Alessandro Michele Is Exiting Gucci

Alessandro Michele, the 49-year-old who got here from the anonymous caverns of the design department to revolutionize Gucci, will exit the brand, Gucci announced in a press release today.

Within the press release, Marco Bizzarri, president and CEO of Gucci, thanked Michele for his dedication to the home 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 a vital period within the history of the brand: “His passion, his imagination, his ingenuity and his culture put Gucci center stage, where its place is. I wish him an awesome next chapter in his creative journey.”

For his part, Michele called Gucci “my home, my adopted family,” thanking his team and all who supported Gucci his gratitude. “May you proceed to nourish yourselves with poetic and inclusive imagery, remaining faithful to your values. May you usually live by your passions, propelled by the wind of freedom.”

Speculation about to the announcement began on 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 robust design shift” on the brand by parent company Kering; Gucci had been a juggernaut for the conglomerate since Michele presented his first collection for the brand in 2015, but in 2021, industry insiders began speculating whether energy across the label had cooled. There was occasional chin-stroking over whether the magpie aesthetic Michele developed—that of a world traveling, gender fluid hipster with a taste for Hollywood and history, accessorized to the hilt—is perhaps 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 feat of casting, but perhaps this was not enough.

Or perhaps Pinault simply wants the brand to move in one other direction. Gucci is taken into account Kering’s marquee brand, generating over $6 billion in revenue in 2021, although lately, Balenciaga, under creative director Demna, and Saint Laurent, helmed by Anthony Vaccarello, have also been stars on the conglomerate. Bottega Veneta, too, experienced record growth under the mercurial designer Daniel Lee, who exited the brand under a flurry of controversy in November 2021 (and was recently announced as Burberry’s latest creative director), and was then replaced together with his second-in-command Matthieu Blazy. That reshuffling has led to a subtler, but no less extraordinary expression of cognoscenti luxury and chic, though whether Pinault has that in mind as a playbook, or sees the “Latest Latest Bottega,” as its known, as a bellwether of shifting tastes, is after all inconceivable to say.

From the moment Michele debuted his first collection for the home, a menswear show at January 2015’s Milan men’s fashion week, he set off ripples that shifted all the fashion industry, each in aesthetics and business. Michele was plucked from relative obscurity, having worked on the brand since 2002 under Tom Ford, and the move practically thumbed its nose on the habit of bold-faced name designer appointments that generally drive fashion world buzz. (Ford had also driven a record turnaround at Gucci, and the 2 became close friends during Michele’s tenure as creative head.) That first collection, which was assembled by Michele in just five days, showed geek-chic boys in undersized sweaters and pussybow blouses, and shrunken jackets and fur-trimmed jackets that appeared pinched from granny’s dusty closet. His gender-fluid vision would reorient the very codes of “androgynous” dressing within the realms of high fashion and celebrity, encouraging all of fashion, and specifically “masculine” styles, to develop into more feminine.

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

Estrop//Getty Images

Michele found trusted avatars for this look in stars like Jared Leto and Florence Welch, after which, as his bric-a-brac collections grew more sprawling and bold, he brought larger stars into the fold to assist proselytize: Dakota Johnson, Rihanna, A$AP Rocky, and, most famously, Harry Styles. Perhaps no brand has worked the sector of celebrity so successfully, making a daring vision so popular on such a mass scale. Inside months of his arrival, his kangaroo fur-lined Gucci mules had turned legions of shoppers, from the toniest enclaves of Los Angeles to the punkest millennial sections of Latest York, Paris, and London, into nerdy jet-setters who looked as if it would make any room their top notch lounge. Michele’s clothes, and the wild, maximalist styling of his collections, looked as if it would perfectly encapsulate the twenty-something’s view of luxury as culture—a postmodern mishmash generated by constant travel and the then- sparkling latest Instagram feed spitting out a tantalizing rash of aspirational lifestyles. It was as if Michele saw the selfie as a Renaissance portrait, with all of the stuff we exhibit symbolizing our position on the earth, with brand names and hashtags as contemporary heraldry.

gucci runway  milan fashion week fall winter 201819

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

Pietro D’Aprano//Getty Images

As Michele charged his vision forward at an almost unstoppable pace, he proved himself adept at adjusting to the brand new demands of the politically-engaged, fashion-fluent millennial consumer. When he showed a jacket that eagle-eyed observers on Instagram identified as a knockoff of defunct Harlem couturier Dapper Dan’s, Michele gave Dap the funds to restart his atelier. When he was accused of cultural appropriation, he invited the then-unknown Weight loss plan Prada to attend the show and discover his references. When social media users identified that a Leigh Bowery-inspired turtleneck, outside of the runway context of Michele’s barrage of products, looked like blackface, he assembled a team of advisors (including several millennials) to show Gucci employees about race and variety.

And when the pandemic hit, Michele became especially existential. He had just staged a show in Milan that made the heart of the runway—hair, makeup, models getting dressed—into the spectacle itself, and was also steadily staging resort shows all around the world. In an Instagram post, he questioned whether the industry was demanding too many shows, creating too many shows, and producing too many ideas. Gucci, he proposed, would go seasonless, and show only once they felt prefer it. Eventually, though, like so many other designers, he returned to business (somewhat) as usual. In spring 2021, Michele set off a fervor for luxury brand team-ups when he upended the high-meets-low model of collaborations by working with Demna to “hack” the codes of Balenciaga, merging the visions of the 2 brands on the runway.

Who will replace Michele? Well, who’s even as much as the duty? This past June, the brand split runway and merchandising efforts, with Michele overseeing the previous and Maria Cristina Lomanto, previously CEO of Roger Vivier, recruited to oversee the latter. Perhaps Lomanto will take over; perhaps there’s a young and eager Alessandro acolyte waiting within the wings. In the discharge, Gucci stated that its design studio will carry forward the vision until a latest arrangement is announced.

But the tip (no less than for now) of Michele’s impact on fashion in his shows will create quite a gulf. Whether he’ll start his own label, move to a different brand, or take one other path completely stays to be seen. But his influence might be felt, on celebrity, gender fluid styles, and the mixing of political positions with fashion, for years to come back.

Rachel Tashjian is the Fashion News Director at Harper’s Bazaar, working across print and digital platforms. Previously, she was GQ’s first fashion critic, and worked as deputy editor of GARAGE and as a author at Vanity Fair. She has written for publications including Bookforum and Artforum, and is the creator of the invitation-only newsletter Opulent Suggestions. 

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