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Gucci courts Korea’s wealthy with fashion show in Seoul palace

GUCCI hosted its first fashion show in Seoul in at least eight years as the struggling label seeks to capitalize on South Korea’s rising cultural cachet while courting luxury consumers in the crucial Asian market.

The brand, owned by Kering SA, held its show in the courtyard of the 14th century Gyeongbokgung Palace in central Seoul. The evening spectacle featured the music of the Oscar-winning Korean movie Parasite, traditional drumming, and flashing lights reflecting off stone floors.

The show was the first of its kind to take place within the palace’s courtyard.

Gucci planned to stage a show at the same venue last year but canceled after a deadly Halloween crush in Seoul that killed 159 people.

South Korea — the biggest market for luxury goods on a per capita basis in 2022 — has become a magnet for global brands. Last month, LVMH’s largest label, Louis Vuitton, also held a fashion show in Seoul.

This was Gucci’s first show in Korea since Marco Bizzarri became the label’s chief executive officer in 2015. The Italian label generated around 9% of its retail sales to Koreans last year, Morgan Stanley estimated.  Among the celebrities attending were Hanni, a singer of K-pop girl band NewJeans and newly named Gucci brand ambassador, Squid Game star Lee Jung-jae, rapper Jay Park, and actresses Elizabeth Olsen and Saoirse Ronan.

In the “cruise” show, the brand veered from retro-futuristic garb like silver metal jackets reminiscent of a 1970s take on the future to streetwear styles, including a model sporting baggy black trousers and a Gucci briefcase carrying a skateboard. Gucci’s familiar GG canvas pattern featured prominently on tops and handbags.

In a mix of street and sportswear, models dressed in surfing suits or carrying skateboard-shaped bags strutted between ancient pillars in corridors surrounding the main hall of the Gyeongbokgung palace. Wide-leg trousers were slit at the knees, coats were belted and T-shirts hung loose.

Cruise collections, originally designed for wealthy clients holidaying on yachts or cruises during the winter months, are outfits produced by stylists on top of seasonal lines.

The Gucci cruise show follows a Louis Vuitton pre-fall fashion show on a Seoul bridge in April.

Built in 1395, the Gyeongbokgung palace served as the main royal palace of Korea’s Joseon dynasty. The South Korean national treasure became the latest iconic landmark chosen by Gucci to showcase its collection.

Kering has struggled in the past few years as Gucci’s appeal has waned among shoppers who tired of the designs by Gucci’s former creative director Alessandro Michele who left in November.

Tuesday’s creations were designed by Gucci’s in-house design team, as its recently-appointed creative director Sabato de Sarno will only unveil his debut collection in September during Milan Fashion Week. His creations will be available for sale early next year.

The Italian label generated about two-thirds of Kering’s operating profit in 2022, but comparable sales barely grew during the period. They also rose only slightly in the first quarter of this year while competitors such as Hermes International and LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE posted double-digit growth rates. — Boomberg/Reuters

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