Detroit’s national emergence as a significant player in tech, entertainment, art, and fashion, is not new, especially to Detroiters. When news broke in January that Gucci’s luxury brand would be taking residency in downtown Detroit, there was no shock. However, there was a mixture of excitement and caution about what this meant for not just the hub of downtown Detroit but what it meant for the city’s heart — its residents and the community as a whole.
In an exclusive one-on-one with Susan Chokachi, President and CEO of Gucci Americas, Chokachi addresses the elephant in the room of the mix reaction and why some Detroiters are concerned with what may be perceived as corporate poaching.
“Gucci found a natural alignment with Detroit and its vibrant culture several years ago. In 2019, we collaborated with director Jenn Nkiru to create the film Black to Techno that celebrated techno as a home-grown Detroit art form. When we built the Gucci Changemakers program the same year, we identified Detroit as a focus city, to support local grass roots organizations and to tap into the youth of the city to advocate for stronger representation in the fashion industry.”
To Chokachi’s point, what many may not know is Gucci’s presence as a community partner and impact before securing the downtown location with their Changemakers program.
“Gucci is about community, and the local relationships we have been building over the past few years will expand in the years to come. We’ve been able to collaborate with Detroiters throughout the city through our partnerships with Cass Tech and JOURNi, through local artists, poets, filmmakers, musicians, and friends like Tommey, and of course, through our Gucci Changemakers program.
“These relationships have and will continue to allow us to gain a deeper understanding of Detroit outside of Downtown proper, so that we can continue to contribute to this vibrant and diverse city. Our hope is that this location serves as a convening point for Downtown’s energy and the creative and unique character of Detroit’s many neighborhoods and the people who live there.” said, Chokachi.
“I’ve had the chance to personally engage with Cass Tech High School students and faculty over the past few years. Principal Phillips leads such a talented and inspired student body, including people like Cass Tech alum Brooke Solomon, who I met during her senior year, and who I’ve followed as she went on to attend Howard University. It’s been rewarding to experience and support the confidence, creativity and determination of the youth of Detroit. She continues, This July we are excited to announce the next round of Gucci Changemakers Scholarships and Impact Fund recipients, in tandem with the Detroit store opening.”
Most recent and notably to Detroit under the Changemakers program was the collaboration with Detroiter Tommy Walker’s iconic brand “Detroit Vs. Everybody”. Although according to Chokachi, Gucci’s commitment to collaboration doesn’t plan to stop with Walker.
“Detroit Vs. Everybody truly embodies the spirit of the city, and for our first collaboration with Tommey, we wanted to bring this spirit to our Gucci Changemakers cities across the country. It was such a success, we knew we wanted to work together again. The opening of Gucci in downtown Detroit is the perfect occasion. Now, the multi-city project that began with t-shirts, will evolve into a product collaboration with the Gucci Off The Grid collection, featuring recycled, organic, bio-based, and sustainably sourced materials with DVE iconography.
Beyond this partnership, supporting the next generation of fashion professionals is the ultimate goal of Gucci Changemakers fund, and we are excited about continuing to award the incredible students and nonprofit organizations in the city of Detroit.”
Detroit’s comeback has been a process years in the making, which Gucci, much like the county, has noticed, but the question is, why expand to Detroit now?
“Gucci has been putting roots in downtown Detroit for a few years now, since 2019 when the Gucci America team came to the city and felt an incredible connection to what was happening in the city and its communities. We knew immediately that we wanted Gucci to be part of the next revitalization of Downtown Detroit.
Being the only UNESCO-designated City of Design, Detroit has a rich history of creativity and innovation, and the people of Detroit are truly stewards of their city with an amazing energy. You can feel a palpable creativity in the air, and you can see how Detroit continuously uses this energy to ignite moments of challenge into opportunity and prosperity. We planned to come to Detroit before the Covid pandemic, but feel that it is even more important now. Gucci’s arrival in the city is a tribute to this strength.” said, Chokachi.
An experience tailored to Detroit’s style and grit is what’s expected as you enter the doors of the new location.
“The store has been conceived to blend the timeless character of Detroit’s architecture with Gucci’s Italian heritage. We instantly knew the Library street location was our home when we saw its unique ‘Gucci Green’ façade! My favorite element is the restored glass tiles that you see on the 1910 landmarked building.” said, Chokachi.
The terracotta Italian Renaissance building that Gucci will call home draws a likeness between the essence of the luxury house and the timeless character of Detroit. The ground-floor façade of the 1910 landmark features restored glass tiles beneath a trim of geometric metalwork. Decorative monochrome floors mirror the geometric paneling on the façade, forming three-dimensional effects and harmonizing with the cylindrical light fixtures. Throughout the store, one finds sumptuous cushions, with modern, blue faux fur rugs layered over the textured flooring.
Gucci will take a cue from its rich heritage and timeless identity to offer Detroit the luxury retail destination it deserves. The store is a tribute to the fearless ingenuity of Detroiters and the site of American retail history.
In addition, according to Chokachi, what makes this location different from Somerset in a goal to draw people into Detroit is the specially curated collection that will be unique to Detroit.
“The product for the downtown store will be curated specifically for this location, and will feature all that Gucci has to offer, from accessories, to décor, to men’s and women’s ready-to-wear. In such a historic building, we were inspired to bring a unique expression of the brand into Detroit’s distinct architectural landscape, giving visitors a new gateway to engage with Gucci. I’m excited to announce that our second collaboration with Tommey Walker will be available exclusively here – only at the Downtown Detroit location.”
The collaboration called GUCCI VS. EVERYBODY 2.0 (GVE 2.0) with Walker. The project began with t-shirts representing each of the 11 Gucci Changemaker cities in 2021 and will now include items from Gucci Off The Grid, a non-gendered collection that emphasizes circular production using recycled, organic, bio-based, and sustainably sourced materials.
Featuring innovative textiles such as Econyl, recycled steel, and organic cotton with embroidered DVE iconography, GVE 2.0 will offer a duffel bag, baseball cap, backpack, and belt bag. There will be a limited amount of this collection available exclusively at the Detroit store. Consistent with Gucci’s global stores, the Detroit location will offer an extensive collection of men’s and women’s ready-to-wear clothing, shoes, handbags, luggage, small leather goods, jewelry, watches, eyewear, and Gucci Décor.
Gucci’s newest store at 1274 Library Street in Downtown Detroit’s historic L.B. King and Company Building is slated to open in Summer 2022.