These Are Alessandro Michele’s Most Memorable Gucci Moments

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PIERRE-ANGE CARLOTTI

Long ago Savoir Flair dubbed Alessandro Michele the “philosopher-king” of fashion. From working in obscurity in the accessories department of Gucci to practically overnight success as the newly anointed Creative Director at one of the world’s most recognizable brands, Michele brought new life to the house and created one of the most iconic aesthetics in modern memory. He imbued his collections with deep, philosophical thought, name-checking everyone from Michel Foucault to Hannah Arendt and always marched to the beat of his own drum. His collections grappled with ideas around self-realization, identity and individuality, and resistance against the status quo – to say nothing of the insane commercial success he achieved with such lofty ideas. It is with great sadness that we witness his departure from the brand. Whoever is appointed next has some very big shoes to fill. In Savoir Flair’s retrospective, we take a look back at some of the most memorable moments that Michele graced the world with in his seven years at Gucci.

Alessandro Michele's Debut

To prime this moment, you have to remember what Gucci looked like before Michele arrived. At the time, the brand was helmed by Frida Giannini, who was known for a sleek, upscale aesthetic, powerful color combinations, and collections touched by hints of disco and rock n’ roll. However, her messy exit from Gucci (she was fired due to flagging brand performance) and the ensuing departure of her partner and Gucci’s CEO Patrizio di Marco opened the brand to a significant shake-up. And shake things up Michele did.

As an unknown name in the wider fashion industry, Michele approached things with a blank slate mentality and set forth an enticing new agenda. With his debut womenswear collection, he completely reprogrammed Gucci, turning it toward youth with a cadre of nerdy librarians, magpie hipsters, and gamine rebels with a penchant for vintage silhouettes. It sent shockwaves through the fashion industry and represented one of the most significant tonal shifts a modern luxury brand has ever undergone. Ironically, looking back at his first collection now it’s practically tame compared to what he would later do at the brand.

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Gucci's Celebrity Friends

One of the things that Michele did better than most of his contemporaries was building loyal relationships with some of Hollywood and music’s most outre personalities. The quirkier and more unique they were, the better. Putting such interesting figures in Gucci’s avant-garde looks on the red carpet at the Met Gala and major film premieres kept the brand constantly on everyone’s lips and built up consumer desirability.

Gucci's Partnership with Dapper Dan

After an internet backlash erupted when Gucci appropriated a look from iconic Harlem couturier Dapper Dan, Michele pledged that his imitation was really an homage. Somewhat cyclically, Dapper Dan was forced to shutter his doors when he was sued by high-fashion brands like Gucci and Fendi back in the 1990s for using their logos in his work. Michele then made good on his word and established a fund for Dapper Dan to relaunch his atelier.

Gucci x Dapper Dan SS18
GUCCI x DAPPER DAN

Gucci's Collab with Coco Capitan

Throughout his time at Gucci, Michele embraced counter-culture and made it a part of the house’s legacy. For Fall/Winter 2017, a series of logo tees, hoodies, and bags were shown bearing phrases like “What are we going to do with all this future?” and “Common sense is not that common.” They came out of a collaboration with the artist and photographer Coco Capitán. They became instant collector’s items.

Coco Capitan Gucci
GUCCI

Gucci's Severed Heads and Baby Dragons

Gucci set fire to social media with its Fall/Winter 2018 show, which featured a shocking accessory: a human head. In collaboration with Makinarium, a group of techno-artisans in Rome who create lifelike visual effects, the show’s cloned heads, eyeballs, and dragon babies were visually arresting components of a ‘Cyborg’ themed show. “Gucci Cyborg is post-human…it’s a biologically indefinite and culturally aware creature. The last and extreme sign of a mongrel identity under constant transformation. The symbol of an emancipatory possibility through which we can decide to become what we are,” Michele wrote in his show notes. 

Gucci at Le Palace

Michele’s success in reinterpreting history through his own lens reached new heights with the Gucci Spring/Summer 2019 collection, which took place at the historic nightclub Le Palace in Paris where fashion greats like Grace Jones and Andy Warhol were regulars.

Gucci Spring/Summer 2019
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Gucci Chateau Marmont

Chateau Marmont, another haunt of the fabulous and famous, is a Los Angeles establishment that inspired Michele’s Cruise 2019 collection. Pieces from the collection branded with Chateau Marmont were instant social media fodder. As if that weren’t enough, the show featured a fiery catwalk and took place at Arles, France in homage to Christian Lacroix who was raised there.

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Gucci Relaunches Beauty

In May 2019, Gucci reintroduced its beauty line in truly spectacular fashion. “The idea is to create a humanized point of view, however strange,” Michele said. “But the strangeness is human, so it’s beautiful.” In keeping with the eccentric codes that Gucci had established under Michele, the 58-lipstick collection that launched its renewed foray into beauty featured bizarre smiles and made a significant impact that echoed through the social media sphere. Since then, it has fleshed out its offerings with a full range of makeup offerings.

Gucci Beauty ArtWall_MILAN
GUCCI

Gucci Straightjackets

It was news enough that the Gucci Spring/Summer 2020 collection had taken a surprising turn for the minimal. However, the show was overshadowed by a social misstep when Michele opened the show with models in a series of what looked like straightjackets. One of the models cast in the show, Ayesha Tan Jones, made a quiet protest during the show by raising her hands where the words “mental health is not fashion” had been written. This unplanned moment immediately sparked controversy.

Gucci Spring/Summer 2020
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The Gucci Carousel

For Fall/Winter 2020, Michele showed us how the proverbial fashion sausage is made. More than just the clothes – or the pièce de résistance of all the effort and talent of the house’s atelier – he wanted to show us the guts of how a catwalk show comes together. After entering through the back, the audience was seated in front of heavy blush-pink curtains over which loomed a giant neon metronome that ticked down the seconds until the show started. When the veil lifted, the backstage miseenscène you walked through to get to your seat was buzzing with activity. Pre-show preparations became part of the performance. As the fishbowl-like platform rotated, models were seen getting their makeup and hair finished, shimmying into garments, and slipping on accessories.

Alessandro Michele retrospective
GUCCI

Gucci’s “Hack” of Balenciaga

A collab between fashion brands? Groundbreaking. While truthfully, they are nothing surprising, Gucci’s ‘Aria’ show broke all of the rules of collaboration. Celebrating its 100-year anniversary, Michele pulled out all the stops for the show, including the one that typically prohibits “hacking” another mega-brand’s logo and aesthetic. But that’s exactly what he did. Gucci aped Balenciaga, decorating its iconic ‘Hourglass’ bag with the Gucci logo, and putting both the house’s logo on a glittering silver suit. It was a shock to behold, especially considering that Balenciaga is also owned by Gucci’s parent company Kering. It was later revealed Michele had done so with Demna’s blessing. While this “hack” was already worthy of a million column inches, Gucci closed out the show with a truly stunning video where models emerged into an “astral and magical” world that defied the laws of physics. It’s a fashion moment that still lives in our heads rent-free.

Gucci Aria Collection
GUCCI

Gucci Archetypes Exhibition

A 100-year celebration requires a lot of fanfare, and Gucci didn’t stop at its ‘Aria’ collection. In tribute to the house’s century-long run, Michele opened an immersive mixed-media exhibition at Gucci Gardens in Florence’s historic Palazzo della Mercanzia (Gucci Gardens also houses a multi-room gallery, a Gucci store, and a Michelin-star restaurant).

Alessandro Michele retrospective
GUCCI

Gucci's ‘HA HA HA’ Collection with Harry Styles

Harry Styles is the ultimate Gucci guy. As a multi-hyphenate talent, a gentleman, and a scholar, Styles had always embodied the eccentric, quirky-cool androgyny that was the Gucci code under Michele. It came as little surprise to learn that Styles had co-designed a collection for Gucci, but it was no less a thrill to see what he came up with. Entitled ‘HA HA HA’, which takes from the first letters of Harry and Alessandro’s names, is a 25-piece collection that launched this fall.

harry styles gucci
GUCCI

The Multiplicity of Gucci

Although at the time, the audience was not aware that this would be Michele’s last show for Gucci, it’s an understatement to say that he went out with a roar. ‘Twinsburg’ for Spring/Summer 2023 was one of the most incredible shows we ever had the privilege to attend. From the start, we were expecting the show to contain twins, but only single models walked the runway. At the end of the show, the backdrop raised and revealed that the model’s twin had been walking on the other side the entire time and that the show was being mirrored with an unsuspecting audience seated on the other side. The moment where the whole crowd realized what was going on was goosebump-inducing.

Alessandro Michele retrospective
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