The summer of 2016 was Gucci’s witching hour. In the hushed cloisters of Westminster Abbey, one of the world’s most recognisable luxury brands cast a spell that signalled a new sort of craft. Where there was once effortless Italian sexiness, there were now grandma’s reading glasses, fluoro tartans, flares, chintzy florals, cat sweaters and bows so large and camp and wide that they put every single Eighties prom night to shame. It was a new Gucci. Still sexy, but in that nerdy way, fringed with touches of Wes Anderson and British eccentricity and Jacobean coquettishness. A fairytale Gucci. But above all, Alessandro Michele‘s Gucci.
Today, the brand officially announced the departure of its creative director after almost seven years at the helm. “[Alessandro Michele] has played a fundamental part in making the brand what it is today through his groundbreaking creativity, while staying true to the renowned codes of the House,” said Gucci in a statement.
“I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet Alessandro at the end of 2014, since then we have had the pleasure to work closely together as Gucci has charted its successful path over these last eight years. I would like to thank him for his 20 years of commitment to Gucci and for his vision, devotion, and unconditional love for this unique House during his tenure as Creative Director,” added Marco Bizzarri, President and CEO of the brand.
There will be much disappointment. Michele’s turn at Gucci coincided with the brand’s centenary, and his Gucci was the Gucci for so many that came of age in fashion’s current hype era. Many will remember Tom Ford’s tenure: a seductive, scandalous administration that pumped some much-needed testosterone into a once deeply traditional marque. Some will recall the triumvirate that followed – John Ray, Alessandra Facchinetti and Frida Giannini – who oversaw a transition “from sexy to sensual”. But Michele, a creative director plucked from the accessories department, ushered in a new age entirely.
Following that hauntingly cool show at Westminster – the first time the Abbey had allowed a fashion show to occur in its sacred halls – Michele introduced Gucci to its spiritual side. It was mystical, fey, a tarot card enthusiast among its more clinical, sexed-up contemporaries. For Spring 2023, the runway went into the looking glass as models came in twos, identically clad in lamé Seventies suits, a sparkling comment on our own mirror image and inner doppelgangers. Autumn 2020’s menswear show pushed post-genderism at Gucci as Michele’s models made an otherwordly connection to Kurt Cobain in grungy knits and low-slung flares set by a Foucault-inspired pendulum. With every swing, it drew a symbolic line in the sand. And lest we forget the Balenciaga ‘hack’, a watershed moment for luxury fashion in which two brands of equal might and stature partnered for a joint collection: a far cry from cult labels tapping the deep reserves of an elder sibling or a mainstream designer looking to tap a new niche.