Are you ready to say your goodbyes to long, luscious dark locks and plenty of mismatched and eclectic prints? Alessandro Michele has announced his departure as Creative Director of Gucci.
Following seven beautifully designed and maximally genius years, what better time than now to recap all that Michele has done for the fashion industry – and our wardrobes. When he took the creative reins at Gucci, an air of Tom Ford still lingered in its decadent and hallowed halls. Following an androgyny-focused menswear show, the world waited for a new dawn at Gucci…
Appearance was something always close to a young Alessandro’s heart – first bleaching his hair at the tender age of 10. Having been taught how to crochet by an aunt, clothesmaking soon became a passion for Michele (who still enjoys buying needlepoint kits at London’s Liberty).
While studying at Rome’s Academia de Costume e di Moda, we almost lost Michele to the world of costume design, until he decided to pursue a career in fashion. By 1994 he had begun working with Les Copains – an Italian knitwear brand based in Bologna. Michele would work here for three years until making a move to Fendi in the late 90s. Here, he worked under Silvia Venturini and Karl Lagerfeld – the perfect opportunity to finesse his style. Later appointed Senior Accessories designer and heading up Fendi’s leather goods, Michele was laying the foundations of his celebrated reputation.
The early noughties may have brought the lowering of waistlines and the bedazzling of flip phones – but it also brought Michele to Gucci. In 2002, Creative Director Tom Ford hired Alessandro as a bag designer. It is safe to say Michele served his time – in 2006 he was made Senior Designer of Gucci’s leather goods, later moving to work as an Associate Designer to Frida Giannini in 2011.
Pressure makes diamonds – following Giannini’s abrupt departure from Gucci in 2014, Michele was given a make-or-break opportunity. Asked to design the brand’s Autumn/Winter 2015 collection to replace that already made by Giannini – Michele had the generous deadline of five days to imagine and finalise an entirely fresh show.
A first look at Michele’s opening Gucci collection saw the brand tip-toeing towards their now trademark androgynous aesthetics – with playful pussy bow blouses paired with black straight-leg trousers and Gucci branded belts. Male models walked with hands just as jewelled as Michele’s own – Gucci was a mirror of himself. History was made, while Michele was made Gucci’s Creative Director in January of 2015. The role was more than just a title for Michele. A new dawn of Gucci had begun – 2015 fashionistas braced themselves for an age of maximalism, gender fluidity and bohemian meets Hollywood chic.
In just two years, the visual language of the brand had been translated into Michele’s creative language – now considered as quintessentially Gucci. He stated: “I’m not interested in the future – it doesn’t exist yet – but I’m really interested in the past and the contemporary.” With an appreciation and passion for the house’s history, the new age of Gucci took its signature styles to meet a more modernised aesthetic – which in turn would attract a new host of younger buyers.
The cult of couture fans were not the only ones infected with this Gucci buzz, as executives at Kering found themselves dealing with some much larger numbers. According to the Financial Times, during Michele’s tenure, Gucci’s revenue almost tripled – in 2015 the brand boasted $3.9 billion in sales, now mocked and laughed at by 2021’s takings of $9.7 billion.
With Michele in the exquisitely tailored Gucci driving seat, we were reminded that fashion is art and what better way to do this than by having a campaign painted. Found intertwined within Gucci’s DNA, the influence of the Renaissance is recognisable in Michele’s brand vision and with that came the Spring/Summer 2018 collection. Presented as Guccified renderings of classic artworks, models were painted by artist Ignasi Monreal in the then-latest couture. Monreal reflected Michele’s impeccably styled reality and his beloved world of the imaginary.
Michele’s dedication to the brand and its vision included an all-important step towards sustainability. Having eliminated the use of fur in 2017, Gucci set about reducing its impact on the environment. The autumn of 2019 also saw a dramatic fall in the brand’s effecting the environment – clear in their Spring/Summer 2020 runway show in Milan. From the event itself to its invitations, the show was carbon neutral – and while its carbon footprint shrunk significantly, its foot was most likely still irresistibly dressed in Gucci loafers. Launched only this summer, the brand announced its first eco-friendly collection, “Off The Grid”, which used only bio-based, organic and recycled materials. The collection was presented alongside a video campaign featuring the likes of Lil Nas X and Jane Fonda.
After eight years as a trendsetter, Michele’s genius persisted. Gucci’s Spring/Summer 2023 show had both fashion and Stephen King fans electrified with excitement – with identical twins sent down the runway draped in matching Gucci outfits. The show was a first, being applauded for its immense creativity and for its youth nostalgia.
Expanding Michele’s vision allowed the brand to become a way of life, an extension of the wardrobe onto the streets. Opening the brand’s arms and inviting the input and influence from collaborators and major campaign faces, certainly helped provoke a new era of Gucci – but there was more to it.
Alessandro Michele served us a slice of his mind with every collection, collaboration and show, as after all “the values of Gucci are in his veins.” As the physical embodiment of the brand, Michele gave us 8 wonderfully floral and eccentric years – for each of which the fashion industry will be eternally grateful.
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