#ftw or #wtf

Some call it appropriation, a misguided appeal to the wrong audience, and even a shining example of the wiles of capitalism – this last one has the communists in stitches. Others revel in the moment, creating counter memes and riding the storm that Gucci has unleashed on the virtual world.

Think Gucci – over-done alphabets, repetitive pattern, China’s second-favourite muse and a deliberately visible belt buckle. The obvious lack of innovation and waning appeal of said fashion giant has not been lost on anybody, and most certainly not on the fashion house’s new creative director Alessandro Michele. The man is nothing if not an observant and cunning entrepreneur who, overnight, earned the brand its extended version of Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame. For in one giant swoop, Michele tapped into the millennial market. Using the tools of the Gen Z warriors, he coined a trending hash tag, gave the Gucci the facelift that it so desperately needed, and debunked Coco Chanel’s mantra by proving that excess is the new access (to fashion fame, you animals).

“Meme culture is not anyone’s property, legally speaking, but millennials regard it as the mascot of their generation – a chameleon-like representative embodying the angst, the creativity, the emotional rainbow and the daily struggles that they face.”

And as a part of this project of quirky and artsy Snapchat campaigns, joint ventures with the likes of Hari Nef and Petra Collins, Gucci also adopted and adapted meme culture. Meme culture is not anyone’s property, legally speaking, but millennials regard it as the mascot of their generation – a chameleon-like representative embodying the angst, the creativity, the emotional rainbow and the daily struggles that they face. And so the use of such a sacred medium – one which has brought much joy, sorrow and relief to so many – as a marketing medium, has elicited mixed reactions. It has been aptly pointed out that the market that Gucci wishes to tap into is the same market that is usually unable to afford the product they are advertising – a fact that @youvegotnomale, one of the collaborative meme artists on the campaign, negates while praising the ‘GENIUS’ marketing. Furthermore, this project arrives in the wake of the fashion world still smarting from the public calling them out on use of independent artists’ designs without due credit being awarded. Gucci was careful to account for this, having named and awarded its collaborators - the Internet’s most celebrated meme artists - with lengthy introductions and most definitely hefty royalties.

Mental health issues, eating disorders, physical disabilities and confused sexuality have all been targeted, normalised and accepted thanks to meme culture. Niche groups, introverts and extroverts alike have found their voices, and a sense of community has been harboured, thereby making what #TFWGucci has done, border on pandering. The anger is understandable, but it must be remembered that so is freedom of action that does not directly harm. The domino effect this bout of advertising genius has created might take things too far, or not far enough – only time will tell.

I have allowed myself to stare longingly at the Le Marché des Merveilles collection of watches online, punctuated by brief but mood-killing glances at the atrocious price – the equivalent of approximately three Union memberships, or more scandalously, one hundred and sixty Mission Burrito burritos. In my sound, if rather hungry, opinion, Gucci ought to pat themselves on the back for the execution of a campaign. It has done exactly as intended – maintained and built upon the relevance of the fashion house by causing controversy, and reminded the world that Gucci is still a force to reckon with, a trendsetter and the first of many who will woo Gen Z with the very forces they call their own. Touché Gucci – for a flawless, ever-observant and dynamic marketing philosophy.

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