Fashion is gearing up for another game of musical chairs. On Wednesday, Alessandro Michele announced that he will exit Gucci after seven years as creative director of brand.
The news came less than 24 hours after the rumor mill began churning with speculation of Michele's departure. A report published on Tuesday evening cited an anonymous source claiming that Michele "was asked to initiate a strong design shift" for the label. Apparently, the designer — known for his romantic, maximalist design sense — failed to deliver on the request.
While neither Michele nor Gucci have provided a reason for Michele's departure, the two entities issued statements confirming the shake-up.
"There are times when paths part ways because of the different perspectives each one of us may have," Michele 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."
Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri expressed gratitude for Michele's work at the brand. "I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet Alessandro at the end of 2014," Bizzarri said in a press release. "I would like to thank him for his 20 years of commitment to Gucci and for his vision, devotion, and unconditional love for this unique House during his tenure as Creative Director."
Michele joined Gucci in 2002 as an accessories designer, eventually working his way up to associate creative director under Frida Giannini. Michele replaced Giannini after she departed in 2015, a move that would radically transform Gucci's aesthetic. Replacing his predecessor's understated sex appeal with flamboyant, '70s-inspired glamour, Michele opened the world of Gucci up to a younger, more diverse audience.
With Instagram-friendly runway shows (remember those severed heads?), a slew of big-name collaborations (Gucci x Balenciaga, Gucci x adidas, and Gucci x Palace are just a few examples), and a keen digital strategy (Gucci was one of the first luxury brands to embrace the metaverse), Michele gave the maison a much-needed facelift.
His strategy worked — in 2021, the Vogue Business Index reported that Gucci was the most-recognized brand among Gen Z consumers.
From the outside, Michele's Gucci seemed to be in excellent order. The brand's Spring/Summer 2023 show, featuring identical twins, was one of Milan Fashion Week's most buzzed-about moments. And earlier this month, Gucci's custom red carpet look for Billie Eilish and boyfriend Jessie Rutherford just about broke the internet.
But Gucci is reportedly underperforming in comparison to Kering's other brands, as well as the portfolio of competitor LVMH.
It's difficult to imagine Gucci moving on from Michele's singular vision for the brand, one that has spawned plenty of imitators. The question on everyone's mind: who could possibly replace him?