Tuesday, Nov 29, 2022

Alessandro Michele steps down as Gucci’s creative director; a look at his ‘extraordinary journey’

"Today an extraordinary journey ends for me, lasting more than twenty years, within a company to which I have tirelessly dedicated all my love and creative passion," he said

Gucci's Creative Director Alessandro Michele poses at the LACMA Art+Film Gala in Los Angeles (Source: Reuters)

Italian fashion designer Alessandro Michele on Wednesday parted ways with Gucci after an extraordinary eight-year-run that redefined the luxury brand’s aesthetics and saw a powerful hike in revenues. “Gucci today announces that Alessandro Michele is stepping down as creative director of Gucci,” said French conglomerate Kering, which owns the Italian house, in a statemenet.

According to Womenswear Daily, Michele’s expected departure was due to his failure to meet a request to “initiate a strong design shift”. In its statement, Gucci said that he played “a fundamental part in making the brand what it is today through his groundbreaking creativity.”

Penning a heartfelt note on Instagram, Michele cited “different perspectives” as the reason behind leaving Gucci. “Today an extraordinary journey ends for me, lasting more than twenty years, within a company to which I have tirelessly dedicated all my love and creative passion,” he said.


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A post shared by Alessandro Michele (@alessandro_michele) 

Michele added: “During this long period Gucci has been my home, my adopted family. To this extended family, to all the individuals, who have looked after and supported it, I send my most sincere thanks, my biggest and most heartfelt embrace. Together with them, I have wished, dreamed, imagined. Without them, none of what I have built would have been possible.”

The celebrated designer ended the note by wishing well to his colleagues at Gucci. “To them goes my most sincerest wish: may you continue to cultivate your dreams, the subtle and intangible matter that makes life worth living. May you continue to nourish yourselves with poetic and inclusive imagery, remaining faithful to your values. May you always live by your passions, propelled by the wind of freedom,” he concluded.

Michele, who grew up in Rome, studied fashion design at the Accademia di Costume e di Moda in Rome and started his career in 1994 in an Italian knitwear firm, Les Copains. In 1997, he joined the luxury house Fendi where he was appointed senior accessories designer, in charge of the brand’s leather goods.


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A post shared by Alessandro Michele (@alessandro_michele) 

It was in 2002 that Michele’s tryst with Gucci began when he was hired by Tom Ford, Gucci’s then-creative director, as in charge of the company’s handbag designs. Four years later, in 2006, he was named senior designer of Gucci leather goods. In 2011, the fashion designer became the associative creative director to Frida Giannini – who served as the brand’s creative director since 2005. In 2014, he was appointed as the creative director of Richard Ginori, the Florentine porcelain brand acquired by Gucci in June 2013.

In January 2015, Gucci’s CEO Marco Bizzarri asked Michele to serve as an interim creative designer for the January menswear show and gave him a week to reshape Frida Giannini’s original designs. Accepting this herculean challenge, Michelle introduced, what Vogue called, a “new Gucci: nonconformist, romantic, intellectual”.

Following this, he was appointed the creative director of Gucci to revive Gucci’s deflating sales. It is widely acknowledged that it is Michele’s groundbreaking creativity that made it possible for the brand to become what it is today.


“The designer is responsible for reinventing the Italian heritage label into a representative of inclusivity, promoting the cultural conversation around gender, sexual identity, and race. The eccentric, androgynous, and glamorous aesthetic he introduced is now considered Gucci’s trademark. Michele is also responsible for growing the brand’s sales exponentially,” Design Boom noted. With celebrities such as Harry Styles and Jared Leto frequently adorning gender-fluid designs helmed by Michele, the brand saw a huge influx of young buyers.


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A post shared by Alessandro Michele (@alessandro_michele) 

What marked Michele’s tenure as Gucci’s creative director was the blurring line between masculine and feminine, as was evident in his very first show with a male model sashaying the runway wearing a bright red pussy bow blouse, among other androgynous looks. From clothes and accessories to styling — Michele took Gucci towards an experimental territory.

In 2017, he launched the iconic Gucci Art Walls project which created a collaboration between street art and the famous Gucci aesthetic. The Brand’s Spring/Summer 2018 campaign invited attention as it blended the works of the old masters with the colourful and printed designs of Michele. “The collection contributed to the whimsical aesthetic of the luxury house, which is known to blend physical and imaginary elements,” Design Boom said.

He is also responsible for reviving Gucci’s Beauty collection with the brand launching its first fine jewellery collection in 2019, designed by Michele.


Quite recently, at Gucci’s Spring/Summer 2023 show, he created ripples by sending sixty-eight pairs of identical twins down the runway in matching looks. “As if by magic, clothes duplicate. They seem to lose their status of singularity. The effect is alienating and ambiguous. Almost a rift in the idea of identity, and then, the revelation: the same clothes emanate different qualities on seemingly identical bodies. Fashion, after all, lives on serial multiplications that don’t hamper the most genuine expression of every possible individuality,” Michele said, in his notes on the show.


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A post shared by Alessandro Michele (@alessandro_michele) 

However, it is reported that during the last few years, the excitement and sheen linked to his designs started to wear off. “Gucci is suffering from brand fatigue as Alessandro Michele has been doing more of the same for seven years. In order to reaccelerate, Gucci doesn’t need to move to the mainstream or to become timeless. It needs to open a new creative chapter,” Luca Solca, an analyst at Bernstein, told the Financial Times.

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First published on: 25-11-2022 at 03:00:41 pm
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