LONDON, United Kingdom — After days of speculation, Gucci, along with parent company Kering, has confirmed the appointment of Alessandro Michele as the brand’s new creative director. Michele’s first collection in his new role, women’s ready-to-wear for Autumn/Winter 2015-2016, will be presented on 25 February in Milan.
Michele, 42, was previously head accessories designer at the Italian luxury megabrand and replaces former Gucci creative director Frida Giannini, who abruptly exited the label earlier this month, ahead of her planned departure after the upcoming women’s shows.
“After a considered and thorough selection process, Alessandro Michele has been chosen to assume the role as Gucci creative director, based upon the contemporary vision he has articulated for the brand that he will now bring to life,” said Marco Bizzarri, president and chief executive officer of Gucci in a statement. “Alessandro and I are fully aligned on this new contemporary vision needed by the brand.”
“Alessandro’s talent and his knowledge of the company and the design teams in place will for sure allow him to move quickly and seamlessly in implementing his new creative direction for the collections and the brand,” continued Bizzarri, who was previously the CEO of Kering’s couture and leather goods division and replaced former Gucci CEO Patrizio di Marco as part of a broader shake up after Giannini and di Marco failed to reenergise the brand in the face of shrinking sales.
François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of Kering, said in a statement: “Throughout its history, Gucci has always created attention and excitement through its innovative and distinctive products and collections as it has become Italy's most renowned fashion house and one of the most iconic and prominent luxury brands in the world. Alessandro Michele has both the qualities and the vision necessary to bring a new contemporary perspective to Gucci and lead the brand into an exciting new creative chapter of its history."
Michele, a graduate of Rome’s Accademia di Costume e di Moda, first worked with Frida Giannini at Fendi, where he served as senior accessories designer. He moved to Gucci in 2002, where he was promoted to Giannini’s associate in 2011.
The news of Michele’s appointment follows the presentation of Gucci’s latest menswear collection, staged in Milan on Monday, which was completely redesigned at the last minute by the designer after Giannini’s early exit was announced. The collection, which featured flamboyant silk pussy-bow blouses and soft berets, was generally well received and the designer was credited with bringing a new youthful energy to the brand, though some noted apparent references to Saint Laurent and JW Anderson. Shown on both male and female models, Michele’s designs played with gender and androgyny in an apparent rebuttal to the hypersexual masculinity of previous Gucci collections.
“The Gucci Men's Autumn/Winter 2015-2016 collection presented on 19 January, which was realised thanks to a remarkable collaboration between the men's design and production teams, is a clear indication that the brand is ready to take a new direction,” said Bizarri of the show.
Michele takes the creative helm at a time when Gucci, which accounts for about half of Kering’s total luxury business, is under considerable pressure to regain traction in the face of shrinking sales revenue. In the third quarter of 2014, Gucci revenues fell by 1.6 percent to €851 million (about $1.13 billion). The disappointing results come in the context of an industry-wide slowdown, though Gucci sales have suffered in particular as consumers in the all-important Chinese market shift spending away from conspicuous megabrands at a rate far faster than predicted.
Today’s announcement follows reports that designers including current Givenchy creative director Riccardo Tisci; Maria Grazia Chiuri, co-creative director at Valentino; and Joseph Altuzarra, in whose eponymous brand Kering has a minority stake, had also been considered for the role.