Unknown Designer Heads Gucci, Ruffles A Few Feathers

Alessandro Michele for Gucci

After the abrupt dismissal of the two most prominent figures in Gucci – Patrizio di Marco and Frida Giannini last year – the fashion musical chairs begun with the media circling around rumours about who would replace the coveted throne of Ms. Giannini, the then Creative Director of Gucci.

At first, the attention focused on Givenchy’s golden child, Riccardo Tisci, but Mr.Tisci rebutted that quickly stating, “No, no, no,” when asked at the couture shows in Paris last month if he had been contacted by Kering. “I’m happy at the house I’m staying at.”

Alessandro Michele Gucci Menswear AW 2015
Gucci Menswear AW 2015

Instead, on Jan. 21, the company announced it had hired Alessandro Michele, a man who had spent the last 12 years working in Gucci’s accessories department, and the last three years as the associate director to Ms. Giannini.

But such an unexpected appointment of a relatively unknown designer created a collective worry about the future of the brand. “I don’t know what to think,” said one fashion executive who has worked with Kering but who would speak only on the condition of anonymity, when asked about the appointment of Mr. Michele. “It makes no sense to me. I didn’t expect them to go with an unknown.”

Gucci Menswear AW 2015 Alessandro Michele
Gucci Menswear AW 2015

During a brief interview last week in Los Angeles, Tom Ford declined to comment on the changes at Gucci but said of Mr. Michele, “He was a great handbag designer when he worked with me.”

Anna Wintour, the Vogue editor, said she met with Mr. Michele in late January, shortly after he had been given the position,“He was eccentric, a little bit eccentric, but charming,” she said at the Oscar de la Renta show last week. “I really enjoyed talking with him.”

Wintour quickly added: “I didn’t see anything,” referring to his work. “We had a cup of coffee.”

Read more here on NYTimes.

It is true that design aesthetic in Gucci has become monotonous. Mr. Ford did incredibly well associating Gucci with seduction but when Ms. Giannini took over, some of the collections felt inauthentic, even forced. Gucci might go with the mantra, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” but a Creative Director isn’t paid to imitate someone’s vision. 

It is wonderful as well to see unknown designers head established heritage brands like Gucci. Mr. Michele brings fresh perspective, as indicated from his menswear collection, where the collection felt more androgynous. It is also refreshing that it is not the usual sharks that are being considered for the position. It gets boring. There must be serious talent other than the Tiscis, the Slimanes, and the Wangs. With designers like Sarah Burton doing well in McQueen, maybe, Gucci will have their own Burton to save the throne.