Unpacking Sabato De Sarno’s Quiet Introduction to Gucci’s New Menswear

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LACMA Art + Film Gala 2023
A$AP RockyCourtesy of Gucci

At the LACMA Art + Film Gala, Gucci’s newly appointed creative director Sabato De Sarno debuted his highly anticipated menswear, worn by stars including A$AP Rocky, Pedro Pascal and Elliot Page

There’s something kind of interesting in how masculine ideals tend to be proposed outside of the traditional fashion arena – men, maybe, don’t want to emulate fashion models, at least not conventionally. Which is why in the past they’ve gravitated towards the dress of musicians – Bryan Ferry’s style inspired a thousand glam rock knock-offs in the mid-1970s, young men dressed in cod-GI garb and retro tuxedos while fashion was still pushing bell-bottoms. Meanwhile, Hollywood stars have inspired men even further back: think Bogart in a trench, Brando in a t-shirt, James Dean full-stop. 

Which is why it made perfect sense that Sabato De Sarno opted to debut his first menswear designs not on the catwalk, but at the Gucci-supported 2023 LACMA Art+Film Gala this past weekend. A fund-raiser for the Los Angelean museum, it was also a quiet introduction of a sleek women’s evening capsule – Ancora Notte – to expand on De Sarno’s debut, and also his first menswear designs. The evening wear was engineered around Hollywood glamour, with knowing nods to Gucci’s heritage. The Australian model Kirsty Hume, an original face of Tom Ford’s epochal 1990s Gucci shows, modelled a white column dress sliced open and spliced back together with golden horse-bits, an open homage to Ford’s Halston-influenced Autumn/Winter 1996 gowns, as was a boldly dissected nude dress anchored with a golden ‘G’ at an exposed hipbone. But the menswear roster pulled out the big guns: Andrew Garfield, A$AP Rocky, Elliot Page and Pedro Pascal were the ‘models’ for this first glimpse at a new Gucci masculinity. Film and music stars, timeless avatars of male aspirations.

Pointedly, these men’s looks were anchored in tailoring tradition – structure, rather than decoration, either subtly emphasised through silhouette or with graphic contrast piping outlining collar and lapel details, throwing the sharpness of cut into bold relief. The cut of these pieces – especially A$AP Rocky’s slick double-breasted suit – nodded to the skinny suits of the 1990s, not least Ford’s, but also further to the 1960s, which were also an influence on Ford’s Gucci, too. Back then, the fastidiously-dressed Mods wore painstakingly-tailored jackets dubbed ‘Roman’ – very Gucci – and characterised by their abbreviated, tightly-fitted shapes, with high armholes and little shoulder padding. Their modern descendants were here.

De Sarno’s approach with men seems softly-softly, pulling back from flamboyance and embellishment and colour – restricted to bold monochrome and a jolt of that becoming-signature Gucci Rosso Ancora. The effect is quietly seductive but also a slate-cleaner, or palate-cleanser – a return to classicism, to Gucci’s dual roots in the 1960s jet-set and its 1990s revival, and to superlative Italian tailoring as a foundation for a modern man’s wardrobe rooted in sartorial precision with a definitive formal slant. Presumably, De Sarno will be offering casual come his first menswear show, scheduled to be unveiled in Milan’s fashion week in January – but his direction here seems to be suited and booted, slick and buttoned up.

That feels like part of a wider, significant shift in menswear as a whole – not one of those ever-fashionable industry points into new territories, but a subtler yet more seismic move away from athleisure, from the notion of sweatpants as the new tuxedo and towards a bold revival of tailoring not just for evening wear, but everyday wear. It was interesting to see how some of these looks blurred between formal and casual - nods to pyjama dressing, alongside touches of the tuxedo, formalising the casual and giving a nonchalance and ease to event dressing. And if the everyman may not be quite convinced, seeing these guys wear it could seal the deal.

In any case, this is the warning shot – De Sarno’s true vision of the Gucci man will be unveiled in a couple of months on a Milanese catwalk, for Autumn/Winter 2024.