Gucci confirms it is parting ways with Alessandro Michele
“There are times when paths part ways because of the different perspectives each one of us may have. 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. 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." explained the creative director in a press release, sent out late Wednesday evening by the Kering group.
The press release confirmed the news disclosed that morning by the American trade daily WWD.
“I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet Alessandro at the end of 2014, since then we have had the pleasure to work closely together as Gucci has charted its successful path over these last eight years." said Marco Bizzarri, president and CEO of Gucci in the 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.”
For some time now, there has been some questioning around whether the Roman designer should stay on as head of style. Especially since sales have significantly slowed since the beginning of the year. A problem that the luxury group, which is strongly dependent on its star brand, needs to quickly solve. Nonetheless François-Henri Pinault, owner of the group praised the designers work saying: “The road that Gucci and Alessandro walked together over the past years is unique and will remain as an outstanding moment in the history of the House. I am grateful to Alessandro for bringing so much of himself in this adventure. His passion, his imagination, his ingenuity and his culture put Gucci center stage, where its place is. I wish him a great next chapter in his creative journey.”
Gucci, the powerhouse of the Kering group, achieved sales of 9.73 billion euros in 2021, up 31%, accounting for more than half of the group's revenue and three quarters of its operating profit. In the third quarter, it recorded organic growth of 9% compared with +4% in the second quarter (+18% in published data), and 8% for the first nine months of the year to 7.75 billion. When these results were published in October, management repeated that the recovery was underway, but that it was a medium-to-long-term process. Clearly, Kering has opted for a radical change.
With the arrival at the helm in 2015 of Alessandro Michele and CEO Marco Bizzarri, the house experienced a series of spectacular leaps until 2019, before being stopped in tracks by Covid with China being one of Gucci's largest markets. Its slowdown has accelerated since the beginning of the year, while other luxury houses were recording record growth.
With his eclectic and detailed style, mixing genres and influences, blending eccentricity and more classic pieces, the designer had managed to give the historic house, the boost it needed at the time. His immediate success was accompanied by a strategy of creating a unique and recognisable universe around his style, which was enriched over the seasons. But this aesthetic offered from season to season seems to have run out of steam in the last year and seems to be less desirable today.
Bernstein analyst Luca Solca has described this potential departure as "very good news", even if it may cause Kering's shares to fall. The analyst believes that "Gucci is suffering from brand fatigue, because Alessandro Michele has been repeating the same thing over and over again for the past seven years," and this has ended up boring those consumers who massively bought the label's products since the arrival of the designer, namely the Chinese. "This is not surprising. To re-accelerate, Gucci doesn't need to generalise, or become timeless. It needs to open a new creative chapter. Which -- in all likelihood -- can only be done with new creative energy and talent. The sooner the better," he said in a note.
Analysts at RBC seem to agree. "After seven years at the helm of Gucci's creative engine, it may well be time for a change, and there seems to be a consensus among institutional investors that a new approach is needed to revive the brand," they said, adding that "overall, the notion of a change in creative direction at Gucci is likely to be viewed positively."
In recent months, Gucci has welcomed some important new additions, with the appointment last spring of Laurent Cathala as head of fashion business in Greater China, and Maria Cristina Lomanto as executive vice-president, general manager of the brand. Benjamin Cercio has just been appointed head of global communications, while Robert Triefus has been promoted to managing director of Gucci Vault and Metaverse Ventures.
Above all, the position of studio director was created and entrusted this summer to one of Gucci's senior designers, whose name has not been disclosed. His mission was to supervise the design team and to support the artistic director. A position that could be crucial in the coming months to ensure a smooth transition to a new designer or even to take over the role. This is a bit like what happened at Bottega Veneta, another Kering brand, with Matthieu Blazy immediately succeeding Daniel Lee, when he exited just one year ago. It's also reminiscent of Gucci, when Michele, who had been with the house since 2002, became Frida Giannini's right-hand man from 2011, and then found himself catapulted to the style helm.
By opening up the brand's horizons towards genderfluid and inclusive style, Alessandro Michele has notably helped to rejuvenate Gucci's clientele in recent years. After training at the Accademia di Costume e di Moda in Rome, the 50-year-old designer started out at Les Copains, where he quickly moved into accessories. At the end of the 1990s, he joined Fendi, in the same product category, rubbing shoulders with Karl Lagerfeld, who was designing the women's ready-to-wear collections at the time. In 2002, Tom Ford brought him to Gucci to work on accessories, where he climbed the ladder to become associate creative director alongside Frida Giannini. He also took over as creative director of the porcelain manufacturer Ginori, which was bought by Kering in 2013.
Gucci’s design office will continue to carry the direction of the House forward until a new creative organization will be announced.
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