Leave it to Gucci’s new creative director, Alessandro Michele, who has swiftly risen from shy guy to superstar at the helm of the Florence-based design house – in a manner we have not seen since maybe Tom Ford – to turn a struggling design house into the one that is the most in demand for several seasons now. It seems that if Michele has done anything (and honestly, he has done quite a lot, including taking home a British Fashion Award), it is completely and utterly wooing the fashion industry. He has enchanted bloggers, buyers and editors; invited them to forget their previous notions of the famed Italian design house and lust after his every design – from floral prints garments to kangaroo fur lined shoes.
It is rather rare for us to see a creative director take the helm and win over the fashion industry – including its toughest critics – almost instantly. Alexander Wang didn’t accomplish this in his three years at Balenciaga. Hedi Slimane was met with stark resistance when he took the helm of Yves Saint Laurent a few years ago. And surely, no one was running to Loewe stores to buy up Jonathan Anderson’s first collections when they first became shoppable.
Yet, for Michele it is different. He was met with wide and welcome reception. This is not limited to glowing reviews, though. Michele, who officially took his position as creative director in January 2015, has many editors (certainly not all) and normally gift-reliant bloggers alike spending their own money for his garments and of course, those kangaroo shoes. As Time magazine noted not too long ago, “From top editors to snobby buyers to gushing bloggers, Gucci has become the brand that is currently on every fashion insider’s lips—not to mention their feet and hips.” And if industry reports are to be believed, while Gucci is, in fact, lending garments for editorial purposes to magazines and select bloggers, it is not sending out loads of gifted garments and accessories, at least not yet. Nope, people are actually buying their own Gucci.
For the time being, there will not be much to get your hands on by way of sale prices. Gucci CEO Marc Bizzarri told BoF recently that the Michele-designed collections, which dropped in stores between June and August, have been selling spectacularly well. Bizzarri, like Michele, is also new to Gucci; he was appointed late last year when former creative director, Frida Giannini and former CEO, Patrizio de Marco, a personal and professional couple, were both ousted. In his new role thus far, Bizzarri said sales of full-price garments and accessories have been “super-high,” resulting in no need to discount, even though many luxury peers are thinking price cuts at the moment.
In addition to not experiencing the need to sell off garments at discounted prices, Bizzarri says the company will be extra cautious when it comes to sales, as he believes markdowns could damage the delicate image of the brand, especially given its new direction. “The impact on the image would be too big,” Bizzarri says, emphasizing the new interest in Gucci that Michele has stirred up. “We’re seeing a lot of new clients, a lot of new customers — different, younger, more fashion-forward — buying the collection, but not losing the previous ones.”
As for who Michele can call fans? Well, first of all, there is nearly the entire fashion industry – from Vogue editor in chief, Anna Wintour, who stepped out in a floral dress from Michele’s Fall/Winter 2015 collection in September, to Vogue Japan editor and bona fide street style icon, Anna Dello Russo. There is also Bryan Boy, Monaco royal Charlotte Casiraghi, and influential model Hari Neff – all of whom have been spotted in floral Gucci garments of Michele’s on multiple occasions.
There are also the many publications – such as Vogue, Elle, W, Glamour, and AnOther, among others – that have prominently featured Michele’s designs in recent editorials or the street style sites that have been quick to snap up models and show goers, alike, in Gucci garb.
One Direction front man Harry Styles is a noteworthy fan – creating maybe the most buzz to date. After the young Brit stepped out in a floral suit from Michele’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection at the American Music Awards, and a number of other Gucci looks, the fashion press has been quick to draw attention to a potential new fashion bromance. As the Telegraph noted recently, Styles’s “new [Gucci] look – he normally opts for super-skinny trousers and a Saint Laurent-style undone, rock star vibe – may have seemed a little out of character, until you consider this: he’s totally stealing Alessandro’s style.”
Korean actress, Lee Young-ae, also made headlines recently after posing for the December issue of JLOOK magazine in some of Michele’s new designs. Young-ae, one of the nation’s most celebrated actresses, will certainly help Gucci garner fans in the East. And with that in mind, it is likely only a matter of time before fashion-forward K-pop stars, like G-Dragon and CL, are spotted in some of Michele’s designs, thereby spawning a full-blown frenzy amongst fans.
With Michele’s first designs for the Italian design house just hitting shelves over the past several months, we are only beginning to see the new era of Gucci in action. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and see just how Michele will manage to keep this new buzz sustained as the game of musical chairs amongst creative directors inevitably continues on. Stay tuned!