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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Alessandro Michele is leaving Gucci after his role as creative director

Alessandro Michele is relinquishing his role as the creative director of Gucci.

The French group Kering, which owns Gucci among other luxury brands, announced his departure on Wednesday. Michele has held the role since 2015.

In a statement, Kering’s chair and chief executive, François-Henri Pinault, thanked Michele for his seven-year tenure. “His passion, his imagination, his ingenuity and his culture put Gucci centre stage, where its place is,” he said.

Kering has not revealed who will succeed Michele, who left with immediate effect.

Championed by Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri, Michele’s appointment from head of accessories to creative director in 2015 came as a shock to the fashion industry.

However, he quickly helped to drive a period of strong growth and reignited excitement around the luxury Italian fashion house.

Revenue at Gucci almost tripled during his time in the role, from €3.9bn in 2015 to €9.7bn in 2021. At times, quarterly growth rates approached 50%.

With an appreciation of the history of the Italian house, Michele fused heritage Gucci signatures with a more modern aesthetic.

His gender-fluid approach (since 2017, Gucci has presented men’s and women’s collections together) and use of an eclectic cacophony of prints, colours and textures garnered a new generation of younger consumers in Europe, the US and China.

Loafers with furry linings featuring horse-bit hardware and cross-body bags adorned with the double G logo quickly went viral.

During his reign he attracted legions of celebrity fans, including Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Billie Eilish, Dakota Johnson and Jodie Turner-Smith.

However, since 2017 the pace of revenue growth had been steadily declining.

In October 2021 it was revealed sales grew by 3.8% in the third quarter, below analyst expectations.

Insiders blamed brand fatigue alongside the effect of the pandemic, especially in core markets such as Asia.

Compared with other luxury rivals, including LVMH and Hermès, Kering shares have underperformed.

Efforts by Gucci to combat this decline included reducing its yearly show schedule, axing its annual cruise and pre-autumn collections.

The fashion house also embarked on a series of collaborations with unexpected brands such as Adidas and a “Hacker Project” with Balenciaga.

Michele took the creative reins of Italy’s largest fashion brand in 2015, jolting the sleeping giant awake with a debut men’s collection that felt like a revelation. Silky pussy bow blouses, loafers ringed with sumptuous fur, and groovy patterned suiting would form the foundation of Michele’s sensitive and fluid Gucci. (Speaking to the clarity of his creative vision and his skills in the design studio, that first collection came together in only five days, following the departure of Michele’s predecessor.)Michele took the creative reins of Italy’s largest fashion brand in 2015, jolting the sleeping giant awake with a debut men’s collection that felt like a revelation. Silky pussy bow blouses, loafers ringed with sumptuous fur, and groovy patterned suiting would form the foundation of Michele’s sensitive and fluid Gucci. (Speaking to the clarity of his creative vision and his skills in the design studio, that first collection came together in only five days, following the departure of Michele’s predecessor.)

Michele’s Gucci was an instant commercial success, with revenues tripling in the years following his debut. “The road that Gucci and Alessandro walked together over the past years is unique and will remain as an outstanding moment in the history of the House,” said François-Henri Pinault, Chairman & CEO of Kering. “I am grateful to Alessandro for bringing so much of himself in this adventure. His passion, his imagination, his ingenuity and his culture put Gucci center stage, where its place is. I wish him a great next chapter in his creative journey.”

Michele’s maximalist instincts and gender-bending silhouettes—Harry Styles, one of Michele’s friends and fans, famously wore a custom Gucci dress on the cover of Vogue—reverberated throughout the fashion industry. The Michele era kick-started fashion’s genderless revolution, and his work with celebrities like Styles (with whom Michele recently collaborated on a capsule collection), A$AP Rocky, and Jared Leto further collapsed the distance between luxury fashion and popular culture.

After nearly eight years, the rest of the industry had caught up with Michele’s influence, and fashion insiders had begun speculating about how Gucci would find new energy without jettisoning Michele’s bankable (but perhaps plateauing) aesthetic. Gucci reportedly missed its third quarter sales estimates this year. Until a new designer is announced, Gucci’s design studio will continue working on collections.

Michele’s statement continued: “During this long period Gucci has been my home, my adopted family. To this extended family, to all the individuals who have looked after and supported it, I send my most sincere thanks, my biggest and most heartfelt embrace. Together with them I have wished, dreamed, imagined. Without them, none of what I have built would have been possible. To them goes my most sincerest wish: may you continue to cultivate your dreams, the subtle and intangible matter that makes life worth living. May you continue to nourish yourselves with poetic and inclusive imagery, remaining faithful to your values. May you always live by your passions, propelled by the wind of freedom.”

What Gucci does next will be one of the most closely watched storylines in the fashion industry. But just as intriguing will be what's next for Alessandro Michele, who in his time at Gucci helped change the arc of men’s fashion.

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