The Gucci Departures Were Messier Than We Thought

Ousted CEO Patrizio di Marco referred to those who were against him at Kering as "nani", meaning dwarves.
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Chantal Fernandez
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Ousted CEO Patrizio di Marco referred to those who were against him at Kering as "nani", meaning dwarves.
Frida Giannini and Patrizio di Marco. Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Frida Giannini and Patrizio di Marco. Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

No one's ever characterized the Italians as inexpressive people, so it's not shocking that former Gucci CEO Patrizio di Marco did not leave the luxury brand in December without putting in his two cents. Those two cents took the form of a 3,000-word staff memo, which The New York Times got a hold of and diligently translated from Italian into English.  

In a speech to the staff at the Gucci cafeteria (where one imagines only the most dramatic speeches take place), di Marco said that people close to him within the company plotted his demise. He called these people "nani," meaning dwarves. In the memo, he wrote: “Against my will, I leave my cathedral uncompleted," and, “It’s a pity I won’t be able to see how this beautiful story would have continued.” There was no mention of the brand's declining sales

It seems di Marco's indignation transferred over to his wife, head designer Frida Giannini, who was meant to stay at Gucci until after the fall 2015 women's show, which takes place Wednesday morning in Milan. The Times reports the working relationship ended earlier than expected because new CEO Marco Bizzarri "found the situation untenable." On January 9th, Giannini left abruptly, with the help of only a "few colleagues" to carry out the contents of her office. 

Another point of contention: colleagues were apparently less than thrilled when Giannini and di Marco began a romantic relationship in 2009. A former executive VP for global communications there told the Times, “I got emails from people saying, ‘We don’t have anyone to talk to because they talk to each other.’ And there were fears that if one was hired by another company, they would both leave. "

After both Giannini and di Marco announced their departure in December, rumors swirled about who would take her place. People within in the industry speculated: that Hedi Slimane would be moved from successful post at Kering-owned Saint Laurent or Riccardo Tisci would be enticed from Givenchy. In retrospect it all seems highly improbably now. Tisci confirmed he was never approached about the position when the Times asked him about it at the couture shows in January. “I’m happy at the house I’m staying at," he said. 

The industry was still very surprised when total unknown Alessandro Michele, an accessories designer for the house, was announced as Giannini's replacement on January 21st, after he pulled off the men's collection show in less than a week. The Times also asked Tom Ford, who designed Gucci at the peak of its success in the early aughts, for his thoughts on Michele's appointment. Ford answered with a perfectly snarky comment: “He was a great handbag designer when he worked with me.” 

Will Michele's first women's collection silence the industry's doubts about his ability to lead the storied Italian brand? We'll all find out very soon.