Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s Creative Director, is stepping down

written by Oscar Holland, CNN

Alessandro Michele has stepped down as creative director of Gucci after nearly eight years, a period that helped him revive and turn around the fortunes of the Italian brand.

Announcing the decision Wednesday, Kering, the luxury home’s parent company, said the 49-year-old designer “has been instrumental in making the brand what it is today.”

Group Chairman and CEO, François-Henri Pinault, added in a statement: “The path that Gucci and Alessandro have taken together over the past years is unique and will remain a defining moment in the history of the House…His passion, his imagination, his creativity and his culture put Gucci at center stage, where it is located.”

After joining Gucci as a handbag designer, with no experience running a major brand, Michele was a surprise date for the senior job in 2015. But with the brand’s relevance seemingly in decline, he instigated an overhaul of its identity, publicly eschewing the sexy aesthetic pioneered by his predecessor. Tom Ford in favor of a more quirky aesthetic dubbed it “gyke chic.”

Supermodels walk the runway at Milan Fashion Week in Michelle’s latest big show for Gucci. attributed to him: Danielle Venturelli/Getty Images for Gucci

Michele then ushered in an era of colorful and extreme designs, reviving Renaissance art through fashion and hosting elaborate runway shows in historic venues. He’s embraced the opulent heritage of a brand that last year celebrated its centenary, even naming one of his most famous designs—the Dionysus handbag—after the Greek god of wine.

His Genderfluid collections have also increasingly blurred the distinction between the brand’s menswear and womenswear lines, while clever collaborations with the likes of Adidas and The North Face have helped give the label major market appeal.

Named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2017, Michelle has courted celebrities and appointed the likes of Harry Styles and Billie Eilish as brand ambassadors. At the star-studded Met Gala in May this year, he and actor Jared Leto appeared 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. attributed to him: ANGELA WEIS/AFP/Getty Images

Revenue soared during Michelle’s presidency. Kering owns several other big brands, including Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, and Saint Laurent, but Gucci now generates more than all of them combined, reportedly making €9.7 billion ($10.1 billion) for the company last year.

But Michelle’s tenure was not without controversy. In 2019, he sent models down the Milan runway in white jackets, prompting an outcry from one of them, Aisha Tan Jones, who held up a note scrawled on her palms that read: “Mental health is not fashion.” That same year, the company was forced to apologize for selling a jacket that was criticized for resembling blackface, while its $790 turban drew 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. attributed to him: Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images

The label has also struggled to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic as gracefully as some of its competitors – especially in China, which is now estimated to be about a third of Gucci’s sales.

Michelle, 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 for me, which has lasted more than twenty years, ends within A company to which I have tirelessly devoted all my creative love and passion.

“During this long period Gucci has been my home and my adoptive family,” he said, adding, “With them I have hoped, dreamed, fantasized.”

Michelle’s replacement has yet to be revealed, with Kering suggesting that more change may be in the future. The group’s press release stated that the Gucci design office will direct the brand’s production until a “new creative organization” is announced.

TOP PHOTO: Alessandro Michele appeared at the end of Gucci’s Fall/Winter 2016 show at Milan Fashion Week (REUTERS/Stefano Relandini).

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