How Gucci and Prada Foster Research, Creative Innovation

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Gucci ArtLab

Gucci is one of the fastest-growing fashion brands in 2017 after a flamboyant design makeover under creative director Alessandro Michele, and it’s making some bold moves as it plots a course to topple the current #1 and take the luxury sector’s crown.

Earlier this year, Gucci began working out of a creative hub located near the historical headquarters of the Italian fashion house in Casellina, just outside of Florence. In late April Gucci officially unveiled what it’s calling ArtLab, its stunning new center of craftsmanship and sustainable innovation.

With a workforce of 800 people, the ArtLab is the brand’s new home for product development and lab testing, with in-house prototyping and sampling activity for leather goods, handbags and shoes, along with new materials (potentially “growing” its own leather), metal hardware and packaging.

The futuristic center of industrial craftsmanship and experimental laboratory in Florence features artisans in lab coats imprinted with the words ‘Maison de l’Amour’ as they craft products using both innovative and decades-old techniques.

Gucci ArtLab

It brings to life the bold vision of Michele by developing new products to help meet customer demand for all things Gucci, a demand that has nearly doubled in the last three years since Michele’s appointment. Last year alone, Gucci’s leather goods and shoes accounted for more than 70% of the brand’s annual revenue.

There are cost benefits to ArtLab, too. By bringing more production in-house (it has bought out 10 suppliers to date), Gucci plans to cut its use of external suppliers to 40% of leather goods production, from 75% currently.

Presenting #GucciEquilibrium, a destination designed to connect people, planet and purpose. Launching today, on #WorldEnvironmentDay, Gucci Equilibrium is part of a 10-year plan to embed a comprehensive sustainability strategy into and around the brand, governed by a Culture of Purpose anchored by three pillars including ‘New Models’—the development of new solutions by applying technical innovation to improve efficiency in its production and logistics. Unveiled in April, the #GucciArtLab, a futuristic center of industrial craftsmanship and experimental laboratory in Florence where artisans in lab coats printed on the back with the words ‘Maison de l’Amour’ craft products using both innovative and decades-old techniques. Discover more through link in bio.

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The ArtLab’s efficient sustainable construction and ethos also underlines Gucci’s commitment to sustainability after announcing it was going fur-free last October. Calling the movement #GucciEquilibrium, it aims to be a destination designed to connect people, planet and purpose.

It’s part of “a 10-year plan to embed a comprehensive sustainability strategy into and around the brand, governed by a Culture of Purpose anchored by three pillars including ‘New Models’—the development of new solutions by applying technical innovation to improve efficiency in its production and logistics.”

Gucci ArtLab

Signaling that this is no hushed home for ancient artisanal activity, the buildings’ exteriors would be right at home in Bushwick, Brooklyn—or any other street art hub worldwide. The walls have been painted by young creators who have collaborated with the brand, including Unskilled Worker, Ignasi Monreal, Angelica Hicks and Coco Capitan.

“The unveiling of Gucci ArtLab definitely represents one of the most remarkable achievements of Gucci’s unprecedented journey of the last three years, and one of the most significant industrial investments today in our country,” Marco Bizzarri, President and CEO of Gucci, stated.

Gucci ArtLab

“It is a testament to our belief in creativity, artisanal craftsmanship, innovation and technology, and sustainability, and our bond with our territory. I couldn’t be more grateful to all those who have made this dream come true, from the local and national authorities, to Kering, to all of our colleagues who have been so visionary in absorbing new ideas from best-practice all around the world, to further strengthen our leadership.”

“Gucci ArtLab,” he added, “is the perfect expression of the corporate culture that we have been building and nurturing within the company. It is the tangible expression of a place to learn skills and techniques, a workshop to generate ideas, and ideas are the lifeblood of culture.”

Parent company Kering, which also owns other labels including Saint Laurent, expects Gucci to overtake its peers including Louis  Vuitton, which is owned by its French rival LVMH. Last year Gucci, with 6.2 billion euros in sales, came in second to Vuitton, estimated by analysts to bring in over 8 billion euros, making it the luxury sector’s number two brand and a peer to brands such as Hermès.

“We’re in the same league … The question is not if, but when,” Bizzarri told journalists at a strategy update and tour of ArtLab this week, according to Reuters.

He did not project when Gucci might pass 10 billion euros in revenue, but did say its sales are expected to grow at twice the market rate in the coming years as it enjoys a renaissance.

He also said Gucci aims to halve the time between a product’s conception and its delivery to stores through better controlling its supply chain and production capacity.

“We want to reduce the lead time, and it’s not possible if you’re too scattered with small suppliers,” Bizzarri told reporters. “If you internalise production you are able to experiment much more in terms of innovation.”

Prada’s Answer: Valvigna

Gucci isn’t the only luxury brand with a focus on leather that’s looking to take more production in-house and nurture a new generation of skilled workers. Milan-based Prada just opened a new industrial site in Valvigna, in eastern Tuscany, as its global industrial and R&D center.

“One of the problems with outsourcing is one of quality. You need artisans … and the problem with craftsmanship is one of training. You can’t find these kinds of people everywhere,” Prada chairman Carlo Mazzi told Reuters. Take a closer look below:

Prada also invited four architects to innovate and collaborate on its iconic black nylon collection, with the results now available in selected stores worldwide:

#PradaInvites four creative minds to work on the iconic #PradaBlackNylon.From dense collages, #KonstantinGrcic design emerges, inspired by the fishing vest.

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