The Great Gucci Reset Is Here

Sabato De Sarno, the designer who was essentially unknown outside the industry until he was handed the keys to the $10 billion Gucci kingdom earlier this year and tasked with reinventing a brand that had already been reinvented twice before — once by Tom Ford, as a uniform for sultry power players and then again by Alessandro Michele as a big-tent haven for fashion freakazoids high and low — called his first collection “Ancora.”

That translates literally as “again.” But, he said in an interview a few weeks before the show, not again as in a retread, like “play it again, Sam” but as the “again, again, again” of desire: the feeling that, when you find something you love, you can never get enough. The feeing that, presumably, Gucci sparked in him, and that he (and his bosses) were hoping his Gucci would spark in consumers.

The word was plastered all over posters around Milan teasing the show, on the invitations in a new Gucci burgundy red known as Ancora red and on the sleeve of a vinyl record for the after-party. It was hard to escape.

And though it was a nice idea, it was the wrong name for the show. It would have made more sense if Mr. De Sarno had called his collection “Intermezzo.” Because that’s really what this collection was (or seemed to be): not a major statement, but rather a cleansing interregnum after the overblown muchness of Mr. Michele’s tenure.

Only instead of lemon sorbet with a sprig of mint, Mr. De Sarno served up a stark dark wool overcoat and matching dark wool micro shorts with a white tank top, a GG belt and a dash of legs on the side, a slight splash of color coming in the classic Gucci red-and-green-webbing tacked inside the vent of the coat and an Ancora red Jackie bag.

Lengths were almost universally short: thigh high, elongated even more by the addition of chunky stacked loafers. The color palette was subdued: black, white, beige, blues, that red, with a touch of neon green. There was little print, save for the old GG monogram brought back on playsuits and a patent leather mini A-line tank dress.

The sole decoration was a bit of high-bling crosshatch crystal embroidery derived from an archive bag and used sparingly on bra tops, the spread collar of a ribbed navy knit and the rim of a white apron top worn with a pair of baggy jeans. Plus some sparkling fringe that flew out with every step on an Ancora red skirt (shown with another simple tank top) and a chartreuse coat. Lace-trimmed lingerie dresses were paired with plain old everyday jackets, like someone had woken up, grabbed the first cover-up that came to hand and gone out to walk the dachshund.

If it didn’t exactly incite the pulse-thumping need of desire (it didn’t), if it didn’t immediately blare “New Mood for Fashion” (it didn’t), it did set a tone. Think of it as a breeze, rather than a wind, of change. Gucci has been a lot of things, but it has never been minimal. Perhaps it’s time.

The fact that the biggest star on a front row filled with stars was Julia Roberts, a woman of a certain age and her own retiring disposition — as opposed to, say, Harry Styles or Jared Leto — was not an insignificant detail (she was wearing a longer version of the micro shorts on the runway; presumably that will be the case in-store). Nor was the fact that the show was supposed to be held in the afternoon in the streets of the Brera district, but got rained out at the last minute and was forced indoors.

It’s too bad, because that idea, like Ms. Roberts, is a clue to the new Gucci. For Mr. Ford and Mr. Michele, Gucci came alive after dark or through the glare (and small screen) of the smartphone. Mr. De Sarno wants to bring it into the light of day. The better to start, well — again. He did that. What really matters is what he does next.