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Earned Ep. 32: Gucci CMO Robert Triefus on Why the Luxury Label Embraces Inclusivity and Collaboration

robert triefus gucci

In Episode 32 of Earned, Conor sits down with Robert Triefus, CMO of Gucci—the iconic label and top luxury fashion brand by EMV in H1 2021.


We start the episode by learning how Gucci has embraced digital to expand and engage its community, and Robert shares a few ways the brand leverages technology to enhance and personalize the customer experience—from the Gucci 9 call center to the Gucci Live video shopping service. We then dive into Gucci’s investment in the gaming industry, with Robert unpacking the “increasing intersection between gaming and fashion today.” We hear why Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele champions co-creativity and collaboration in his work, before switching gears to Robert’s impressive career trajectory, as he explains how he found his way into the luxury fashion world. Next, we discuss Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri’s leadership style, and hear why he prioritizes inclusivity. Finally, we explore Gucci’s organic approach to working with content creators, and get a primer on influencer marketing in China—luxury fashion’s largest market.  

We’ve included a few discussion highlights from the episode below, but be sure to check out the full video above, listen to the podcast below, or tune in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts!

 The following interview has been lightly edited for concision.

Gucci & Gaming: Robert Triefus on the “Increasing Intersection Between Gaming and Fashion Today” 

Conor Begley: I wanted to talk about gaming. As I was doing research for this episode, it just seems to be a growing narrative internally [for Gucci], as digital goods, the ability to interact with people in a new environment. I'd love to hear about all of it. How did it get started? Do you want to continue to invest in gaming more aggressively over time? 

Robert Triefus: ​​It's interesting if you think about how fashion intersects with so many cultural references today. Of course, the ones that are most well-known are movies, music, and art, but fashion also increasingly intersects with gaming. The reason being that gaming is becoming a very strong driver of self-expression. Gaming is providing individuals the capacity to bring themselves into a new reality, to express themselves perhaps in ways that they haven't been able to express in the physical reality. 

So as we began to look into that more deeply, we began to realize the significance of the gaming community, a community that crosses generations, crosses genders, crosses ethnicities. It's a true global community in every sense. We realized that there was an opportunity for Gucci to have a voice in that community, and to enable the community to bring Gucci into their experience. So we began to look at different ways of doing that, and you've probably seen a number of the different kinds of experiments that we've conducted as we’ve gained a deeper understanding of the gaming world and of what gaming offers to our community, and what we can offer back to the community. 

So we've experimented with The Sims, bringing to life our first circular collection Off the Grid. The Sims environment was the perfect metaverse to bring that to life. And we then also experimented with Roblox, which is a huge, remarkable community, where we were able to bring a new physical experience that we've opened in Florence to life within that metaverse. And then most recently, we partnered with an Esports team in America called 100 Thieves, and we created some special products for that community. So different kinds of experiences and experiments—each one of them has underlined for us the amazing intersection between gaming and fashion today.

Why Gucci Creative Director Alessandro Michele Celebrates Collaboration and Co-Creativity

Conor Begley: Collaboration seems like a really big theme for Gucci. Is that something that has always been there, or is it something that has increased over time? Is that something that Alessandro Michele pushed? How has that evolved from when you started in 2008 to today? 

Robert Triefus: When [Alessandro Michele] was appointed [creative director], actually, in 2015, the fashion and luxury industry at that time was a very one-way relationship. The fashion brands were extremely controlling, they wanted to have every element of the experience controlled in a very minute and detailed way. That idea of inclusivity, that idea of creation through collaboration was far removed from the luxury world. Alessandro, in one of his very first collections, brought to life a really interesting collaboration with a pop artist called GucciGhost, Trevor Andrew. GucciGhost had effectively been abusing the Gucci trademark in his work, but actually, Alessandro thought of it in a very different way. 

He thought of it as, here was an artist who was celebrating the iconicity of Gucci. And so he said to himself, rather than the traditional way of dealing with an issue or circumstance of this nature, which might've been to engage a lawyer and bring to an end this particular creativity, he thought that he would embrace the creativity. So he created a collaboration. And really from that moment onwards, Alessandro’s trajectory has been really based essentially on this notion of inclusivity, of celebrating what Gucci has become renowned for, and bringing other creativity into that narrative and kind of seamlessly fusing creative inspirations. 

As a result, over the last six years, we've had some amazing, memorable collaborations that have resulted in capsule collections and other types of content creativity that have very much informed our storytelling. I think that's very much a statement of the world that we live in today. Of course, social media is a very inclusive kind of medium, the notion that everyone has a voice, everyone can comment, everyone can contribute. And so I think this notion of co-creativity is very timely and very much part of the zeitgeist for the world that we live in today.

Conor Begley: It's just more fun as well, right? The idea of co-creation is just so interesting. And like you said, I think there was a lot of fear before about, how does this change the brand? I'm not in control. And Gucci is an iconic brand, you guys just celebrated 100 years, right?

Robert Triefus: We're very happy to be in our hundredth anniversary year as we speak, and celebrating it. To your point, of course, a brand like Gucci over a hundred years—and perhaps Gucci more than any other luxury brand—has a remarkable archive and remarkable iconography within that archive that represents what the brand stands for, and symbols and motifs that our community is very proud of when they have the possibility to carry them or wear them. When you enable co-creativity, it doesn't mean that you let anarchy reign. There is a high degree of curation, and Alessandro actually, I think, is renowned for his attention to detail and his approach to curation. But what he does masterfully is create this magical mix, and sometimes a mashup, that resonates in a very contemporary way.


You can watch the entire interview here, or listen to the full episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts. To catch up on our other 31 episodes, featuring leaders from brands like ColourPop, Gymshark, Summer Fridays, and Ulta Beauty, visit our Earned Podcast page.

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