Sources say creative director Alessandro Michele is leaving Gucci – WWD

MILAN – Could a major change be afoot at Gucci?

Well-placed sources here say creative director Alessandro Michele is exiting the brand.

A statement is expected as early as Wednesday. Gucci did not respond to repeated requests for comment Tuesday evening Milan time. Reached early Wednesday, a spokesman for parent company Kering said: “We have no comment.”

A source who spoke on condition of anonymity told WWD that Michele “was asked to initiate a major design shift” to light a fire under the brand, but the designer did not comply with the request. Another source said François-Henri Pinault, chairman and chief executive officer of Gucci’s parent company Kering, is seeking a change of pace for the group’s flagship brand.

This wouldn’t be the first time Pinault has shaken up one of Kering’s key brands. Last November, in a surprise move, Pinault ousted Daniel Lee from Bottega Veneta despite the designer’s strong performance at the brand and great critical acclaim.

Lee, who is now Burberry’s creative director, was replaced in the shop by Matthieu Blazy, who had been in the studio for the brand. Blazy quickly made his mark on the brand in two seasons, returning it to its artisan roots.

Pinault may be looking to do the same with Gucci, though Michele’s last show for the brand in September was one of the highlights of the spring 2023 season. The designer sent a stream of models in both his signature androgynous looks, as well as in some more sober with an injection of more classic tailoring.

The twist came when a partition lifted to show half the audience were watching exactly the same show: the models in the show were all identical twins, in Michele’s personal reflection on identity. He revealed after the show that she mother to him was a twin and therefore he always felt he had two mothers.

Michele was officially named to the top creative role in January 2015, two days after taking his first bow at the end of Gucci’s Fall 2015 menswear show.

With that seminal show he reinvented Gucci with a completely new, extravagant and androgynous aesthetic that surpassed the sophisticated jet-set lifestyle image of its predecessor Frida Giannini.

Gucci chairman and chief executive Marco Bizzarri handpicked Michele to succeed Giannini, who had exited a week earlier and has long been a strong supporter of the designer. However, a source believes that “the honeymoon with Gonzo is over and the relationship is no longer as strong as before.”

It might be indicative that Michele did not fly to Seoul for the repeat of Gucci’s Cosmogonie show, scheduled for November 19th. 1, which was canceled following tragic events in the South Korean city, where more than 150 people died and dozens were injured after being crushed in a large crowd in the Itaewon nightlife district while celebrating Halloween.

If confirmed, the news anticipates Gucci’s return to Milan Men’s Fashion Week in January.

Michele’s romantic and gender-fluid spirit influenced a slew of other designers, and her tenure at Gucci helped the brand cater to a younger, more diverse client base, as well as grow its business. Following his appointment, Gucci reported growth of more than 35% for five consecutive quarters within the first quarter of 2018, prompting Bizzarri to set a €10 billion revenue target for the brand in June of that year.

However, Kering last month reported that its cash cow Gucci continued to underperform other brands in the group, even as organic sales rose in the third quarter. The Italian brand’s revenues totaled 2.6 billion euros, up 9% on a like-for-like basis, following a 4% increase in the second quarter.

That was slightly below the consensus of analyst estimates, which called for a 10% increase in comparable sales at maker of Dionysus handbags and horsebit loafers. By comparison, organic sales of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s key fashion and leather goods division it was up 22% year over year in the third quarter.

Bizzarri assumed his role at Gucci on January 14th. 1, 2015, succeeding Patrizio di Marco. He told WWD at the time that elevating Michele to the position of creative director was “looking from the outside, not the obvious choice,” but that he was “exactly the right person” for the position, tasked with halting the then-declining of Gucci’s performance.

Michele joined the Gucci design studio in 2002 after a stint as a senior accessories designer at Fendi. In 2011 he was appointed “associate” of Giannini and in 2014 he assumed the additional responsibility of creative director of Richard Ginori, the porcelain brand acquired by Gucci in 2013.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: