After almost eight years at the helm of Gucci, Alessandro Michele is leaving the brand. Since his start in early 2015, the designer imbued the brand with his quirky, androgynous, everything-but-the-kitchen sink style. He brought in famous faces like Jared Leto, Harry Styles, and Billie Eilish, and he turned every show into a spectacle event. But now, his era is officially over.
“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,” Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri said in a statement. “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.”
The news comes as Gucci’s rate of growth continue to struggle, especially compared to other brands owned by their parent company, Kering. According to WWD, Michele “was asked to initiate a strong design shift,” a request he was apparently unable to deliver.
Michele was appointed creative director of the brand following Frida Giannini’s exit in January 2015. He had previously worked under both Giannini and Tom Ford at the house. Starting with the men’s fall 2015 show, Michele immediately displayed the kind of head designer he would be, one who thwarted gendered dressing, but embraced opulence. In her first collection, Michele sent out both men and women in indiscernible looks, wearing silk blouses and red lace tops, pairing full suits with sandals, and fur-lined loafers sans backs.
Following Giannini’s departure, Michele said he was ready to leave as well. He was in charge of accessories and jewelry at the time, as well as the creative director of porcelain tableware company Richard Ginori. Then Bizzarri asked Michele to grab coffee. “Marco came to my house and said he was fascinated by how it looked,” Michele told W back in 2020. That’s when he gave Michele a challenge: create a collection to show to the world in just five days. “I said, ‘Why not?’ I love this kind of challenge.”
That first collection was a success, and sales grew by double-digits, as new and younger customers started taking notice. Those fur-lined, backless loafers, specifically, ended up being a bestseller for the brand. “We did a non-fur version to be safe, and we only sold the crazy ones,” he said. “People like to be crazy and special and chic!” Throughout his tenure, his signature style crystalized, the excess reached new heights, and starting with the fall 2017 show, Michele doubled-down on his opinions on gendered dressing by combining the men’s and women’s shows into one (Last month it was announced the brand would return to separate shows each season). Lately, though, Gucci’s rate of growth has been less that stellar, a significant problem as it has always been one of Kering’s largest profit-makers. And while Bizzarri began on Michele’s side, WWD reports that “the honeymoon with Bizzarri is over, and the relationship is not as strong as before.”
Michele’s exit comes after François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of Kering made another out-of-the-blue shakeup last year when he removed Daniel Lee at his post at Bottega Veneta, despite an overall strong performance and critical appreciation. The decision, though, has proven to be a good one as Matthieu Blazy has since taken over Bottega to much success and praise.
This is the second major designer news to come out of this week as it was also just announced that Raf Simons would close his eponymous label after 27 years.
In a statement posted to his personal Instagram account, Michele offered his gratitude. “There are times when paths part ways because of the different perspectives each one of us may have. Today an extraordinary journey ends for me, lasting more than twenty years, within a company to which I have tirelessly dedicated all my love and creative passion. During this long period Gucci has been my home, my adopted family. To this extended family, to all the individuals who have looked after and supported it, I send my most sincere thanks, my biggest and most heartfelt embrace. Together with them I have wished, dreamed, imagined. Without them, none of what I have built would have been possible. To them goes my most sincerest wish: may you continue to cultivate your dreams, the subtle and intangible matter that makes life worth living. May you continue to nourish yourselves with poetic and inclusive imagery, remaining faithful to your values. May you always live by your passions, propelled by the wind of freedom.”
Michele has not commented on where he will go next and Gucci has not yet named his successor. For the time being, the design office will continue on without a creative director.