Mon could start with the fur-lined slippers. No sooner had Alessandro Michele started at Gucci in early 2015 than every second fashion person wore them. Or start in 2018, with the models on the runway holding replicas of their own heads. Or start with the end, the September 2022 show of 68 sets of twins in Milan, with which Michele curiously doubled his wonderful twin appearance with Jared Leto at the Met Gala in May.
So you could start right away with the fireworks that Alessandro Michele has set off at Gucci over the past almost eight years. If only a very simple episode could not tell even more about this dreamy-looking fashion designer with the Jesus beard: When Michele took over in early 2015, the mood at Gucci’s Milan headquarters changed within days. The look of the fashion people themselves is a good indicator of this. A Gucci employee once recounted how they ditched their high heels, everything pseudo-formal and wannabe-official, and showed up to work the next day in jeans and sneakers. What a liberation!
That’s what Alessandro Michele was about in his work: We wear what we want to be. He had caught a good moment in 2015. Gucci had to overcome the difficult times of the Frida Giannini and Patrizio di Marco era. She was chief designer, he managing director, then they became a couple. A “power couple” of course, and the fashion looked clichéd: the necklines often reached down to the navel, the fabrics were often transparent, and the business fashion looked like it did in the days of the New Economy. This was an unoriginal late echo of the Tom Ford years: the American designer only had the brand, which was in an aesthetic crisis and also in a state of shock after the murder of Maurizio Gucci in March 1995, from 1994 to 2004 brought fashion to the world stage – with designs that were still called “sexy” back then, but which seemed strangely démodé in the 1910s.
An unfinished cathedral
Frida Giannini and Patrizio di Marco had to leave the company from one day to the next. The managing director said goodbye by saying that his cathedral had remained unfinished against his will. Two others then built the cathedral.
Because eight years ago, a scene took place that seemed as charmingly improvised as Michele’s entire work. François-Henri Pinault, head of the luxury group Kering, to which Gucci belongs, appointed Marco Bizzarri as Gucci managing director at the end of 2014. The two-metre man with a bald head and thick glasses, always dressed in a three-piece suit, had previously taken the Kering brand Bottega Veneta to unimagined heights with the German designer Tomas Maier. He now wanted to repeat this success with the largest group brand, whose sales had stalled below the four billion mark – while Parisian competing brands such as Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Chanel were growing steadily. Michele was not on the candidate list.
But Bizzarri was open enough in late 2014 to sit down with Giannini’s deputy, who he’d heard had an incredible imagination. Bizzarri once told the FAZ that the quick meeting over coffee to get to know each other led to such an intensive conversation that the two were still together three hours later. Michele was his man: It became one of the happiest designer-manager pairings in fashion history, on a par with Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, Marc Jacobs and Robert Duffy, Karl Lagerfeld and Bruno Pavlovsky, Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole – only shorter .
Alessandro Michele seems shy but is extremely confident in his creative ideas. The fashion designer, who was born on November 25, 1972, i.e. turns 50 this Friday, could afford the self-confidence. The son of an Alitalia technician and the assistant to a film production manager, he was artistically gifted from an early age. As a child, he told the FAZ after his cruise show in the Capitoline Museums in May 2019, he didn’t play football like the other boys. Instead, the boy from the suburbs went to galleries and exhibitions in Rome with his father: “I was obsessed with antiquity.” Michele studied fashion and costume design at the Accademia di Costume e di Moda in Rome and worked for the knitwear company for three years Les Copains in Bologna and then went to Fendi – where the chief designer at the time, Karl Lagerfeld, only called him “DJ” because of the bleached hair and the office music.
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