, richer, more joyful and sensual Gucci” as she moved the company away from Ford's “minimalist, sometimes cold, hard glamour.”

      For inspiration, Giannini mined Gucci's archive. Critics branded her ideas as too safe and revisionist. For example, Gucci's autumn-winter 2008 collection was defined by a decadent, dark bohemian look incorporating slim-fit velvet trousers tucked into fringed leather boots as well as drop-waist dresses enhanced with epaulets and lavish embroidery. Nevertheless, customers consistently embraced Giannini's approach, and Gucci's revenues rose dramatically under her creative leadership.

      Following Ford's departure, Giannini lured back to Gucci prominent celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna, who had defected when he was let go. For the opening in New York City of Gucci's Fifth Avenue flagship boutique in February 2008, Giannini and Madonna cochaired a blockbuster fashion event that raised money for orphans and children in sub-Saharan Africa affected by HIV/AIDS.

Bronwyn Cosgrave

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Universalium. 2010.

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