Alessandro Michele is leaving Gucci

Alessandro Michele, the 49-year-old who emerged from the anonymous recesses of the design department to revolutionize Gucci, will leave the brand, Gucci announced in a statement today.

In the press release, Marco Bizzarri, president and CEO of Gucci, thanked Michele for his dedication to the house over the past eight years, “and for his vision, devotion and unconditional love for this unique brand.” François-Henri Pinault, Chairman and CEO of Kering, which owns Gucci, stated that what Michele achieved will long be considered an important period in the brand’s history: “His passion, his imagination, his ingenuity and his culture set Gucci center stage. , where its place is. I wish him a great next chapter in his creative journey.”

For his part, Michele called Gucci “my home, my adopted family”, his team and everyone who supported Gucci expressed his gratitude. “May you continue to feed yourselves with poetic and inclusive images and stay true to your values. May you always live by your passions, driven by the wind of freedom.”

Speculation about the announcement began Tuesday evening when an unidentified source told WWD that the designer’s departure was imminent. A “well-placed source” told the paper that Michele “was asked to initiate a strong design shift” at the brand by parent company Kering; Gucci had been a giant for the conglomerate since Michele presented his first collection for the brand in 2015, but in 2021, industry insiders began to speculate whether the energy around the brand had cooled. It was occasionally frowned upon whether the magpie aesthetic Michele developed—that of a globally traveling, gender-fluid hipster with a taste for Hollywood and history, accessorizing to the shaft—might be stagnant. A resort show staged at a castle in Puglia in May was well received for its strange sexiness, and the spring 2023 collection modeled by 68 sets of twins won praise as a casting feat, but that might not have been enough.

Or maybe Pinault simply wants the brand to go in a different direction. Gucci is considered Kering’s marquee brand, generating over $6 billion in revenue by 2021, although Balenciaga, under creative director Demna, and Saint Laurent, headed by Anthony Vaccarello, have also been stars in the conglomerate. Bottega Veneta also saw record growth under mercurial designer Daniel Lee, who left the brand amid a flurry of controversy in November 2021 (and was recently announced as Burberry’s new creative director), then was replaced with his second-in-command Matthieu Blazy. This reshuffle has led to a more subtle but no less extraordinary expression of cognitive luxury and chic, even if Pinault thinks of it as a playbook or sees the “New New Bottega,” as it’s known, as a bell of changing tastes, is of course impossible to say.

From the moment Michele debuted his first collection for the house, a menswear show at Milan Men’s Fashion Week in January 2015, he set off ripples that moved the entire fashion industry, both in aesthetics and business. Michele was plucked from relative obscurity, having worked at the brand since 2002 under Tom Ford, and the move almost smacked of the habit of bold name designer appointments that generally drives the fashion world. (Ford had also driven a record-breaking turnaround at Gucci, and the two became close friends during Michele’s tenure as creative director.) The first collection, put together by Michele in just five days, featured geek-chic boys in undersized sweaters and pussybow blouses. and shrunken jackets and fur-trimmed jackets that looked like they were pinched from grandma’s dusty closet. His gender-fluid vision would reorient the very codes of “androgynous” dress in the realms of high fashion and celebrity, encouraging all fashion, and specifically “masculine” styles, to become more feminine.

At the Spring 2020 show, a classic Gucci look as developed by Alessandro Michele: oversized, geeky glasses, wild accessories, gold hardware and vaguely vintage clothing.

Estrop//Getty Images

Michele found trusted avatars for this look in stars like Jared Leto and Florence Welch, and as his clunky collections grew more expansive and ambitious, he brought bigger stars into the fold to help proselytize: Dakota Johnson, Rihanna, A. $ AP Rocky, and most famously Harry Styles. Perhaps no brand has worked so successfully within celebrity, making a bold vision so popular on such a large scale. Within months of his arrival, his kangaroo-fur-lined Gucci mules had transformed legions of shoppers, from Los Angeles’ trendiest enclaves to the punkest millennial sections of New York, Paris and London, to nerdy jetsetters who seemed to make any room their premium lounge. Michele’s clothes and the wild, maximalist styling of his collections seemed to perfectly encapsulate the twenty-something’s view of luxury as culture—a postmodern mishmash generated by constant travel and the then-sparkling new Instagram feed that spewed a tantalizing rash of aspirational lifestyles out. . It was as if Michele saw the selfie as a Renaissance portrait, with all the things we show off that symbolize our position in the world, with brand names and hashtags as modern-day heraldry.

gucci runway milan fashion week fall winter 201819

Half mystical, half hypermodern, Michele’s Gucci shows perfectly embodied the well-traveled millennial scrolling madly through the Instagram feed. At the Fall 2018 show, model Unia Pakhomova was sent down the runway with a replica of her own head.

Pietro D’Aprano//Getty Images

As Michele charged his vision forward at an almost unstoppable pace, he proved adept at adapting to the new demands of the politically engaged, fashion-fluid millennial consumer. Showing off a jacket that eagle-eyed observers on Instagram identified as a knockoff of defunct Harlem couturier Dapper Dan’s, Michele gave Dap the means to restart his atelier. When he was accused of cultural appropriation, he invited the then unknown Diet Prada to join the show and identify his references. When social media users pointed out that a Leigh Bowery-inspired turtleneckOutside of the runway context of Michele’s flurry of products, resembling blackface, he assembled a team of advisors (including several millennials) to teach Gucci employees about race and diversity.

And when the pandemic hit, Michele became especially existential. He had just staged a show in Milan that made the guts of the runway—hair, makeup, models getting dressed—the spectacle itself, and he also frequently staged resort shows around the world. In an Instagram post, he questioned whether the industry demanded too many shows, created too many shows and produced too many ideas. Gucci, he suggested, would become seasonless, showing only when they felt like it. Eventually, however, like so many other designers, he returned to business (somewhat) as usual. In Spring 2021, Michele sparked a fervor for luxury brand team-ups as he stepped up the high-meets-low model of collaborations by working with Demna to “hack” Balenciaga’s codes and merge the visions of the two brands on the runway .

Who will replace Michele? Well, who is up to the task anyway? Last June, the brand split runway and merchandising effort, with Michele overseeing the former and Maria Cristina Lomanto, former CEO of Roger Vivier, recruited to oversee the latter. Maybe Lomanto will take over; perhaps there is a young and eager Alessandro acolyte waiting in the wings. In the release, Gucci stated that its design studio will continue the vision until a new arrangement is announced.

But the end (at least for now) of Michele’s influence on fashion in his shows will create quite a gap. Whether he wants to start his own label, move to another brand or go a completely different path remains to be seen. But his influence will be felt on celebrities, gender-fluid styles and the integration of political stances with fashion for years to come.

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