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Alessandro Michele with Harry Styles at the Met Gala
via Instagram (@alessandro_michele)

Alessandro Michele says arrivederci to Gucci

‘May you always live by your passions, propelled by the wind of freedom,’ the designer said after seven years at the helm of the fashion house

Alessandro Michele’s madcap reign at Gucci has officially come to an end. Having spent more than 20 years plugged-in at the luxury behemoth – seven of which were as its creative director – the designer broadcasted his exit on Instagram this evening. “There are times when paths part ways because of the different perspectives each one of us may have,” he said. “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.” He did not announce any future plans and the brand has yet to unveil a successor, but Michele will take his final bow in January at Milan Fashion Week.

For most fashion fans, this will not come as a shock: industry mag WWD teased the designer’s leaving with quotes from an anonymous source on Tuesday evening and news feeds have been clogged with speculative memes ever since. “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,” he added. Together with them I have wished, dreamed, imagined. Without them, none of what I have built would have been possible.” Thoughts and prayers go out to Harry Styles, Måneskin, and every SFX specialist working in northern Italy reading that post right now. 

In addition to the butt plug necklaces, alien prosthetics, and Roblox activations, Michele will be remembered for his poetic show notes – those that read more like a philosophy essay than a press release. But that was all part of the fun. Plucked from the Gucci atelier himself, throughout his tenure, the designer pushed clothing to its metaphysical extremes; he severed heads from models, birthed baby dragons, staged controversial fashion shows in cinematic asylums, and cast Jared Leto as his de facto body double – with the duo emerging in complete symbiosis at the Met Gala earlier this year. The runes of that conjoining could be read in the designer’s SS23 offering, which saw identical twins walk hand-in-hand down a darkened runway on the outskirts of Milan. 

He was also the first Gucci designer to break away from the slam of the seasonal calendar, choosing to debut his collections as and when he pleased, in LA, Apulia, or Seoul. He was the first Gucci designer to cast “curve” models on the runway and the first to cast a model with Down’s Syndrome in a beauty campaign. And he was the first Gucci designer to hear the word “metaverse” and the first to collaborate with ASDA… kind of. He did, however, join forces with Palace, adidas, and Balenciaga, which paved the way for a bevy of high-voltage, incestuous hook-ups within the luxury sector – among them Fendace and Marc Jacobs for Fendi. He was also the first Gucci designer to set-up an incubator scheme for young designers, known as Gucci Vault.

But it was never just about clothes, more the spectacle of clothing itself. He displayed models in revolving, glass-walled chambers, 13th-century castles, and operating theatres, all of whom were dressed in maximalist prints, flared tailoring, and gender-bending gowns. Yes, he was a designer, but he was more like a bonkers scientist – one who extracted the “oohs” and “aahs” from the red carpets of old Hollywood and the sweat-slicked basements of Berlin’s sex dungeons and laced them into his linings. It stands to reason that these kinds of looks found a natural home on the backs of celebrities like Lana Del Rey, Billie Eilish, and Dakota Johnson, not to mention Elton John, who refuses to be seen without a sequined blazer. 

Though many Michele-philes will be mourning the loss of their eccentric leader, his departure compounds a slew of movements within fashion, which lays fresh ground for the industry. This year, Matthieu Blazy was appointed to Bottega Veneta, Maximilian Davis to Ferragamo, and Daniel Lee to Burberry, while Raf Simons quit his own label to further focus on Prada and Riccardo Tisci reignited his namesake brand. Fashion, it would seem, is in a period of astronomical transit, the kind that encourages stargazers to make grand prophecies about the future of things. It’s perhaps fitting, then, that Michele should have given show-goers a star of their own earlier this same year.

To them goes my most sincerest wish: may you continue to cultivate your dreams, the subtle and intangible matter that makes life worth living,” the designer’s goodbye post concluded. “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.”