Alessandro Michele leaves the artistic direction of Gucci

Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

Alessandro Michele has stepped down as creative director of Gucci after nearly eight years, a period which has seen him help relaunch and transform the fortunes of the Italian brand.

Announcing the decision on Wednesday, the luxury house’s parent company, Kering, said the 49-year-old designer had “played a fundamental role in making the brand what it is today”.

The conglomerate’s CEO, François-Henri Pinault, added in a press release: “The path traveled together by Gucci and Alessandro in recent years is unique and will remain as a defining moment in the history of the House… His passion, his imagination, ingenuity and culture put Gucci center stage where it belongs.”

After joining Gucci as a designer of handbags and with no experience running a major brand, Michele was surprisingly appointed to the top job in 2015. But with the brand’s relevance seemingly waning, he initiated a major overhaul of its identity, openly eschewing the sexy aesthetic pioneered by predecessor Tom Ford in favor of a more whimsical aesthetic dubbed “geek chic”.

Models walk the runway at Milan Fashion Week during Michele’s last big show for Gucci. Credit: Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images for Gucci

Michele then ushered in an era of colorful and maximalist designs, reimagining Renaissance art through fashion and hold elaborate parades in historic locations. He embraced the opulent heritage of a brand that celebrated its centenary last year, even naming one of its best-known creations – the Dionysus handbag – after the Greek god of wine.

Its gender-neutral collections have also increasingly blurred the distinction between the brand’s menswear and womenswear lines, while savvy collaborations with Adidas and The North Face have helped give the brand market appeal. massive.

Appointed Among Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2017, Michele courted celebrities and named people like Harry Styles and Billie Eilish as brand ambassadors. At the star-studded Met Gala in May this year, he and actor Jared Leto showed up together on the red carpet in matching Gucci suits.
Alessandro Michele and Harry Styles arrive at the 2019 Met Gala.

Alessandro Michele and Harry Styles arrive at the 2019 Met Gala. Credit: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Revenues have surged during Michele’s time at the helm. Kering owns several other major brands, including Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta and Saint Laurent, but Gucci now generates more than all of them combined, earning the company 9.7 billion euros ($10.1 billion) last year .

But Michele’s tenure has not been without controversy. In 2019, he sent models down a Milan catwalk in white straitjackets, sparking a demonstration of one of them, Ayesha Tan Jones, who held up a note written on her palms saying: “Mental health is not fashionable”. That same year, the label was forced to apologize for selling a sweater criticized for resembling a black facewhile a $790 attracted accusations of cultural appropriation.
Alessandro Michele with Jared Leto at the Met Gala in May 2022.

Alessandro Michele with Jared Leto at the Met Gala in May 2022. Credit: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

The label had also struggled to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic as nimble as some of its competitors, especially in China, which now accounts for around a third of Gucci’s sales.

Michele, who joined Gucci in 2002, said in a statement on Wednesday: “There are times when paths diverge due to the different perspectives each of us may have. Today an extraordinary journey ends for me. , which has lasted more than twenty years, within a company to which I have tirelessly devoted all my love and creative passion.

“During this long period, Gucci has been my home, my adoptive family,” he said, adding, “With them, I wished, dreamed, imagined.”

Michele’s replacement has yet to be announced, with Kering suggesting further changes may be forthcoming. The conglomerate’s press release says Gucci’s design office will direct the brand’s production until a “new creative organization” is announced.

Top image: Alessandro Michele appears at the end of the Gucci Fall-Winter 2016 show at Milan Fashion Week (Reuters/Stefano Rellandini)

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