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Gucci goes for a quick designer change

Just two weeks after presenting her autumn/winter collection for Gucci at Milan Fashion Week, designer Alessandra Facchinetti ' who took over from the apparently inimitable American Tom Ford a year ago ' has been replaced.

Facchinetti's successor as creative director of women's ready-to-wear is Frida Giannini, who will also continue to head the Gucci accessories division.

Gucci said yesterday Facchinetti was leaving the company immediately after 'a disagreement with management'.

The switch reflects Gucci's reliance and emphasis on accessories. These account for more than three quarters of annual sales, which last year topped '1.1 billion.

Giannini was previously at Fendi where she was part of the team responsible for the remarkable Fendi Baguette Bag in 1997. Prices for the bags ranged from '400 to '16,000.

She joined Gucci two years ago. Under her direction, accessories had 'a cracking year' in 2004, according to an insider, with shoe sales rocketing by 30 per cent, while leather goods, including handbags, increased by 24 per cent.

Facchinetti, by contrast, has received mixed reviews for her interpretation of clothes for the 'urban vamp', the formula for which was laid down by Ford during his 13-year reign at Gucci. Her latest collection, for next autumn/winter, received mixed reviews.

Although it was loaded with curve-clinging skirts, luxurious furs, python spike-heeled shoes and cleavage-enhancing red carpet gowns, it was not felt to have moved Ford's legacy forward sufficiently.

Now, Giannini, with her expanded role as creative director responsible for all women's products under the name of Gucci, as well as the twice-yearly women's catwalk shows, is under pressure to perform as well as Ford and meet the chief executive officer Robert Polet's aim of doubling the company's revenue over the next seven years.

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