It's official. After more than 20 years with the company, including seven as its creative director, Alessandro Michele is leaving Gucci.
“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 20 years, within a company to which I have tirelessly dedicated all my love and creative passion," the Italian designer posted on Instagram on Wednesday.
And what tireless creative passion it has been.
During the course of his tenure, Michele single-handedly reinvented Gucci, from a then-ailing house in 2015, to making it one of the hottest brands on the planet.
But how did he do it? By sending his own, very personal take on romantic, dreamy and boundary-crossing clothes down the runway. Given just days to create his debut show — he rejected the collection left by his predecessor Frida Giannini's hasty departure — Michele created his own collection from scratch, and began writing Gucci into the history books in the process.
And it didn't stop there. A self-confessed Anglophile, Michele scored something of a coup when he persuaded Westminster Abbey in London to let him hold the Gucci cruise 2017 runway show in its cloisters, marking a first in its 1,000-year history, and a moment that Michele would later describe as "magical".
For autumn/winter 2018, he was clearly in a magical mood when he sent models down the runway carrying their own synthetic heads, while another tenderly cradled a sleeping "baby dragon". Bizarre and charming, it fitted perfectly with the new Gucci he was creating — a safe space where anything and everything was possible.
For his cruise 2019 show, Michele transported his runway to Alyscamps, the ancient graveyard in Arles, France, where models strode through smoke, down a walkway lit only by flames. Inspired by the darker recesses of Catholicism, it was stunning and terrifying in equal measure, as reflected in the corseted clothes drawn from Mary Queen of Scots and the hell-fire of damnation.
For spring/summer 2022, Michele persuaded his doppleganger, the actor Jared Leto, to appear in the Love Parade show in Los Angeles. Shutting down Hollywood Boulevard for the event, it harked back to the silver-screen glamour of US film's golden era.
Michele brought his love for the cinematic wardrobes of yesteryear to life, with cowboy hats, feathered gowns, faux fur coats, diamond tiaras, crop tops, wide-legged trousers and voluminous dresses. He offered a mixture of colours through his models who wore lavender, teal and hot-pink suits along with metallic and gold gowns. Black was another colour of preferences.
Then, for what would be his final show for the house, for spring/summer 2023, Michele called on 100 sets of identical twins to wear matching looks. Visually dazzling, it was created around ideas of otherness and identity.
Michele is a born dreamer with a unique sense of mashed-up style that encompasses romance, opulence and beauty. His time at Gucci has been remarkable, both for the huge surge in sales it generated and for the unfettered, dazzling imagination he demonstrated.
"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 said in his farewell post.
"Together with them I have wished, dreamed, imagined. Without them, none of what I have built would have been possible. To them goes my most sincerest wish: may you continue to cultivate your dreams, the subtle and intangible matter that makes life worth living. 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.”