Out to chief designer Alessandro Michele

mcould start with the fur-lined slippers. As soon as Alessandro Michele started at Gucci in early 2015, every second fashion person wore them. Or start 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, which curiously saw Michele double his stunning twin performance with Jared Leto at the Met Gala in May.

Alfons Kaiser

Responsible editor for the section “Germany and the world” and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazin.

Jennifer Wiebking

Editor in the “Life” section of the Sunday newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine.

So you could start right away with the fireworks that Alessandro Michele has set off at Gucci for the past almost eight years. A very simple episode couldn’t say 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 appearance of the fashion people themselves is a good indicator of this. A Gucci employee once recounted how they ditched their high heels, all 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 all 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 era of Frida Giannini and Patrizio di Marco. She was chief designer, he director, then they became a couple. A ‘power couple’, of course, and the fashion looked clichéd: the plunging necklines often went down to the navel, the fabrics were often transparent and the business fashion looked like in the days of the new economy. This was an unoriginal belated echo of the Tom Ford years: the American designer had only launched 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. . stage of fashion – with designs that were still called sexy at the time, but which strangely went out of fashion in the 1910s.

An unfinished cathedral

Frida Giannini and Patrizio di Marco had to leave the company overnight. The general manager took his leave by saying that his cathedral had been left 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’s general manager at the end of 2014. The six-foot-tall man, always dressed in a three-piece suit, with a bald head and thick glasses, had previously taken the Kering brand Bottega Veneta to new heights with German designer Tomas Maier. He now wanted to repeat this success with the largest group brand, whose turnover had fallen below four billion – while competing Parisian brands such as Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Chanel grew steadily. Michele was not on the candidate list.

During Milan Fashion Week in February 2020: dresses inspired by historical costumes.

During Milan Fashion Week in February 2020: dresses inspired by historical costumes.

Image: Helmut Fricke

But Bizzarri was open enough in late 2014 to talk to 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 intense conversation that the two were still together three hours later. Michele was his man: it became one of the happiest designer-manager combinations in fashion history, comparable to 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 very confident in his creative ideas. Born on November 25, 1972, so 50 years old on Friday, the fashion designer could afford the confidence. The son of an Alitalia technician and the assistant of a film production manager, he was artistically gifted from an early age. As a child, he told the FAZ after his cruise show at the Capitoline Museums in May 2019, he didn’t play football like the other boys. Instead, the boy from the suburbs went with his father to galleries and exhibitions in Rome: “I was obsessed with antiquity.” Michele studied fashion and costume design at the Accademia di Costume e di Moda in Rome and worked for three years for the knitwear company Les Copains in Bologna and then went to Fendi – where the then chief designer, Karl Lagerfeld, only called him “dj” because of the bleached hair and the office music.

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