In collaboration with Gucci
John Stones for Gucci Valigeria
Origins, Travel, Experience.
For over a decade, John Stones has been on a journey of self-discovery, which has seen him reach the pinnacle of professional football.
At just 28 years of age, he is considered one of the best defenders in the world, with four Premier League titles and an impressive record for England at both the World Cup and European Championships. With arguably his best years yet to come, he’s on track to reach 100 international caps and, in doing so, would join an elite group of English players that includes Wayne Rooney, David Beckham and World Cup-winning centre-back Bobby Moore.
His story so far goes beyond his wildest dreams and has many similarities to the evolution of Gucci as a brand; from humble beginnings comes worldwide acclaim. Today, like Gucci, John is at the peak of his powers. He is a part of a Manchester City team that is considered one of the greatest of all time and an integral part of the most successful England squad since 1966.
As part of Gucci’s Valigeria campaign, we spent the day at Manchester City’s Etihad Campus to capture an exclusive collaboration. Focusing on the Gucci Savoy collection, John adorns tailored suits and a range of travel items defined by a combination of classic colour palettes and emblematic House motifs. This latest collection shines a spotlight on the travel culture at the heart of the Gucci brand. According to Creative Director Alessandro Michele, ‘luggage is not just a container, but also a symbol of journey and experience’, where our conversation with John begins.
“My journey so far has been a big learning curve in many ways,” says John. “It all went from zero to one hundred very quickly when I moved from Barnsley to Everton. I was in the England senior within two years, so it was a fast progression. At that stage of my career, with so much interest from other clubs, it was difficult to stay at Everton, so I decided it was the right time to move on to Manchester City. Every move for me has been life-changing, whether Barnsley to Everton or Everton to City. I’ve always been one of those people who can’t turn down opportunities when they come along.”
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there’s no secret recipe for success.”
“I wanted to better myself, better my family, and give people closest to me a chance to live these experiences with me, and I don’t think we’ve done too badly so far. I always want more, and that’s one thing I don’t think I’ll ever change about myself. I want to be successful in my career and become the best I can be. Every year I’m getting older and more experienced, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there’s no secret recipe for success.”
The great Pelé once said, “success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do”. His words perfectly reflect the life and career of both John and Guccio Gucci, whose early endeavours set the foundations for everything the House of Gucci has become. It’s a fascinating tale of courage and innovation documented by Peter Howarth, writer for The Times’ Luxx and former editor of British Esquire:
“Over a hundred years ago, young Guccio Gucci made the journey to London from Florence and landed a job as a porter at The Savoy hotel. Having opened in 1889, it was still relatively new and was full of the most modern innovations – electric lights and elevators, and bathrooms for most of the rooms, complete with hot and cold running water. It must have been a magical place for the young Italian, located as it is in the heart of the bustling capital city. Furthermore, it had a strong connection with British culture, having been the brainchild of impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte and built using the money he had made from the productions of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas he staged.
Considered to be Britain’s first luxury hotel, since opening, The Savoy has played host to many famous guests, from Oscar Wilde and Charlie Chaplin to Marilyn Monroe and The Beatles, and from Judy Garland and John Wayne to Elizabeth Taylor and Bob Dylan. And it was exposure to the glamorous guests of the day that no doubt inspired Guccio Gucci to dream of travel as a means of adventure and discovery, a ticket to the unexpected and a bridge between the diverse cultures of the world. He was particularly struck by the luxurious luggage and elegant clothes of those who came to stay at the hotel, people who half a century later would be classed as the international jet set (and who Gucci would dress when they were indeed travelling to the world’s most glamorous destinations by air).
After Guccio Gucci returned home, in 1921, he opened his own artisanal luggage atelier in Florence and the Gucci we know was born.”
In the years that have followed, Gucci has achieved unimaginable success. Contrary to many of its competitors, the brand’s success stretches far beyond financial performance; Gucci has become a cultural phenomenon endorsed by some of the world’s most influential musicians, actors and sports stars. John’s career is no different; his successes can be measured on and off the pitch in several ways, whether through trophies, individual accolades or the experiences that have shaped his character.
“I feel fortunate and very grateful for the experiences I’ve had,” he says. “When I was a little kid, I never thought I would achieve everything I have in my career. I’ve had some incredible experiences in my career but winning the first Premier League was super special. I’ve played a different role in all of the other title-winning campaigns, which makes them equally as unique because you can look back at each season and the impact you’d had.”
“The Champions League final was a massive blow, and in the same summer, we lost the Euros. But to experience those things and create history with City by making a European final and being a part of the second most successful England team in history is incredible. I like to look at these things positively and focus on how we brought everyone together in the country and changed the mentality and outlook on the men’s game.”
“The World Cup in 2018 was one of the best experiences for me because we were in a difficult spot as a team heading into that tournament. We were written off before we started, and what we achieved united the nation. We wanted to change people’s mindset about English football and bring the spark back, which I think we did, and in some aspects, we’ve been on a journey ever since.”
When exposed to so much success, it can be difficult to seek new challenges and objectives in life. For the last century, Gucci has moved with the times and continually evolved, reinventing the brand to remain at the forefront of the fashion industry. Despite having so much success in just six years at Manchester City, John believes his journey is just getting started. He has his sights set on European success with City and admits winning the Champions League would be the final piece of the jigsaw.
“I want to win the Premier League every year; that’s the aim,” says John. “It would be great to create that next bit of history with City and win the Champions League. We’ve made so many leaps in the right direction under Pep [Guardiola], and as a squad, we’ve broken so many records across all competitions, so it would be nice to finally win in Europe. I’d also love to get to 100 caps for my country. When I was on around 45, I wasn’t in the team for over a year, and I started to think I might not play for England again. As a player, you have to be prepared for those times in your career, but thankfully, I’m back involved now. If I could get to 100, I’d be made up – it’s an exclusive club of incredible players, so I’ve set the bar high, but why not?”
“I want to win the Premier League every year; that’s the aim”
Throughout Gucci’s development as a brand, travel culture has always been at the heart of its DNA. Nowadays, they have an abundance of products spanning all of fashion’s sub-categories, but Guccio Gucci’s experiences at The Savoy Hotel have never been forgotten. In his latest offering, Creative Director Alessandro Michele explores the culture at the brand’s heart through Gucci Valigeria, a collection that honours the brand’s heritage and pays homage to its influence on travel.
As an elite-level athlete, travel is an unavoidable part of life. Despite the perceived glamour of private jets and luxurious hotels, the reality can often be quite demanding. However, much like Gucci, travel is embedded deep within John’s make-up and necessary in the pursuit of more incredible experiences and a lasting legacy.
“There are highs and lows when you’re constantly travelling, but as I’ve gotten older, I find it more difficult being away, especially with a young family,” he says. “When you work out how much time you spend away from home travelling, it adds up to so much, especially when you’re playing in all competitions. I try to enjoy that time as much as possible and make it worthwhile. We’re fortunate to travel in the way we do, so you’ve got to look at it positively; otherwise, it can bring you down, and you can experience dark days. When we were at the Euros, we couldn’t see our family for six weeks because of things like Covid, which was tough.”
“I remember I had a two or three-day stretch at the Euros where I didn’t want to see or speak to anyone; I was just staying in my room. But you’ve always got your teammates there to pick you up, and equally, you recognise when other players are going through hard times. I feel fortunate to have been a part of two squads made up of incredible people, and I think that’s why we’ve been so successful with England and City. I’ve got some great memories of us travelling around Russia on planes with all of the lads, some that aren’t playing anymore, some that still are, and some are still with me in the current squad, and it’s always a fun time.”
“It hits home when you have a few home games and can spend a few weeks just travelling to training and back; it’s nice to have those moments. Obviously, we’re fortunate to travel the world, but we don’t get to see it in the same way that you might think. We’ve been to a lot of different places and experienced some amazing cultures, and I think it’s important to make the most of those times and make them as comfortable as possible in terms of how you travel, what you take and who you are with.”
During a coveted few weeks at the beginning of every summer, footballers jet off all over the world to celebrity hotspots like Los Angeles, Dubai and the South of France. With limited time to enjoy a holiday each year, they tend to do it in style when they get a chance. And that’s not limited to how they travel or where they stay; appearance is everything, and there is perhaps no more iconic image than a footballer carrying designer luggage. As a brand, Gucci has been at the forefront of that movement for over two decades now and continues to set trends within high-net-worth communities.
But, while many players follow trends regarding fashion or when choosing a destination, John prefers to maximise his time by returning to his favourite holiday spot, the iconic White Isle of Ibiza.
“I would love to see the world one day and experience different places as a tourist”
“Personally, I’m a big fan of Ibiza; I love it out there,” he says. “With my family and as a club, I do love going out to Dubai and Abu Dhabi; they’re entirely different to what we’re used to over here; everything is on another level, very grand. I would love to see the world one day and experience different places as a tourist, but we get limited time off, so I try and maximise it by not sitting on a plane for a long time. I prefer to be able to get straight off it and head straight to the beach. I’ve been to Ibiza a few times now with family and friends, and I love it.”
It seems that what lies ahead is a pivotal year in John’s career, which may well turn out to be his most successful season on record. Off the pitch, it’s been a privilege to play a small part in building John’s profile outside of football. We look forward to watching his story unfold and wish him every success in his journey.
Working with SWM was amazing; I really enjoyed it. I loved everyone and how it was run - I said to my team after how good everyone was from SWM. Obviously, they put a lot of work in in the background, which doesn’t go unnoticed by me especially. The shoot wasn’t my usual style, but I suppose if you don’t experience these things, you’ll never know how things can look, and the photos came out so well. I was really impressed.