Gucci appoints new creative director

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Hoping to reverse a prolonged sales slump at Gucci, its marquee brand, French luxury group Kering said on Wednesday that it had promoted Alessandro Michele, Gucci's head of accessories, to creative director.

Michele, 42, replaces his former boss, Frida Giannini, who, along with the chief executive, Patrizio di Marco, was asked to leave the Italian fashion house last year.

The choice of Michele - virtually unknown outside Gucci - represents a gamble for Kering, which is betting that sales will be driven by the power of the brand and accessories, as opposed to the drawing power of a star designer.

Mr Marco Bizzarri, who took over this month as Gucci's new chief executive, said the selection of Michele was "based upon the contemporary vision he has articulated for the brand".

Kering is the world's third largest luxury group, after LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton of France and Richemont of Switzerland. Kering's brands include Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent. While many of its smaller labels have borne up well against an industry- wide slowdown, sales at Gucci, which accounts for nearly a third of the group's annual revenue, have stalled in recent years.

Luxury consumers, particularly in China, have turned away from flashy, logo-emblazoned goods in favour of subtler fashion statements.

Recognising those trends, as well as rising competition from smaller, more affordable brands, Gucci's previous chief executive, di Marco, had already begun a strategic push into higher-end luxury. Leather goods represented almost 60 per cent of Gucci sales in its 2013 fiscal year.

Analysts said Michele's appointment signalled a certain continuity. Michele and the Gucci design team presented an autumn menswear show in Milan on Monday that seemed directed at a younger and more sartorially adventurous consumer.

The new menswear collection featured androgynous looks, including ruffled silk blouses, lace and cropped fur jackets.

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