“If the industry stopped thinking that fashion is just a product, that would be much better. Because that’s something that has happened in the past 10 years…and it can destroy fashion.” says Alessandro Michele, The South China Morning Post
This is the phrase which Alessandro Michele, who is currently the CEO of GUCCI, is guided by. This man became a breath of fresh air for the brand and led it onto a new level.
GUCCI is a fashion house with a history, the peer of PRADA and Balenciaga. The company was founded by Guccio Gucci who was working as maitre d’hotel in London. The esthetic beauty of the amazing luggage bags of British aristocratic guests had inspired him to establish the company. The first store was opened in Florence in 1921. It was specialised in production of leather goods and equestrian equipment, what by 1950s made the brand prestigious and recognisable. By this time the company had its wide-known logos. The idea of iconic green-red-green stripes came to Gucci from the world of English horse-riding, the so called “web” – the special belt to keep the saddle on a horse’s back — which usually was made of these 2 colours.
After the death of Guccio Gucci in 1953 four of his sons headed the company and branded it with one of the most recognisable logos of fashion world — Double G. Since then GUCCI house was evolving stable, keeping the reputation of luxury fashion house. By the 1960s it became renowned by its iconic products: the loafers, bamboo bag, hobo bag and the “Flora” scarf, designed for princess Grace Kelly.
In 1981 GUCCI presented the first collection at a fashion show in Florence and since then it became joint stock company. In any case by 1990s, when significant changes has come the company was is a state close to bankruptcy.
Appearance of Tom Ford in 1994 as a creative director of the fashion house has changed the situation and the whole concept — outrageously sexy tailoring with the mark of retro and feminine sensuality. The fashion house claimed itself as a strong player in this industry. GUCCI became sexy and provocative, what remained till 2004 when designer expressed his desire to go into filmmaking and departed from the company.
The next irreplaceable figure in GUCCI’s history became Frida Giannini, the former accessories designer of FENDI, who handled taking over the position after such a successful colleague as Ford, with such dignity. She took up duties of the creative director in 2006, following her relaunch of the cult Flora print in bags collection. She followed GUCCI’s best traditions and values personifying her own ideas simultaneously. Since she started to work as a designer of fashion house collections became less aggressive, but feminine and glamorous, what always has been an essential of GUCCI. Frida showed herself as a designer, creating fashion for women to please themselves rather than others. “Real clothes for real woman” she mentioned in one of the numerous interviews. Her style could be described as a casual chic – the purpose was comfortable design, easy to wear everyday, but not urge to shock the audience of fashion weeks.
Collections created by Frida immediately got an outstanding feedback from connoisseurs of the industry. Elegant and sophisticated as a designer herself, her attires were also gorgeous and fairly audacious.
During almost a decade such a delicate lady has been managing successfully to work for such a “monster” as GUCCI. There is a bit more in her “service record” than designing of first-rate collections of clothes. Frida Giannini succeeded in creating of scents. One of the most popular fragrances of 2009 was “Flora” by GUCCI, what was inspired by the famous motif, and a few more no less prosperous followed.She has always been confident with what she was doing, however it is well known the knack of foreseeing what will be success from season to season is an indispensable for any fashion designer and she could always rely on the marvellous team of GUCCI.
The great work was made by Frida Giannini — the long-term CEO, whose hard work and experience confirmed GUCCI as one of the best haute-couture houses and an amazing ready-to-wear luxury brand.
Meanwhile, the times has changed and company needed another push to raise it on a new level. Alessandro Michele headed the next generation of GUCCI. He was well known in the company, having worked there since 2002 as head of accessories under both Ford and Giannini, he was virtually unheard of outside of it. Designer completely alerted the idea of the fashion house, famous by its intentional sexuality in combination with sensuality and extravagance.
The first man’s collection of Alessandro as a creative director Fall/Winter 2015/2016 was created in 5 days. The press was shocked – and after the final flight of models, when Alessandro came out to bow with his team, exploded with a squall of applause. However, not all audience was so enthusiastic, while one part did not spare the palms, the other only shook shoulders in bewilderment. It made a revolution. Firstly, the type of models was unusual, almost eroding the boundaries of the sex: in many cases it was completely unclear, the girl is walking on the podium or a young man. Secondly, there were no trace of habitual GUCCI style. Clothes became more artistic and delicate, no stereotypes, other words – self-sufficient and expressive. During these five days, Michele and his team managed to do an incredible thing: not just create a fashionable collection, but completely reformat the image of the GUCCI man. He, this man, immediately began to compare with the artist from the Rive Gauche in Paris, skilfully combining vintage and modern items of the wardrobe, freedom-loving and romantic. During those very five working days, Michele used his collection of vintage — exploring styles and fabrics. Alessandro himself announced that he wanted to interpret feelings, not silhouette, experience, but not the epoch. This is the starting point, where the boundaries of masculinity and femininity are eroding and the energy and natural self-sufficiency of the modern urban inhabitant come to the forefront. In his opinion, in order to understand modernity, it is not necessary to clearly coordinate with time, and what it time demands form us. In his autumn-winter collection, he is exploring the world through this incompatibility, noting only the current moment, rather than the gap between “no longer” and “not yet,” and also proclaiming freedom from everything traditional and general.
As the first full-fledged collection by Alessandro Michele – GUCCI cruise 2016, what took place in NY last summer, reaffirmed that brand is moving on a new path. This “performance” showed not only clothes and accessories: the street instead of the podium, the new city instead of the old one. All this determines the position of the designer, as well as hundreds of critics, discussing the features of cut jackets with three-quarter sleeves or lace jumper. Public was still a bit shocked after the courageous winter collection, however, right after the summer cruise show — both female and male — the fashion world became more benevolent towards Alessandro. Regardless to expectations, the offered outfits were suitable to wear in real life and, however, such quirky details were used — light chiffons, bright and expressive print, accessories in shape of refined and at the same time large dragon-flies, massive bows and of course the “POP symbols of the company” double-G and striped athletic ribbing. All these vintage jackets with slightly flared trousers, t-shirts with “jammed” folds, an abundance of embroidery and a combination of dozens of ornaments not only have the right to exist, but also “feel” better in the modern world than ever before. The main and significant thing Alessandro Michele brought to GUCCI is spirit of youth. Down with audacious sexuality and monochrome! Viva la freedom! Viva la vintage!
Following collection Fall / Winter 16/17 was full of symbolism and antiquity, with a new GUCCI distinctive features — vintage, eclectic vision and flora and fauna motifs. Designer used saturated colours of different tints — deep-red, emerald, yellow, pink and many more. Abundance of flounces and unique ornaments transferred spectators to “renaissance” epoch.
The last presented collection Fall / Winter 17/18 was unusual, as always: on the runway in 35 thousand square meters in the territory of a former aircraft factory. During the show the models moved along the tunnel, separated from the spectators by transparent partitions. Defile took place against the background of a stylised pyramid. For this grand debut, Alessandro Michele teamed up with the artist and photographer Coco Capitan, who designed some of the drawings on t-shirts. The presentation was actually called The Alchemist’s Garden. This collection was characterised by such words as “awkward” and “ridiculous”, maestro mixed different styles and textures. A heap of decorative details this season obviously show it was very eccentric. Undoubtedly, there were pieces what can be worn everyday, but blended all together it was rather a demonstration of creativity than a commercial collection. Using a great number of extraordinary elements, Alessandro embodied variety of ideas: fashion of 60s/70s, futurism, “Geek-chic” – plenty of colours, tweed jackets, bell-bottom trousers, may-tier skirts, motley geometrical suits and dresses, and invariable vintage. Almost every outfit showed one of the accessories — which everyone already has on hearing — large rings in the nose, Peggy Guggenheim-inspired glasses, and even knitted shawls.
Overall, the Fall / Winter 2017 collection was very consistent in the style of GUCCI.
Well, last year, apparently it was only the tiny hint of the GUCCI revolution, but now GUCCI is definitely one of the most promising fashion houses of this years. It is very clear now — the imagination of Alessandro Michele is boundless and his eagerness to create not a fashion, but an art, his love to eclectic and vintage and indisputable talent broke the idea of GUCCI sexuality, but retained the heritage of the fashion house. How many changes to expect now, no one knows, but the fashion world might be sure every season promises to amaze us even more. All we know for sure Alessandro Michele is the person, who made GUCCI great again and this is only a beginning of long history of a NEW GUCCI.