It’s official, Alessandro Michele is leaving Gucci. In his almost 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 painstakingly serious, Michele brought some much-needed wonder, curiosity and whimsy to the industry. He was a child of Gucci, having risen through the ranks at the company, working both under former creative directors Tom Ford and Frida Giannini, but took a completely different path with the brand when he took the helm in 2015. Alessandro Michele was “curious and curiouser”, leads the pack down a rabbit hole of vintage Bohemia, eccentricity and eclecticism.
Revolution, nostalgia and celebrity appeal
The Roman-born designer started a revolution, transforming Gucci into a symbol of eccentric and gender-fluid style after a slowly fading era of sex and glamour. His inimitable personal style, as well as his passion and love for antiques, became the style of the house. At a time when fashion rejoiced, Michele dared to make the past an integral part of his vision and at the same time explored the metaverse. Michele’s romantic, nostalgic sensibility resonated not only with industry insiders and fashion fetishists, but more famously among celebrities: Jared Leto became arguably his most famous disciple, Harry Styles a collaborator, and Florence Welsh, Dakota Johnson and Lana Del Rey just a few of his notable muses.
Before the fashion world scrambles to find a potential successor to Michele, FashionUnited looks 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, a still-unknown Alessandro Michele, head accessories designer for the Florentine brand, walked the runway and took his first bow. He was surrounded by his team, who helped the designer, who at the time had not yet officially assumed his future position as creative director, achieve the near-impossible: a brand new collection, catwalk production and casting in less than a week. Comparing the designer’s first season, both the men’s collection that started it all and the women’s collection that followed just a few weeks later, to the blockbusters Michele is now known for, they seem almost a little restrained in retrospect, but his signature is already unmistakable even at this early stage. Naivety, romance, sexuality and intellectualism are early guiding principles of the Roman designer. Chiffon, crêpe and lace, bows and flowers, pleats and berets, large glasses and long, thin scarves, the very elements that made these motifs their signature in just a few seasons were all present. In addition, several models took to the runway in the fur-lined Princetown loafers that season, 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 that came true for Alessandro Michele. Just weeks before England was to cast its first vote on its European future, Michele brought her 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 opposites, brought together entirely by Michele’s vision: different eras and styles, punk à la Vivienne Westwood, Victorian lace, Union Jack, plaids, wild animal prints and flea market chic.
Autumn/Winter 2018: Dr Frankenstein, headless creatures and a baby dragon
In 2018, Gucci’s autumn/winter collection appeared to be directed not by Alessandro Michele, but by Doctor Frankenstein himself. An operating theater as a backdrop, a slowly beating heart as a soundtrack, and models carrying replicas of the head under their arms – and then suddenly there were baby dragons. The fashion, which was in no way conspicuous, literally faded into the background with so much thought-provoking.
Spring/summer 2020: “Mental health is not fashion”
Time and time again, fashion deals with the human psyche, but it was jarring 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 her most revealing designs to date, recalling both the sexual freedom of the 70s and Gucci’s “Sex Sells” era under Tom Ford.
Autumn/Winter 2020: Behind the scenes
In February 2019, Michele allowed viewers a look behind the scenes and promptly made the backstage area of her fashion show the main attraction. On a 360 degree stage, models were dressed in front of the audience, presenting the finished look in a performance reminiscent of mannequins brought to life. But at the same time, Michele also celebrated the work of her team, illustrating the effort and meticulous attention to detail that goes into each and every fashion show.
Autumn/Winter 2021: Gucciaga or Balencigucci?
Collaborations aren’t necessarily groundbreaking anymore, but when the Balenciaga logo suddenly appeared on the Gucci runway, the fashion world held its breath for a second. It should be noted that both Balenciaga and Gucci are part of the Kering Group, but the collaboration between two designers of Alessandro Michele and Demna Gvasalia’s caliber is unique so far. But apart from the spectacular set-up with strobe lights and a “Gucci-Gang” soundtrack, it’s mainly the fashion that impressed in this case. In addition to logomania, the collection primarily relied on tailoring. This again met glitz and elements of equestrianism, which can be seen both as a tribute to BDSM culture and Gucci’s first years as saddle makers for Italy’s elite. Michele also bowed to predecessor Tom Ford once again, sending a replica of a Ford-era red velvet suit down the runway.
Spring/Summer 2022: Love Parade on Hollywood Boulevard
First came the “House of Gucci” in cinemas and shortly after, Alessandro Michele stormed Hollywood Boulevard with his “Love Parade” collection, as it became the backdrop for his spring/summer 2022 collection. The designs, some of which were presented on celebrities such as . Macaulay Culkin, Jodie Turner-Smith and Michele looks like Jared Leto, was an ode to the film industry, screen sirens and the many, varied iconic characters of film history.
Autumn/Winter 2022: A sporty surprise
The suit was at the center of the autumn/winter collection, either for men, women or as a more athletic version. For the latter, Alessandro Michele got backup from probably the most famous three white stripes in the sports and fashion world: Adidas. The trademarks of the sportswear company from Herzogenaurach, including not only the three stripes that adorned 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 dedicated to the phenomenon of twins, not only in theory but also in practice, as identical looks were worn by identical twins who walked the runway hand in hand. With this, Michele not only brought a personal experience, his mother and aunt are identical twins, but made a political statement, on the eve of the elections in Italy – because unity is important not only in Alessandro Michele’s universe. It’s an impressive finale for the designer because, although no one knew it at the time, this collection appears to have been his last for Gucci.
Alessandro Michele’s departure from Gucci is the end of an era, not only for the Florentine fashion house, whose future is currently still unclear, but also for the entire fashion world. In recent years, the designer has amazed the world time and time again with his unique vision, but above all with his extraordinary fashion shows and presentations, even if what started as a revolution would come to feel formal – whimsical and magical, perhaps – but formal nonetheless.
This article was originally published on FashionUnited.de and has been translated and edited into English.