Marco Bizzarri, the CEO of Gucci: «Alessandro Michele? He opened the door for me in slippers. And I chose him “

from Aldo Cazzullo

The entrepreneur: «At 13 he wanted to take me to Inter, then I went to class with Bottura. I found out we had the new creative director in the house. He focused on gender fluid, almost without distinction between man and woman: a crazy risk “


Marco Bizzarri, president and CEO of Gucciwhat is his first I remember?


“I’m three years old, I lock my grandmother in the house, and I throw away the key. I never understood why ».

And the first public memory?

“The kidnapping of Moro: the news arrives in class and we all go home.”

What school did he go to?

«Third accounting. My desk mate was Massimo Bottura ».

The chef?

“The genius. The Valentino Rossi of the kitchen: no chef today can do without him. But then he didn’t know how to cook anything. His father traded in oil and wanted him a lawyer. He opened a restaurant. One day an almost blind old Emilian woman, Lidia, who had been fired from the restaurant where she worked, showed up at the door. It was she who taught him how to make tortellini. Since then, all the best talents that have come to Massimo’s hands have gone to Signora Lidia for a tortellini lesson ».

Are you still friends?

«Also this year, like every 19th August, he came to me to celebrate my birthday, in my son Stefano’s restaurant in Gabicce Mare».

Does your son have a restaurant too?

«And my wife Maristella too. Together we bought the place where we had celebrated our wedding 32 years ago, in the ancient fortress of Rubiera, in the province of Reggio Emilia: my country, where when I’m in Italy I go back every weekend ».

What did her parents dream of?

“A place in the bank. I refused it to continue studying: economics and commerce in Modena ».

She is two meters tall. Did he play sports?

“Soccer. First center forward. Then mezzala: my idol was Roberto Bettega. Finally free: the more I grew, the slower I became. At thirteen he wanted to buy Inter Milan; but I understood that others were stronger than me. So, instead of Inter, I joined Arthur Andersen ».

How?

“Calling from a phone booth. I had the inspiration there and then. He answered a young woman: “It doesn’t work like that. It is we who call. If we have not called her, it is because she is not among the best ”. I insisted on having an interview. And I convinced her ».

Then she joined Mandarina Duck.

“I thought it was a foreign brand. Instead he was from Bologna. Two partners, who made plastic heat-seams for car platforms, discovered they had done too many, and turned them into bags and backpacks. A resounding success, but only Italian. We had to take it overseas. So I was always around: Japan, Hungary, China. I lived in Hong Kong for a year, in the memorable season of the transition from the British Empire to the motherland. Then I changed: four years in Paris, at Didier Lamarthe. So six months in Sydney, as general manager of a company that imported watches from Europe. I was already thinking of bringing the whole family to Australia … ».

But?

“The call from the Kering group has arrived. Actually, we were two candidates. They chose the other. But his company relaunched, and he changed his mind. So they aimed at me ».

Kering is the group of François-Henri Pinault. What type is it?

“I went in for him, and I stayed for him. He is a man who has only one word: a handshake is worth a contract. In this environment, it doesn’t happen often ».

Pinault has bought many Italian brands. Do you speak Italian among you?

“We speak English, to rebalance the situation a little. I speak French, but if you compare yourself with a native speaker you always start at a disadvantage … ».

His first assignment in the group?

«Working with Stella McCartney. Objective: to transform the Beatle’s daughter’s brand into Stella’s brand. She then made ten million pounds and lost the same amount. The leader of the group said: Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga and Stella McCartney are not achieving their goals; either we relaunch them, or we give up ».

How did it go?

“Four years later Stella was making 60 million pounds and earning 12. So they first entrusted me with Bottega Veneta, then all the brands except Gucci, and finally Gucci”.

It was December 2014.

«As a first assignment I had to find the new creative director. Frida Giannini was out: the agreement was that she would still sign the January men’s collection and the February women’s collection, then she would leave. I mean, I only had two months. But the director was not found. ‘

How come?

“We were looking for him outside. A whirlwind of headhunters and candidates. I saw many people, but none of them clicked. I did not want the blessed by God, the inspired artist who calls at 3 am to change everything, who mistreats the collaborators … At the same time, I did what all the CEOs do: I began to meet the managers of the various internal sectors . There was this boy from Rome … ».

Alessandro Michele?

“He. Back then he was in the business of accessories. I ring the door, and he comes to open me dressed as Alessandro Michele. At his feet he had loafers … ».

The moccasins cut at the back, like a slipper?

“Yes, but made of fur. And if he had made them himself. Now we don’t use his furs anymore, but in short he hit me. I enter the house, and I find it perfect, well-kept, all antiques … It must have been a quick coffee; we talked for four hours ».

And what did you say to each other?

«That Gucci is fashion, not tradition. It is not, I know, Hermès, to quote a historical brand. Gucci always needs new ideas, even irreverent ones. To change, innovate, experiment; if necessary, take risks. In short, we had the same idea both on aesthetics and on business. Keep in mind that at that time all fashion was a little flattened: after the explosion of Tom Ford in Gucci, of Ferrè in Dior, of McQueen, everyone tended to copy each other, and there was nothing new; it was no coincidence that young people kept away from shops. And then I liked Alessandro as a person: kind, polite, very sensitive, humble … ».

He doesn’t call at 3 in the morning.

“No. I left his house and called Pinault: “I think we found the creative director. No more headhunters and external candidates. We have it at home ”. He trusted. Even if there was a risk ».

Because?

«Because being a creative director is not being a designer. Alexander could turn out to be a ball-hitter or a champion. Luckily he turned out to be a champion ».

How did you get started?

“When we wrote a manifesto, we called it just that, in which there was no number, only ideas. The show was on January 14th. On the 9th I asked him: “Do you feel like making the collection yourself?” He said yes. We threw away Frida Giannini’s clothes, and Alessandro designed the Gucci men’s collection in five days. By making the choice of gender-fluid, almost without distinction between man and woman. A crazy risk ».

How was the reception?

«Anna Wintour went mad, took the plane and came to Italy on purpose to meet Alessandro. Other experts appreciated. But many said: who is’ I’m crazy? For three days we were inundated with insults. Novelties need time to be accepted. And we have always protected the new director. Even so, in recent years we have almost tripled our turnover, from 3.5 billion to about ten. And the employees went from 10 to 21 thousand ».

But Gucci has not been an Italian brand for some time.

“In Italy we have all the factories and 6,000 employees. We opened the ArtLab for shoes and bags in Florence and the one for clothes in Novara. Italianity is in taste and culture, not in the nationality of the shareholder ».

Did the film “House of Gucci” about the family’s misadventures do you good or bad?

“He left us indifferent. We have opened the archives to the director ».

Ridley Scott is great.

“Yes, and he picked a stellar cast. But some stereotypes didn’t convince me. Italy is not like that, or it no longer is ».

Did you bring Bottura and Michele together?

“Yup. A blind date: no one knew they had to see the other. After five minutes they started discussing how to make Gucci taverns together. In Florence and Los Angeles we already have a Michelin star ».

Are your other children also cooks?

«No, my son Alessandro is doing a master’s degree in artificial intelligence in Modena, Federica is studying photography in Milan. They have been abroad, but luckily they have returned ».

What has changed for you with the pandemic?

«A new phase of the journey has opened. With Alessandro Michele we told ourselves that it is time to change again. We have to recover our historical, iconic part. In times of growth, the market asks for novelty bordering on extravagance; in times of crisis tradition returns. We will look for the right mix ».

September 7, 2022 (change September 7, 2022 | 09:11)

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Marco Bizzarri, the CEO of Gucci: «Alessandro Michele? He opened the door for me in slippers. And I chose him ”


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