Gucci has a “shadow committee” of millennial advisors

Shady kids.
Shady kids.
Image: Reuters/Stefano Rellandini
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Italian luxury house Gucci has had a remarkable turnaround since the start of 2015. That was when Alessandro Michele was unexpectedly named the brand’s creative director, proceeding to change the entire look and feel of Gucci. It’s also when Marco Bizzarri, who was previously the CEO of Bottega Veneta and then parent company Kering’s luxury couture and leather goods division, became Gucci’s chief executive.

Speaking at WWD’s Apparel & Retail CEO Summit, Bizzarri talked about the company’s impressive performance. While he said there was no magic formula to replicate it, he did credit a few specific changes, particularly in the company culture. Bizzarri has tried to make the company feel open, happy, and perhaps above all, creative—no small task, given that Gucci employs some 11,000 people across its operations, he said.

Bizzarri’s goal has been to make sure everyone feels comfortable proposing new ideas and identifying processes that aren’t working. One way he’s done it is by creating what he called a “bottom-up approach,” meaning that he tries to give people throughout the company the opportunity to offer feedback to top executives and create change.

A “shadow committee” of young people, for example, gives Bizzarri a different perspective than his normal circle of top executives at Gucci. “It is a committee that is structured with people below the age of 30,” he said. “The task is either discussing the same topics that we discuss in the normal meeting with executives, or giving me ideas on different processes.”

Bizzarri relies on the group to let him know what’s not working. The way the company cuts the leather for its bags, for instance, was producing a lot of unnecessary waste. But the millennial committee raised the idea of handling the process in a different way that successfully cut down on excess.

“The other thing that we try to do is we started doing lunches with again people below 35,” Bizzarri said. “I ask them to give me three ideas of what we should do to improve the life at Gucci.”

Another important ingredient in the company’s success has also been putting creativity and emotion “again at the center of the strategy of Gucci.” Bizzarri says that he never discusses figures or sales with Michele. Michele’s job is to be creative; Bizzarri’s job is to foster his creativity.

During his talk, Bizzarri shared management guru Peter Drucker’s quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He said changing the culture at Gucci starts with leading by example, then following through in large and small ways. You can’t change culture just by sending an email to 11,000 people.

So far, it seems to have worked. Bizzarri created an environment for creativity to flourish, and the money has followed.