It’s official, Alessandro Michele is leaving Gucci. In his nearly eight years at the helm of the Florentine fashion house, for which Michele worked for a total of 20 years, his name became synonymous with Gucci. While fashion can be intimidating, self-indulgent and utterly serious, Michele gave the industry much-needed wonder, curiosity and whimsy. A child of Gucci, he had moved up the ranks within the company and worked under both previous creative directors Tom Ford and Frida Giannini, but took a markedly different path with the brand when he took over in 2015. Alessandro Michele was “more curious and curios,” leading the pack down a rabbit hole of vintage Bohemia, eccentricity and eclecticism.
Revolution, nostalgia and celebrities appeal
The Rome-born designer sparked a revolution turning Gucci into a symbol of eccentric and gender fluid style after a slowly fading era of sex and glamour. His unusual personal style, as well as his passion and love for antiques, became the style of the house. At a time when fashion was looking ahead, Michele dared to make the past an integral part of his vision while also exploring the metaverse. Michele’s romantic, nostalgic sensibility resonated not only with industry insiders and fashion fetishists, but especially with celebrities: Jared Leto became perhaps his most famous disciple, Harry Styles a collaborator, and Florence Welsh, Dakota Johnson and Lana Del Rey just some of his remarkable muses.
Before the fashion world scrambles to find a possible successor to Michele, FashionUnited takes a look back at the designer’s most memorable, bizarre and controversial fashion shows.
Autumn/Winter 2015: A subtly promising debut
Five days after Frida Giannini’s premature departure from Gucci, an as yet unknown Alessandro Michele, chief designer of accessories for the Florentine brand, stepped onto the catwalk and made his first bow. He was surrounded by his team, who helped the designer, who at that time had not officially accepted his future position as creative director, to achieve the almost impossible: a completely new collection, runway production and casting in less than a week. If you compare the designer’s first season, both the men’s collection that started it all and the women’s collection that followed a few weeks later, to the blockbuster shows Michele is now known for, they almost seem a little understated in retrospect, but his signature is unmistakable even at this early stage. Naivety, romanticism, sexuality and intellectualism are early leitmotifs of the Roman designer. Chiffon, crepe and lace, bows and flowers, pleats and berets, large glasses and long, thin scarves, the elements that made these motifs his signature in just a few seasons, were all present. Plus, that season, several models hit the runway in the fur-wrapped Princetown loafers, arguably one of Michele’s most famous designs for Gucci.
Resort 2017: A gothic punk dream in Westminster Abbey
A fashion show in the cloister of London’s iconic Westminster Abbey? Unthinkable for many monarchists, a Gothic dream come true for Alessandro Michele. Just weeks before England was due to cast its first vote on its European future, Michele brought his dazzling Gucci universe to the historic halls of one of the Anglican Church’s most important buildings. The result was a collection full of contrasts and dazzlingly beautiful contrasts, brought together solely by Michele’s vision: different eras and styles, punk à la Vivienne Westwood, Victorian lace, Union Jack, check patterns, wild animal prints and flea market chic.
Fall/Winter 2018: Dr. Frankenstein, headless creatures and a baby dragon
In 2018, Gucci’s fall/winter collection seemed not to be directed by Alessandro Michele, but by Dr. Frankenstein himself. An operating room as a backdrop, a slowly beating heart as the soundtrack, and models wearing replicas of their heads under their arms – and then suddenly there were baby dragons. Fashion, which was certainly not inconspicuous, literally faded into the background with so much food for thought.
Spring/Summer 2020: “Mental health is not fashion”
Time and time again, fashion appeals to the human psyche, but it was shocking when Alessandro Michele sent 21 models down the runway in various Gucci straitjackets. The collection that followed, however, seemed more like a liberation than a creative prison, as Michele presented his most revealing designs to date, recalling both the sexual freedom of the 1970s and Gucci’s ‘Sex Sells’ era under Tom Ford.
Autumn/Winter 2020: behind the scenes
In February 2019, Michele gave viewers a behind-the-scenes look and promptly turned the backstage area of his fashion show into the main attraction. On a 360-degree stage, models dressed up for the audience and presented the finished look in a performance reminiscent of mannequins brought to life. At the same time, however, Michele also celebrated the work of his team, illustrating the effort and meticulous attention to detail that goes into every runway show.
Fall/Winter 2021: Gucciaga or Balencigucci?
Collaborations aren’t necessarily groundbreaking anymore, but when the Balenciaga logo suddenly appeared on the Gucci catwalk, the fashion world held its breath. It should be noted that both Balenciaga and Gucci are part of the Kering Group, but the collaboration of two designers from Alessandro Michele and the caliber of Demna Gvasalia is unique so far. But in addition to the spectacular staging with strobe lights and a “Gucci-Gang” soundtrack, it was the fashion that really impressed in this case. In addition to logomania, the collection mainly relied on customization. This, in turn, met glitz and elements of equestrianism, which can be seen as both a tribute to BDSM culture and Gucci’s early years as saddlers for the Italian elite. Michele also once again bowed to predecessor Tom Ford and sent a replica of a Ford-era red velvet suit onto the catwalk.
Spring/Summer 2022: Love Parade on Hollywood Boulevard
First “House of Gucci” hit theaters and soon after, Alessandro Michele stormed Hollywood Boulevard with his “Love Parade” collection, which became the backdrop for his Spring/Summer 2022 collection. The designs, some of which have been featured on celebrities such as Macaulay Culkin, Jodie Turner-Smith and Michele are like Jared Leto, an ode to the movie industry, screen sirens and the many and varied iconic characters of movie history.
Autumn/Winter 2022: A sporty surprise
The suit was the focus of the autumn/winter collection, whether for men, women or a more athletic version. For the latter, Alessandro Michele received support from probably the most famous three white stripes in the world of sports and fashion: Adidas. The trademarks of the Herzogenaurach sportswear company, which included not only the three stripes that adorned the trouser legs, caps, corsets and jackets, but also a combined Trefoil logo with a Gucci slogan, gave the glamorous collection an unusually sporty touch for Michele.
Spring/Summer 2023: Seeing double
And suddenly the fashion world saw double! Twinsburg, Gucci’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection, was devoted not only in theory but also in practice to the phenomenon of twins, as identical looks were worn by identical twins walking hand in hand down the catwalk. With this, Michele not only brought up a personal experience, his mother and aunt are identical twins, but also made a political statement, on the eve of the elections in Italy – because unity is essential, not only in Alessandro’s universe Michelle. It’s an impressive finale for the designer, because although no one knew it at the time, this collection seems to have been his last for Gucci.
The departure of Alessandro Michele from Gucci marks the end of an era not only for the Florentine fashion house, whose future is still unclear to this day, but also for the entire fashion world. In recent years, the designer has amazed the world again and again with his unique vision, but especially with his extraordinary fashion shows and presentations, even though what started as a revolution would start to feel formal – whimsical and magical perhaps – but formal nonetheless.
This article was originally published on FashionUnited.de and has been translated and edited in English.