There is a before and after Alessandro Michele
Have you ever had someone tell you that your name is perfectly aligned with your personality? As if a construct external to us can succeed in defining us as much as a part of our body or an aspect of our character. And yet, that's exactly what came to my mind when I thought of writing a piece about one of the personalities in the fashion scene who has all my admiration more than any other: Alessandro Michele. You've got my devotion, as quotes the print on one of the t-shirts of the new Gucci HA HA HA collection born from the partnership with Harry Styles and launched a few days ago. But, back to us. I was saying precisely that it seems to me that the spirit of Gucci looks so much like Alessandro Michele and that there is no personality better suited than his to fill his current role (just as my face screams the name Francesca to everyone I meet on the street). And to think that if things could have turned out differently....
What perhaps few people know is that when Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri decided in 2015 to hand over the reins of the florentine fashion house's creative direction to the roman designer, Alessandro Michele was about to light the candles of his thirteenth anniversary at Gucci, where he had been working in the style office since 2002, strongly desired by Tom Ford. Michele has thus lived through all the up and downs of the fashion house, from the "Fordian" splendor, which at the time lifted the fortunes of a Gucci with one foot in the grave (House of Gucci teaches), to the less-than-florid decade signed by Frida Giannini, which quickly plunged the brand into anonymity.
At the time of the events, despite his rapid rise in the company (in fact he was promoted as Associate Director in 2011 alongside Giannini), Michele was ready to say goodbye to Gucci. What he didn't know, however, was that shortly thereafter Francois Henri Pinault, chairman of the Kering holding company that owns Gucci, would fire Frida Giannini herself and the CEO Patrizio di Marco, who was promptly replaced by Bizzarri. The latter's mission was to bring Gucci back to the center of the conversation, and to do so needed a revolution that came from a fresh and at times visionary gaze: what better adjectives to describe Alessandro Michele's personality? And indeed, Bizzarri's foresight immediately identified the Roman designer as the worthy heir to Gucci's creative empire. And that he was up to it, he proved right away, finding himself forced in less than a week to save the launch of the F/W 2015-2016 collection. Having wiped the slate clean of everything Giannini had made, even the casting and seating assignments, Michele assembled in very few days a collection that already possessed the genderless, vintage-esque mood we know so well today. It was immediately obvious to all eyes that Michele possessed both the qualities and the vision necessary to take the brand into exciting new chapter of its history. And today, seven years later, we are here to confirm that.
The aesthetic that Alessandro Michele devised during these years for Gucci marked a watershed moment in its history. If Tom Ford's sensual approach and Frida Giannini's minimalism had become synonymous with a muffled, jet-set aesthetic, Michele decidedly turned the tables with his baroque, exaggerated, and at times tacky ideal of beauty, but never out of place and always well thought out. Even just the labels on the clothes bearing the brand's name clearly highlight this before-and-after: whereas before Michele's arrival they were black and thin, now the Gucci name is stitched in black and block letters on a milky, knurled fabric highlighted by a severe dark border.
In contrast to Giannini, who at the time of her creative direction declared herself openly horrified by the new trend toward the ugly that was taking hold-and which now holds sway Michele goes on to elaborate a deliberately imperfect vision of fashion, proving himself to be in constant search of the beautiful even in what is not beautiful, but to which he nonetheless manages to give, in his own way, a dignity.
I personally believe, however, that creativity alone may not be enough if you don't know how to sell it. And in this, Alessandro Michele shows all his visionary nature by choosing ad-hoc communication campaigns that pivot on social media and aim at sharing ideas and thoughts that make the consumer or fan feel closer to the brand. Add to this the strategy of not falling back on the banal in the choice of his muse, all of whom are characters with unconventional personalities and often and often spokespeople for inclusive messages: all of this, as one can well imagine, contributes greatly to building a brand's success and consolidating it over time.
Gucci's fashion shows from 2015 to the present, then, are never just drab presentations of seasonal outfits as ends in themselves, but for the most part, availing themselves of the strength of communication now known to the brand, conceal messages that make it all more palatable-and the Twinsburg show during the latest Milan Fashion Week is the latest commendable example.
In short, a passionate dreamer with an eclectic and multifaceted personality, who succeeded and revolutionized a historical brand to bring it back to its former glory, managing to renovate it without disregarding its original identity and making us almost forget what the brand was like before his arrival.