When almost two years ago Alessandro Michele stepped out of the Gucci shadows nobody knew his name, today he is one of the most adored designers of the moment.
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It is hard to imagine Michele actually worked for thirteen years as part of the Gucci design team, the Rome born designer who finished his education at the renowned Accademia di Costume e di Moda started his fashion career in the mid 90’s. In these two decades behind the scenes Michele was also an important part of the Rome based Fendi design team. Nevertheless the fashion scene was hardly welcoming to Michele, mostly due to the fact he was hard to see as a replacement for the glossy direction set by his predecessors Frida Giannini and Tom Ford.
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It is foolish to say Gucci randomly selected Alessandro Michele, in fact Gucci’s CEO Marco Bizzari has met with Michele beforehand and discussed the designers vision for what Gucci could be. Even with the dramatic tales of Giannini’s departure becoming fashion industry’s favourite gossip, looking back what helped Michele succeed is the trust from both Mr Bizzari and the CEO of the Kering Group (owner of Gucci) François-Henri Pinault. In a sit-down with British Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman the designer told, “When I explained to Marco Bizzarri and François-Henri Pinault my idea of Gucci, it was pretty crazy. But Marco was really quite in love with what I wanted to do. He came to my apartment and he was really a bit shocked. He said, ‘You live here?’ but he understood that I was really a crazy person. I didn’t want the job, he came to my apartment to talk to me about the company. He stayed for four hours and we had a great conversation. Then he wanted me to meet François and it was like a beautiful exam. I was really open. They asked me, ‘Do you think it’s possible to prepare a show, from the beginning, in just this week?’ I said, ‘Yes, it’s possible.’ And we did the show in just five days.”
What Michele did not expect was the fashion industry’s demands from a designer, that moment when a label also needs to create the designer celebrity persona. “Oh my god.’ I had my big beard, and the same jumper for three days.” said Michele for British Vogue remembering the moment he stepped out on the Milanese runway to bow after his first show. This appointment to the top of the Gucci ranks sent a shock-wave down the fashion industry, the sheer power of the news could be ranked as one of the fashion journalism’s biggest revolts. In fact it is hard to dispute Gucci would lose any of it’s reign by continuing the Frida legacy of the Natasha Polyesque models and the gloss behind it. However the fast fashion industry has long cracked the code behind Giannini’s as well as Tom Ford’s high octane formula, proving to general consumer their outfit competes with quality next to the copy in a high street show was getting harder by the minute. If anything Michele’s colourful and eccentric world inspired by the romanticism drawn from the art history books is giving copycats a run for their money. If this radical change was to give the executives at Kering Group a headache two years later the already long waiting lists for the new pieces by the designer are only confirming this marriage is to last. Helping the cause is the celebrity folowship comprised of the One Direction’s Harry Styles, songstress Florence Welch as well as actress Chloë Sevigny to name a few. In order to get Gucci products at very discount rate you can visit Dealslands.co.uk.
Change of the direction did not only manifest itself in the design of the runway garments, the surely expensive model casting was no more. A signature of maison’s runways and campaigns, the flawless supermodels such as Joan Smalls, Karlie Kloss, Abbey Lee and Natasha Poly followed by Gucci-Men such as Clement Chabernaud and Janis Ancens were left without a secure pay-check. Instead the supers line-up was instantly replaced by androgynous legion of fresh faces, edgy for their eclecticism and youth, and ready to take the label far from its minimalist mood which prevailed for more than several seasons. However for many hailed as the new original this sort of casting was very close to something unfolding only few metro stops away from the Corso Buenos Aires Gucci show space. Miuccia Prada and her team at Via Fogazzaro Headquarters are quite a fan of a very similar if not the same casting strategy. What came as an instantly recognized comparing note was not only the similarity of the models but the sentiment of Michele’s collections close the mood often set by Prada and Miu Miu designers. This granny inspired retro antics are something Miuccia and her team thrive upon on a whim, an even bigger threat is the fact this competing house only a few blocks away is not afraid to completely change the course season after season. One is left to ask what is next for the Florentine house now when the novelty of a surprise is gone.
While the foundation of Alessandro Michele norm is certainly a stable one, it is open to speculation if the executives can ask Michele for another turn, a few changes are already on the horizon. While his runway collections are erasing the gender boundaries, his mid season lines still styled ‘far from the norm’ are infused by a great deal of classic and far more mainstream pieces. Under the watchful eye of the fashion press, the success or failure is closely connected to how long this experiment may last. While for many the designer was just a transitional phase at Gucci, who next to it’s star designers Frida and Tom had more than a handful of experimental flirtation with designers who hardly lasted more than a season.
Still, to Michele and the CEO of Gucci this new path is more than just the fashion show itself, as far as branding is concerned the runway showcase is just a part of their business. While the fashion scene may see it as tremendously important, the impact it has on the consumer is hardly meaningful. Thus the pre collection complexity explains easily the tendencies of the label, while the shows are telling a certain story, what hangs on the racks of their stores is far more approachable and inviting to passing shoppers.
Finally what is certain the Michelle Effect is in full swing and the designer has broken out as a dark hose in the fast paced fashion race. In doing so he and his team have undoubtedly set a new style sentiment for the industry overall.
Words by Zarko Davinic
Illustration by Shibo Chen