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Maximalism, Romanticism and Nostalgia: The best of Alessandro Michele at Gucci

By Jule Scott


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Jared Leto (3rd L) and Alessandro Michele (C) pose with (from L) Damiano David, Victoria De Angelis, Thomas Raggi, and Ethan Torchio of Måneskin. Photo: Harley Gallay / Getty Images North America / Getty Images via AFP

It is 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. While Fashion can be intimidating, self-indulgent and painstakingly serious, Michele infused the industry with some much-needed wonder, curiosity and whimsy. He was a child of Gucci, having gone up the ranks within the company, working both under previous creative directors Tom Ford and Frida Giannini but taking a decidedly different route with the brand when he took the helm in 2015. Alessandro Michele was “curiouser and curiouser”, leading the pack down a rabbit hole of vintage Bohemia, eccentricity and eclecticism.

Revolution, nostalgia and celebrity appeal

The Roman-born designer started a revolution, transforming Gucci into a symbol of eccentric and gender-fluid style after a slowly fading era of sex and glamour. His offbeat personal style, as well as his passion and love of antiques, became the style of the house. At a time when fashion was looking forward, Michele dared to make the past an integral part of his vision and simultaneously explored the metaverse. Michele's romantic, nostalgic sensibility resonated not only with industry insiders and fashion fetishists, but more famously with celebrities: Jared Leto became arguably his most famous disciple, Harry Styles a collaborator, and Florence Welsh, Dakota Johnson, and Lana Del Rey just a few of his noteworthy muses.

Before the fashion world scrambles to find a potential successor to Michele, FashionUnited looks back at the designer's most memorable, bizarre and controversial fashion shows.

Fall/Winter 2015: A subtly promising debut

Gucci Menswear and Womenswear Fall/Winter 2015. Photos: Catwalkpictures

Five days after Frida Giannini's premature departure from Gucci, a still unknown Alessandro Michele, head accessories designer for the florentine brand, stepped onto the runway and took his first bow. He was surrounded by his team, which helped the designer, who at the time had not yet officially taken up his future post as creative director, to achieve the almost impossible: a completely new collection, catwalk production and casting in less than a week. Comparing 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 seem almost a little restrained in retrospect, but his signature is already unmistakable even at this early stage. Naivety, romanticism, sexuality and intellectualism are early leitmotifs of the Roman designer. Chiffon, crêpe and lace, bows and flowers, pleats and berets, large glasses and long, thin scarves, the very elements that made these motifs his signature in just a few seasons, were all present. In addition, several models took to the runway in the fur-wrapped Princetown loafers that season, arguably one of Michele's most famous designs for Gucci.

Resort 2017: A gothic punk dream at Westminster Abbey

Gucci Resort 2017. Photos: 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 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 opposites, brought together solely by Michele's vision: different eras and styles, punk á 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 Doctor Frankenstein himself. An operating room as the backdrop, a slowly beating heart as a soundtrack, and models carrying replicas of their heads under their arms - and then suddenly there were baby dragons. The fashion, which was by no means 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, yet it was jarring when Alessandro Michele sent 21 models down the runway in various 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 '70s and Gucci's "Sex Sells" era under Tom Ford.

Fall/Winter 2020: Behind the Scenes

Gucci Fall/Winter 2020. Photos: Gucci

In February 2019, Michele allowed viewers a look behind the scenes and promptly turned the backstage area of his fashion show into the main attraction. On a 360-degree stage, models were dressed up in front of the audience, presenting the finished look in a performance that was reminiscent of mannequins that had 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 goes into each and 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 runway, the world of fashion held its breath for a second. It should be noted that both Balenciaga and Gucci are part of the Kering Group, yet the collaboration of two designers of Alessandro Michele and Demna Gvasalia's calibre is unique thus far. But besides the spectacular staging with strobe lights and a "Gucci-Gang" soundtrack, it is mainly the fashion that impressed in this case. In addition to logomania, the collection relied primarily on tailoring. This, in turn, met glitter and elements of equestrianism, which can be seen as both a homage to BDSM culture and Gucci's early years as saddle makers for Italy's elite. Michele also bowed down to predecessor Tom Ford once again, sending a replica of a Ford-era red velvet suit down the runway.

Spring/Summer 2022: Love Parade on Hollywood Boulevard

Gucci "Loveparade" Spring/Summer 2022. Photos: Gucci

First "House of Gucci'' hit theatres and shortly thereafter 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 were presented on celebrities such as Macaulay Culkin, Jodie Turner-Smith and Michele look alike Jared Leto, were an ode to the film industry, screen sirens and the many, varied iconic characters of film history.

Fall/Winter 2022: A sporty surprise

Gucci Fall/Winter 2022. Photos: Gucci x Adidas

The suit was at the centre of the Fall/Winter collection, whether for men, women or as a more athletic version. For the latter, Alessandro Michele got backup from probably the most famous three white stripes in the world of sport and fashion: Adidas. The trademarks of the sportswear company from Herzogenaurach, including not only the three stripes that adorned trouser legs, caps, corsets and jackets but also a combined Trefoil logo with a Gucci slogan, lent 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 was seeing double! Twinsburg, Gucci's Spring/Summer 2023 collection, was dedicated to the phenomenon of twins, not only in theory but also in practice, as identical looks were worn by identical twins who walked the runway hand in hand. With this, Michele not only broached a personal experience, his mother and aunt are identical twins, but made a political statement, on the eve of the elections in Italy - for unity is essential not only in Alessandro Michele's universe. It is an impressive finale for the designer because even though no one knew it at the time, this collection seems to have been his last for Gucci.

Alessandro Michele's departure from Gucci is the end of an era, not only for the Florentine fashion house, whose future is still unclear to date, but also for the entire world of fashion. In recent years, the designer has amazed the world time and time again with his unique vision, but above all with his extraordinary fashion shows and presentations, even if what started as a revolution would come to feel formulaic – whimsical and magical, perhaps – but formulaic nonetheless.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.de and has been translated and edited into English.

Alessandro Michele