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THE GUCCI EFFECT C r e a t i v e D i r e c t o r A l e s s a n d r o M i c h e l e’s k a l e i d o s c o p i c vision has taken footwear fashion by storm, spawning a wave of imitators and redefining luxury styling. BY A N N LOY N D

FEW WOULD ARGUE that the sneaker is the Rank, which means on average a Gucci shoe is the current champion of footwear fashion. Luxury third product listed on online marketplaces in the Studded horsebit design houses have been forced to introduce their U.S. “Additionally, at least two out of the top 10 shoes loafer own takes on the sporty silhouette, coming off the bear the Gucci logo,” Jacob says. heels of the Birkenstock renaissance, which forced Erica Russo, OVP fashion director of accessories & them to reimagine frumpy sandals. It seems the beauty at Bloomingdale’s, confirms that Ace sneakers stiletto has become taboo in the age of athleisure, are selling well at the department store chain. “They where the houses of Nike and Adidas hold more feature fun embellishments like stars and pearls,” she sway than Prada, Dior, Versace, Ralph Lauren… says, adding, “The Bloomingdale’s customer loves But then there’s Gucci, which stands as a beacon Gucci’s styles with menswear influences and novelty of luxury in a world gone athletic. accents.” (Russo’s personal favorites are the pink When creative director Alessandro Michele Lawrence embroidered snake mules and Queercore took the helm in 2015, he presented a ankle strap flats.) worldview that was colorful, opulent and Gucci’s recent success rivals Tom Ford’s days as Velvet slipper even a little kitschy. The now-famous creative director in the 1990s. “Central to Gucci’s with removable fur-lined Princetown slides became stratospheric commercial success has been the fact that the brand platform all the rage in 2015, triggering a host is offering something different,” Hudson says. “For so long it had of imitators to let their collective hair been all about stripped-back minimalism and casual sneakers, down, so to speak, and go wild on fur and with Alessandro Michele at the helm, Gucci demonstrated accents. Then there’s the label’s horsea way to do all-out romanticism that was not only contemporary bit loafers, silk flatforms, embroidered but infinitely wearable.” slides, block-heel loafers and cross-strap Wearability is key, agrees Erika Vala, co-owner of Brooklyn mules that have also been redesigned, boutique Shoe Market NYC. “The styles are just really fun reinterpreted and simply knocked off and beautiful at the same time,” she says. by legions of competing designers and “There’s something about Gucci shoes mass-market brands. And it’s not just that are wearable and also inspired.” She Princetown slipper women’s—Gucci’s embroidered sneakers and kangaroo-fur reports renditions of rose-embroidered loafers ($995 retail) are lighting up men’s fashion as well. loafers by Intentionally Blank and Silent For the past four seasons, the house that Michele built has D (inspired by Gucci’s Princetown leather had the golden touch for footwear trends. slippers) have sold well in her store. Chic “The effect that Gucci has had on recent footwear trends and comfortable, the styles retail for $186 is immeasurable,” affirms Ella Hudson, WGSN senior editor, and $114, respectively, as compared to the accessories & footwear. “Not only has Alessandro Michele’s Princetown’s $780 price tag. “The loafer modern spin on heirloom opulence inspired a return to a highly decorative trend seems to be on the verge of oversaturation, although I think it will last aesthetic, but the brand has single-handedly made the loafer a must-have for through fall and into next spring,” Vala notes, adding, “Our customers want over four seasons straight.” shoes that are fashionable, comfortable and worth the money.” Neenu Jacob, cofounder of Hook, a fashion discovery app that aggregates Sherwayne Mahoney, designer for independent label Things II Come, was multiple shopping websites onto one platform, reports that search queries a big fan of Gucci’s Spring ’16 collection—styles he describes as “imaginative, for Gucci’s men’s shoes are outpacing women’s. Additionally, Jacob says Gucci artful, but wearable.” For 2017, he’s “loving” the new sneaker line. “Its great flats were the most-searched footwear in April on Hook, and the label’s Ace colors and ornamentations make wearing Italian-made sneakers fun and lo-tops are second to Adidas as the most-searched sneakers so far this year. exciting,” he says. Indeed, the comfort aspects—most of Gucci’s hot sellers are Hook’s data reveals that Gucci footwear holds the number-three Visibility flats or feature a mid, block heel—cannot be overlooked. Their popular- >39 10 • june 2017