26 In Style

You Need To Know About: Gucci’s Alessandro Michele

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You probably know that 43 year old Alessandro Michele was appointed Creative Director of Gucci in 2015.  In a flash, the Gucci ads we saw in magazines went from a study in beige elegance to being fantastically otherworldly.  The previous creative director Frida Giannini (and Tom Ford before her) had kept the brand slick and polished, but Michele turned everything upside down.  He completely redefined the brand and turned it into something delirious.  In his own words, he “destroyed everything”.  It was a brave move on the part of Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri to put the unknown Michele into this very high profile role.  The risk paid off nicely, because Kering (the company that owns Saint Laurent, Gucci, Bottega Veneta, and Balenciaga, among other luxury brands) saw Gucci’s revenue rise by 16% in 2015.  No one is more surprised than Michele himself.  He figured he’d do one collection and immediately be fired, but would at least have fun doing it.  He is refreshingly unmotivated by success or money, and stays far from the business side of Gucci, saying, “I prefer to play, like a kid.”  Aside from the business, the worst part of his job is the visibility and fame that come with it.  He’s not interested in creating products to sell so much as ideas, beauty, and a new “language of expression.”   Yes, I fully appreciate how ridiculous and pretentious that sounds, but after hearing him interviewed by British Vogue editor Alexandra Schulman at the Vogue Festival in London a few weeks ago, I can’t stop thinking about what he said.  I’m inspired.  I’ll try to make sense of the pages and pages of notes I took during his fascinating interview.

When he came out on stage, the hall erupted into loud cheering and applause… basically, a standing ovation just for showing up!   As you can see, he wore jeans, a white tee shirt, striped sports socks, the buckled men’s Mary Janes he designed, a satin bomber jacket, and rings on every finger.

Gucci Vogue festival

He looks like he could be the leader of a cult… or at least a band of deeply stylish, satin-and-brocade-wearing gypsies.  He has the quiet, serene presence reminiscent of a guru; the fashion world has embraced him with with a religious devotion that seems appropriate to his demeanour.  I could sense how genuine he is.  He’s left-field.  He’s out there.  He’s weird.  Since he’s not interested in commercialism (“no one needs more products”) it is ironic that he has a job creating insanely covetable things (I mean, that Dionysis bag, scream!).  His wants to make things that feel close to your soul, that make you feel happy, that you will enjoy for years and years, not just for one season.  His first collections and his most recent one all have a similar distinct aesthetic; you could pick something from his Spring 2015 collection and it would fit right in with Resort 2017 because nearly all of it looks vintage.  He resists pressure to perform or please anyone, and refuses to alter any design that he loves into something he considers ugly simply to satisfy market expectations.  Whether his very specific style eventually gets old (one trick pony syndrome) or whether he continues to find new ideas to infuse his work (like the late Alexandre McQueen managed to) remains to be seen, but right now, he and his work are seriously hot property.

During the interview, the word that he used so many times (like a mantra) that I completely lost count was “beauty.”   Alessandro is a man who is quite literally obsessed with beauty.   He said his personal living space is absolutely heaving with museum-like collections of objects he considers beautiful… shoes that do not fit him but he buys just to look at (I totally get that!), scraps of fabric, bits of a rug, paintings, jewels, miniatures, anything that inspires him.  He’s intoxicated with the pursuit of acquiring and creating beauty; it is a madness, a disappearance down a rabbit hole into another world.  You get a peek at this world if you follow him on Instagram.  I love to imagine how perhaps this influence and this influence eventually became this on the runway:

gucci_resort_2017_68

His idea of beauty is not traditional beauty.  For him, beauty is “a complicated language” that confuses the mind.  Beauty  is baroque, embellished, discordant, confusing, and a little dangerous.  He said, “If you fall in love with a beautiful man, it’s not easy.  It’s easier to be with an ugly man.  There is a danger to beauty.  I am not afraid of danger.”  With Michele, there is always a density of ideas; you get the feeling that one dress or one coat can barely contain all of what he wants it to say, so he keeps layering until he can’t put anything more on it.  His designs are ugly but beautiful, and this dissonance and confusion is exactly the language of modern beauty Alessandro has created for Gucci. “I want to be confused by what I am looking at,” he says.  You have to study and unpick his designs to understand them.  He loves androgyny and ambiguity; he finds beauty in “the in-between.”   He likes men in floral suits or coats and women in tough shoes, as the next two photos show.

gucci_resort_2017_61

gucci_resort_2017_49

a 1970’s archival print silk skirt with chunky Union Jack loafers

There are many looks on the runway that it takes a moment to figure out of it is part of menswear or womenswear, because the models and the clothes could be either.  He has even combined the menswear and womenswear shows into one to emphasise the  androgyny.

gucci_resort_2017_63

_GUC0769

History and heritage are also big influences on Alessandro.  Gucci is based in Florence where the Renaissance informs the entire city, Gucci, and Alessandro Michele’s work; it is inescapable.  He’s always had a self-confessed obsession with English style, so you can see strands of aristocratic eccentricity, Vivienne-Westwood-style punk, Victorian, and Tudor influences in his designs.  There are also nods to Gucci and its history of equestrian motifs, as well as 1970s Gucci archival prints which are resurrected and given a new context.

Oh, and the animals!   According to Alessandro his work is heavily influenced by (almost an homage to) his nature-loving father, who he describes as a sort of shaman and the happiest man he’s ever known.  Clothes and accessories are adorned in tigers, snakes, bees (2017), cats, dogs, owls, leopards, raccoons, and every description of bird (2016) and flower. I feel instant kinship with anyone who shares my insane love of animal beauty; I’d take every item he makes with an animal on it.

Gucci 2016

Sequins and goldfish

Gucci resort
Bejewelled Leopards

gucci pink snake dress
Ants, butterflies, snakes, beetles, and butterflies juxtaposed with girly pink

Gucci prefall 2016
Typical Michele, 70s aristocratic-bohemian-geek-chic with studded shoes, metallics, stripes, flowers, insects, and snakes

Whether you speak his madcap fashion language and love him, or whether you loathe his more-is-more aesthetic, Alessandro Michele’s influence is everywhere (blame him for the ubiquitous satin bomber jackets) and will be for some time.  Do I think most of us should wear a head out to dinner or a party in a top to toe Gucci runway look?  No.  Do I think that we’ll be wearing more wild embellished jackets and shoes in a season or two?  Yes.  (In fact, I am busy DIY’ing two jackets at the moment, which I’ll show you in future posts).  He inspires me to be a little more reckless in my fashion choices, and to pepper my style with some of his adventuresome and highly individualistic flavour.

Alessandro is fashion catnip, and if you are a cat, you are going to go absolutely crazy over his work.  If you are not a cat, then you will wonder what all the fuss is about.  

Here are a few more visual treats so you can decide if you are a cat or not!  What do you think?  Are you a cat? 

Gucci Dionysis bag

One version of the Dionysys bag, and the glasses seen on many a young blogger now

Gucci resort 2017
More is more, less is a bore.  Note the bee belt (if you can find it!)

Gucci resort 2017
One of the few looks I’d happily wear head to toe

Gucci resort 2017
Ok, also this one

Gucci resort 2017
AND this one!

Gucci sequin trousersuit sequinist
Stripes and sequins, two of my favourite things

Gucci 2017
Sequinned king snake evening dress

Gucci 2016
Exquisite gown, no doubt influenced by his personal collection of Chinoiserie

 

All images courtesy of Vogue.com

Linking up to: notdressedaslamb, sheelagoh, notdeadyetstyle

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26 Comments

  • Reply
    Michelle
    June 16, 2016 at 4:52 PM

    I’m a cat…Meow this post woman!
    Your description of the man is scintillating & razor sharp, I felt as if you’d actually interviewed him – Did you?
    My heart belongs to the Dionysus with bees & I can’t wait until one pops up on Ebay. If that day ever comes perhaps I will get the chance to own this beauty although I can’t imagine why anyone would ever sell it!
    My daughter has a pet snake & although she is as far from a fashionista as a girl can be, she positively squealed with delight when I showed her the snake dress 😉
    Brilliant piece my friend, bloody marvellous xxx

    • Reply
      Lisa
      June 16, 2016 at 5:38 PM

      Oh, so pleased you liked it Michelle! Given your love of vintage, you’d HAVE to love Alessandro! I wish I had interviewed him myself, but I WAS lucky enough to have a third row seat, which was a real treat. I adore him. He’s right up there with McQueen in terms of raw artistic talent. xx

  • Reply
    Lee Ann Swanson
    June 16, 2016 at 6:12 PM

    All hail Alessandro the Great! That goldfish skirt! The bejeweled tigers! The leopard and red jacket (one of my all time favorite combos…I’m obsessed!)! The chinoiserie gown! Each piece is so interesting on its own, but I love the danger of risking them all together. Over. The. Top. And loving it.

    • Reply
      Lisa
      June 16, 2016 at 6:18 PM

      I had absolutely NO DOUBT that you’d be a cat, Lee Ann! xx

  • Reply
    Laurie
    June 16, 2016 at 7:57 PM

    It’s the sequin suit all the way for me. Although I really like the gingham girlie coat too. In fact there is a lot here I like ! x

    • Reply
      Lisa
      June 16, 2016 at 9:31 PM

      You’re obviously a cat, susceptible to catnip as well, Laurie! xx

  • Reply
    Michelle
    June 17, 2016 at 9:44 AM

    I absolutely love this post Lisa, without a doubt my favourite so far. Your passion shines through your words. And I am defiantly a cat – meow!
    Michelle xx

    • Reply
      Lisa
      June 17, 2016 at 9:54 AM

      Aw, thank you so much Michelle! Yes, I’m sure you’re a cat. xx

  • Reply
    Rosemond
    June 17, 2016 at 1:28 PM

    I love his fearless design, don’t know if I could pull of all of it but I adore the pink dress with the snakes and bees. And I could so rock the bee belt!

    • Reply
      Lisa
      June 17, 2016 at 2:50 PM

      I love that bee belt too! I love almost all of it. xx

  • Reply
    Mithra Ballesteros
    June 17, 2016 at 2:13 PM

    Stunning! Inspiring! Will be rereading this one a few times. You certainly did your homework and, combined with your intuitive judgments, created the best kind of profile — dense but lovely. Just like the subject himself! You’ve got great fashion chops.

    • Reply
      Lisa
      June 17, 2016 at 2:49 PM

      Thanks so much, Mithra! It was fascinating hearing this interview; I had a hard time compressing SO MUCH information into a post. There was so much I had to leave out! xx

  • Reply
    Catherine, Not Dressed As Lamb
    June 17, 2016 at 4:50 PM

    Lisa, Lisa, Lisa – where do I begin?!!! I had to mull it over for 24 hours before knowing what to say, it’s left me speechless!!!!!!!

    First of all this is a BRILLIANTLY written post, your passion shines through lovely lady. Like you said, he does remind me of Alexander McQueen in that put-it-ALL-out-there, crazy-but-gorgeous way. There are so many looks I want to see on you – the goldfish dress!! the harlequin-style sequin dress! – and I’ll take quite a few for me, namely the leopard/polka dot/sequins mixed pattern dream.

    Right, I now have to pin the s*** out of your post… thank you SO much for writing this and sharing it with us!!!!!

    Catherine x

    • Reply
      Lisa
      June 17, 2016 at 5:06 PM

      Thank you SO much, Catherine. I’m absolutely thrilled that you enjoyed it. It is always fun to write posts when you are sick in love with the subject matter! Happy pinning, love xx

  • Reply
    Liz
    June 17, 2016 at 6:03 PM

    Lisa, what a brilliantly written, insightful post. It’s a masterpiece. You have captured the spirit of this artist at work and your passion and excitement is almost tangible. Congratulations and much love xxxxx

    • Reply
      Lisa
      June 17, 2016 at 8:14 PM

      Thanks so much, Liz! That is a real compliment coming from a magazine editor. Love to you, xx

  • Reply
    Abby
    June 18, 2016 at 3:18 PM

    OMG! I was browsing your featured collection with a racing heart! What a beauty, art and incredible inspiration. Truly a masterpiece! And your article – beyond knowledgable and professional (a career worth considering:) Sending you my love! xx Abby

    • Reply
      Lisa
      June 18, 2016 at 5:39 PM

      Thanks so much, darling Abby. I’m pleased you liked it! xx

  • Reply
    Glenda
    June 21, 2016 at 4:43 PM

    A runway show is the time when designers put on a “show”
    There are specific pieces which I would wear with some of my own. However, I’m not inspired to wear a head to toe Michele creation.
    I get his aesthetic, and I see where he’s going with his vision, but after some time, I think people will grow tired of having to hunt for what they like among his overly crowded presentation.

    • Reply
      Lisa
      June 21, 2016 at 5:00 PM

      I think ‘crowded’ is a good word to describe his More is More aesthetic (it is how he describes his own home as well)! Alexander McQueen and Mary Katranzou are two other good examples of designers who had to evolve or get stuck in one style. It will be interesting to see what happens with Michele. I’m a lover. xx

  • Reply
    Nikki Garnett, Midlifechic
    June 21, 2016 at 6:09 PM

    Lisa thank you for this post, it is a superb interpretation of everything you have seen and it has really helped me to focus on what will undoubtedly be a big influence for AW16 / SS17. Let’s hope so anyway because it’s stunning. x

    • Reply
      Lisa
      June 21, 2016 at 7:40 PM

      Thanks so much, Nikki! I’m pleased you liked it. I agree that his influence has a lot of legs left in it. xx

  • Reply
    Shelbee on the Edge
    June 25, 2016 at 12:29 PM

    Great post! I am definitely a cat! And I could look at images like these all day long! I don’t know that my lifestyle is necessarily in line with wearing these clothes, but I certainly admire them and a girl can dream, right?! Absolutely stunning and breathtaking stuff here. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post!

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com/my-old-navy-rewards-haul-and-a-link-up/

    • Reply
      Lisa
      June 25, 2016 at 8:17 PM

      Thank you so much, Shelbee. I’m pleased you enjoyed reading it. I love the more creative side of fashion. xx

  • Reply
    No Fear of Fashion
    June 28, 2016 at 6:20 PM

    I am not a cat (in this designer’s sense). But I do love all the outfits you chose for yourself.
    Greetje

    • Reply
      Lisa
      June 28, 2016 at 8:18 PM

      It would be a very boring world if we were all cats! Thanks darling Greetje xx

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