When Alessandro Michele showed his first collection for Gucci in January last year, producing it a mere five days after taking the reins as creative director of the iconic Italian fashion house, it was instantly obvious that nothing short of a total reinvention of the brand was taking place. A designer behind the scenes there for 12 years, Alessandro had been plucked from obscurity to rescue Gucci from a strategy based on sexy that had left the brand languishing in a fashion world searching for something new. In one of the quickest turnarounds imaginable, he more than delivered, setting Gucci on a new course that focused on the creative, the unexpected and the individual—and put the fortunes of the company on a relentlessly upward trajectory in an instant.
The seismic effects of Alessandro’s new take have reverberated around the whole fashion universe. Today, Gucci’s shows are once again the most talked about in fashion, its sales figures the most envied and its must-have items, such as his furry heeled loafers, the most lusted after. It is now Alessandro’s vision, always eclectic, unexpected and even a little bit bonkers, that fashion connoisseurs and consumers alike await with bated breath. Whether it’s his androgynous, slightly out there men’s collections, espousing pussy bow blouses and baroque prints, or his game-changing womenswear, shown most recently for cruise 2017 in London’s Westminster Abbey, the Alessandro Michele agenda is quite simply the one to watch.
Crucially, his statement is not only a breath of fresh air, but extremely savvy, too. “Alessandro Michele has reinvented the brand, but rather than prescribing exactly who the new Gucci woman is, he has invited individualism and self-expression to reign free,” explains Sarah Rutson, the vice-president of global buying at Net-a-Porter. “Gucci is now in the top three highest-performing brands on Net-a-Porter and, from the clothes to the bags and shoes, it’s on everyone’s wish lists. The growth since last year is phenomenal and it shows no sign of stopping. After a few seasons where minimalism dominated the shows, I think Alessandro has sparked a new zeitgeist: a sense of self-expression that has really resonated with our customers. He has married a vintage, heritage quality with a real desire for new must-have pieces.”
Where Alessandro has been so astute is in his presentation of a vision that is brave, clear and distinct yet at the same time available to be adapted to needs and desires—and therefore easy to buy into in endless different ways. Just look at it here, shot on our muses. For Olivia Croucher Buckingham, who describes his collections as “an eclectic mix of geek chic, romantic, punk and feminine,” the appeal lies both in his total look and his clever separates that work seamlessly into her wardrobe. “There is such a range of looks that it’s really about having fun with the mix ’n’ match aspect,” she explains. “Alessandro has definitely put the element of fun back into dressing. He single-handedly put the loafer back on the shoe map and his fur-lined loafers or bejewelled trainers are great worn to accessorise my staple uniform of jeans, T-shirt and blazer. But, having said that, I’m also all for a head-to-toe Gucci look—more is more when it comes to his designs.”
"Everything comes from a place of emotion, passion and creativity. It’s like wearing your heart on your sleeve… literally.” — Tina Leung
Roberta Benteler, the founder of online retailer Avenue 32, finds his designs a welcome respite from a fashion world focused on staples. “Alessandro has brought back opulence and romance; it’s a fresh perspective and welcome change after many seasons of ‘normcore.’ He has single-handedly made fashion fun again and brought back the fairy-tale effect.” And for her, too, the appeal lies in his designs’ unexpected versatility. “I am not a total-look girl, so I prefer to mix his pussy bow blouses with a high-waisted pair of Vetements jeans, or dress down the embellished dresses and sixties skirts with a pair of Converse.”
Ask Tina Leung what she covets most and she’ll tell you it’s all in the dreamlike quality of what Alessandro does. “First and foremost, I love the emotions that ooze out from his designs. Everything comes from a place of emotion, passion and creativity. It’s like wearing your heart on your sleeve… literally.” While for Tianyo Mayao, it’s more about specific pieces—his brocade suiting and embroidered bomber jackets, to be precise. “I like to simply elaborate high fashion into streetwear. High fashion does not only do for special occasions.”
Whichever way you choose to style it, it is clear that Alessandro’s vision could not be more of the moment. In a world tired of a cookie-cutter approach, his brilliant and bright offering gives multiple opportunities for multiple looks, offering a new take on fashion credibility that’s as much about your own personal spin as it is about his. As Sarah says, “Alessandro is a true visionary. He isn’t looking over his shoulder to see what everyone else is doing, but has the courage to be endlessly creative and challenge the status quo.” And, clearly, he couldn’t be more on the money.
Photographed by Socrates Mitsios; Shot on location at The London Edition