“There are times when paths separate due to the different perspectives that each of us may have. Today an extraordinary journey ends for me, which lasted more than twenty years, within a company to which I have tirelessly dedicated all my love and my creative passion”. It is with these words that Alexander Michaelone of the most eclectic stylists of our time, said goodbye to last November Guccithe brand of which he was creative director.
Real driving force of the group Dry, Gucci recorded – in the year 2021 alone – 9.73 billion euros in turnover, up 31% compared to the previous year. The brand represents more than half of the group’s turnover and has created around itself – also thanks to the global success of works such as Ridley Scott’s film House of Gucci – a new interest that undoubtedly make it one of the best known and most recognizable brands in the world.
We talked about it with Marcello Albanesi, who has just published the book “Gucci. An empire of made in Italy luxury“.
Let’s start from the end: after almost eight years, Alessandro Michele has left the creative direction of Gucci. What do you think about the reasons that led to this choice?
Alessandro Michele resigned as creative director when my book was just out. I only learned about his resignation through the media when the news was made public. And like the whole fashion world, I too was extremely surprised. My suspicion, based in part on what emerged from the press, is that Alessandro Michele had by now become too cumbersome and dominant. His creative genius expressed in numerous creations, his disruptive personality probably caused the top management of the Kering Group to become somewhat annoyed. I have read various explanations that motivated Alessandro Michele’s resignation but no certainty. Just rumors. And I can’t be the one to give a solution to a question that, to date, remains unanswered. What I feel like saying is that I wouldn’t be surprised if the now former creative director of the Gucci brand soon spread the news of the launch of his own brand. It would almost be obvious, indeed.
Which scenario do you see as the most realistic now for the future and the creative direction of the maison?
From Tom Ford to Alessandro Michele, passing through Frida Giannini, the Gucci brand has placed the company’s fate in the hands of a single creative director. As it has always been, after all, for every brand. I have heard that the most probable scenario is that of a subdivision of products within the same brand headed by several directors: the era of the man alone in command seems to be over. I believe that achieving the revolution set in motion by Alessandro Michele is a more than difficult undertaking, it is difficult to be on his level both in terms of creativity and audacity. Michele knew how to deconstruct what he has accumulated over the years to then give new life to those historic and iconic Gucci products. Collaborations with other brands, from Balenciaga to Adidas for example, have resulted in highly coveted exemplary products now sought after by collectors.
In his book “Gucci. An empire of Made in Italy luxury” gets to tell the story of the brand up to the latest partnerships with musical artists such as Maneskin or Achille Lauro. Why had Gucci remained a little more “on its own” from this point of view until a few years ago?
I believe that having been so desired by the Gotha of the international show business, of course I am expressly referring to Alessandro Michele, was precisely due to his being a brilliant visionary. The revolution of the former creative director of Gucci managed to conquer almost everyone. He knew how to dare, he knew how to go beyond any type of convention marrying with great conviction and honesty of intent the gender fluid. It was not a question of pure trade or speculation, but of wanting to offer the possibility of experimenting with new looks and new outfits. Despite the enormous success achieved, also demonstrated by the numbers with several zeros of the turnover (the Gucci brand is still the driving force of the Kering Group) I have also had the opportunity to read many criticisms in various blogs of those who have never approved of the revolutionary fashion set by Michael. When I graduated in Literature (in Theater History) I presented a thesis on Eleonora Duse’s D’Annunzio recitation. Through the documents of the time I was able to reconstruct the essential and characteristic features of this extraordinary actress. What was clear to me was that both Duse’s fans and detractors told the exact same thing, what changed was only the yardstick. Some liked that acting style, others horrified it. But the narrative of both factions coincided perfectly. By this I mean that for Alessandro Michele I found myself experiencing the same situation. There are those who loved him and those who deeply despised him. Beyond one’s personal and questionable judgment, the fact remains that Alessandro was, and is, a creative genius of incredible value. That various artists of the music or the scene have entrusted themselves to him, can not surprise in any case. In truth, something similar had already happened with Tom Ford, but Alessandro Michele surpassed it and by far. Finally, I would like to openly say that even if Alessandro Michele had managed another brand, he would have had the exact same response.
In various points of the book, including in the conclusion, he refers to the theme of sustainable fashion. How does he think Gucci has tackled and is tackling this issue?
It’s true, the book doesn’t talk only and exclusively about the history of the brand, but it also offers an overview – very important for me – of the impact that high fashion and luxury have on society from a sociological, psychological and above all environmental point of view . The finished luxury product can hide a supply chain that often involves the failure to respect the most basic working conditions and rights. From investigations that I report in the last part of my book, it appears that in recent years the Gucci brand has actually made a great deal of effort to ensure sustainability was not just a nice trendy word, but a reality. It is one of the very few brands to act this way. It is also true that Gucci has recently been embroiled in a major tax evasion scandal with the current management. A bad, bad story that the brand really didn’t need, given the already well-known past of which some members of the Gucci family have become protagonists. After all, in recent years the general perception by the public, its sensitivity regarding certain issues has changed profoundly. Not taking these new times into consideration can only be counterproductive. By virtue of this, also of this, towards the end of the book I dedicated a chapter specifically to the so-called horsebit, the horsebit, one of Gucci’s best-known icons. He tells me what the bit actually is, a real instrument of torture against an extraordinary and sensitive animal like the horse. Here, I took the liberty of suggesting (with adequate argument) to change this icon. Like today they no longer make sense botticelle (the horse-drawn tourist carts) in Rome, so even that clamp is now anachronistic, out of time and cruel. So it is true that the Gucci company has done a lot in terms of sustainability and has shown great attention in recent years but – in my opinion – it can do even more.
Leave a Reply