The best of Alessandro Michele at Gucci

It’s official, Alessandro Michele is leaving Gucci. In his nearly eight years at the helm of the Florentine fashion house, for which Michele worked for a total of 20 years, his name became synonymous with Gucci. Fashion can be intimidating, self-indulgent and serious, but Michele gave the industry some much-needed wonder, curiosity and whimsy. He was a child of Gucci, having worked his way up the company under previous creative directors Tom Ford and Frida Giannini, but took a very different path with the brand when he took over in 2015. Alessandro Michele was “more curious and curious” and led the group down a rabbit hole of vintage Bohemia, eccentricity and eclecticism.

Revolution, nostalgia and celebrity appeal

The Rome-born designer started a revolution turning Gucci into a symbol of eccentric and gender fluid style after a slowly fading era of sex and glamour. His offbeat personal style and his passion and love for antiques became the style of the house. At a time when fashion was looking ahead, Michele dared to make the past an integral part of his vision while also exploring the metaverse. Michele’s romantic, nostalgic sensibility resonated not only with insiders and fashion fetishists, but also with celebrities: Jared Leto probably became his most famous student, Harry Styles an associate, and Florence Welsh, Dakota Johnson and Lana Del Rey just some of his notable muses.

Before the fashion world rushes to find a potential successor to Michele, FashionUnited takes a look back at the designer’s most memorable, bizarre and controversial fashion shows.

Autumn/Winter 2015: A subtly promising debut

Gucci Menswear en Womenswear Herfst/Winter 2015. Foto’s: Catwalkpictures

Five days after Frida Giannini’s premature departure from Gucci, an as-yet-unknown Alessandro Michele, chief accessories designer of the Florentine brand, stepped onto the catwalk and made his first bow. He was surrounded by his team, which helped the designer, who at that time had not yet officially accepted his future position as creative director, achieve the almost impossible: a completely new collection, runway production and casting in less than a week. If you compare the designer’s first season, both the men’s collection that started it all and the women’s collection that followed just a few weeks later, to the blockbuster shows Michele is now known for, they almost seem a little understated in hindsight, but are signature is unmistakable even at this early stage. Naivety, romanticism, sexuality and intellectualism are early leitmotifs of the Roman designer. Chiffon, crepe and lace, bows and flowers, pleats and berets, large spectacles and long, thin scarves, the very elements that made these motifs his signature in just a few seasons, were all there. In addition, several models took to the runway that season in the fur-wrapped Princetown loafers, arguably one of Michele’s most famous designs for Gucci.

Resort 2017: A gothic punk dream in Westminster Abbey

Gucci Resort 2017. Foto’s: Catwalkpictures

A fashion show in the cloister of London’s iconic Westminster Abbey? Unthinkable for many monarchists, a Gothic dream come true for Alessandro Michele. Just weeks before England was due to cast its first vote on its European future, Michele brought his dazzling Gucci universe to the historic halls of one of the Anglican Church’s most important buildings. The result was a collection full of contrasts, and dazzlingly beautiful contrasts, brought together solely by Michele’s vision: different eras and styles, punk à la Vivienne Westwood, Victorian lace, Union Jack, check patterns, wild animal prints and flea market chic.

Fall/Winter 2018: Dr. Frankenstein, headless creatures and a baby dragon

Gucci Fall/Winter 2018. Photos: Dan Lecca / Gucci

In 2018, Gucci’s Fall/Winter collection seemed to have been directed not by Alessandro Michele, but by Dr. Frankenstein himself. An operating room as a backdrop, a slowly beating heart as a soundtrack and models wearing replicas of their heads under their arms – and then suddenly there were baby dragons. The fashion, which was certainly not inconspicuous, literally faded into the background with so much food for thought.

Spring/Summer 2020: “Mental health is not fashion”

Gucci Spring/Summer 2020. Photos: Gucci

Time and time again, fashion addresses the human psyche, but it was still shocking when Alessandro Michele sent 21 models down the runway in different Gucci straitjackets. The collection that followed, however, seemed more like a liberation than a creative prison, as Michele presented his most revealing designs to date, recalling both the sexual freedom of the 1970s and Gucci’s “Sex Sells” era under Tom Ford.

Autumn/Winter 2020: Behind the scenes

Gucci Fall/Winter 2020. Photos: Gucci

In February 2019, Michele gave viewers a look behind the scenes and promptly made the backstage of his fashion show the main attraction. On a 360-degree stage, models were dressed for the audience and presented the finished look in a performance reminiscent of mannequins come to life. At the same time, however, Michele also celebrated the work of his team, illustrating the effort and meticulous attention to detail that go into every fashion show.

Fall/Winter 2021: Gucciaga or Balencigucci?

Gucci x Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2021. Photos: Gucci

Collaborations aren’t necessarily groundbreaking anymore, but when the Balenciaga logo suddenly appeared on the Gucci catwalk, the fashion world held its breath. Balenciaga and Gucci are both part of the Kering Group, but the collaboration of two designers of the caliber Alessandro Michele and Demna is unique so far. But besides the spectacular staging with strobe lights and a “Gucci-Gang” soundtrack, it’s the fashion that really impressed in this case. In addition to logo mania, the collection relied mainly on tailoring. This, in turn, met glitz and elements of equestrianism, which can be seen as both an homage to BDSM culture and to Gucci’s early years as saddlers for the Italian elite. Michele also once again bowed to predecessor Tom Ford by sending a replica Ford-era red velvet suit onto the track.

Spring/Summer 2022: Love Parade on Hollywood Boulevard

Gucci “Loveparade” Spring/Summer 2022. Photos: Gucci

First “House of Gucci” hit theaters and soon after, Alessandro Michele stormed Hollywood Boulevard with his “Love Parade” collection, as it became the backdrop for his Spring/Summer 2022 collection. The designs, some of which have been featured on celebrities such as Macaulay Culkin, Jodie Turner-Smith and Michele look alike Jared Leto paid tribute to the film industry, screen sirens and the many and varied iconic characters of film history.

Autumn/Winter 2022: a sporty surprise

Gucci Fall/Winter 2022. Photo’s: Gucci x Adidas

The suit was central to the Fall/Winter collection, for men, women and in a more sporty version. For the latter, Alessandro Michele received support from probably the most famous three white stripes in the world of sports and fashion: Adidas. The trademarks of the Herzogenaurach sportswear company, including not only the three stripes that adorned the trouser legs, caps, corsets and jackets, but also a combined Trefoil logo with a Gucci slogan, gave the glamorous collection an unusually sporty touch for Michele.

Spring/Summer 2023: Seeing double

Gucci Spring/Summer 2023. Photos: Gucci
And suddenly the fashion world saw double! Twinsburg, Gucci’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection, was all about the phenomenon of twins, not only in theory but also in practice, as identical looks were worn by identical twins walking hand in hand down the runway. Michele has not only touched on a personal experience – his mother and aunt are identical twins – but also made a political statement, on the eve of the elections in Italy – because unity is essential not only in Alessandro Michele’s universe. It’s an impressive finale for the designer, because although no one knew it at the time, this collection seems to have been his last for Gucci.

The departure of Alessandro Michele from Gucci marks the end of an era not only for the Florentine fashion house, whose future remains unclear to this day, but also for the entire fashion world. In recent years, the designer has amazed the world again and again with his unique vision, but above all with his extraordinary fashion shows and presentations, even if what started as a revolution would start to feel formal – whimsical and magical perhaps – but formal nonetheless.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited DE. Translation and editing into Dutch by Caitlyn Terra.

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