Five years ago, the designer made Gucci the antithesis of sex. What made him change his mind?

Some are calling this Gucci 2.0. Some are calling this his most wearable collection ever. But underneath the original Gucci uniform of Byzantine metallics, cacophony of colours and botanics, and gender-fluid outfits, Alessandro Michele definitely wants us to know that he is no one-trick pony.

The Gucci creative director is one of the biggest game-changers in the fashion industry today, possessing the rare combination of singular creative vision and strong business acumen. When he took over the creative reins of Gucci in 2015, he inherited a house that faced waning sales and poor reviews.

(Related: Inside The Gucci Universe, According to Alessandro Michele

He has since turned the brand around and, in a remarkable shift, made Gucci relevant to millennials and Generation Zs—the demographic group that every luxury brand is desperately trying to get their hands on. Besides this, the all‑embracing, gender-neutral, anti-racist platform that Michele champions has become commonplace in the industry.

Prior to assuming the creative director role, Michele had worked for the company for over 12 years. He was hired by Tom Ford in 2002 and has seen it through the former creative director’s collections of slick, minimalist cut-out jersey dresses and lean tailoring.

He was there during the heyday of Gucci’s “sex sells” era, including one of Ford’s most controversial and overtly sexual ad campaigns where model Carmen Kass exposed her pubic hair, which had been shaved into the shape of the Gucci logo. (The campaign was shot by Mario Testino and it should be noted that the photographer was accused by over a dozen male models and assistants of sexual harassment.) That worked well then but certainly won’t work now.

Since the Michele era of Gucci (or as he has nicknamed “Guccy”) began, it has been the antithesis of sex while continuing to be controversial in its very own way. From the get-go, he has charted a consistent aesthetic from season to season: madcap, heady, eccentric, gender-fluid.

But on the eve of his fifth year at the helm, change was a-brewing because he didn’t want to be bored: “I am still the same… it’s me, but it’s like I want to play a different song.”

(Related: These Luxury Fashion Brands Have Opened Cafes and Restaurants That You Need to Try)

What appeared on the runway for spring/summer 2020 was a different chapter of Michele’s world: lacy slip dresses, leather skirts with thigh‑high slits, suiting that referenced the silhouettes from the 1970s and ’90s. It is also worth noting that Michele had verbally referenced Ford as well as Miuccia Prada in the collection.

Perhaps the bigger question here is: what does Michele find sexy? It is definitely not the same lens that Ford saw through.

On the runway, skin-baring lace slip dresses were worn with flat pumps and accessorised with leather gloves and a riding crop. Deep V-neck blouses were paired with brows half-shaven off. Unsurprisingly, there was still an eccentric flavour.

I am still the same… it’s me, but it’s like I want to play a different song.
Alessandro Michele

But the change was obvious. There were visible ’70s and ’90s touches that were a clear nod to Ford. The suits were also inspired by Ford but beautified by Michele—monocoloured suits, unbuttoned shirts tucked into wide‑legged trousers, but with geeky librarian glasses paired with eyewear chains and beanies.

We can look at this as an homage to the person who hired him.

If there is one thing that unites the two fashion masterminds separated by two decades—however different their aesthetic may be—is that their vision for Gucci is complex, consistent and controversial. 

(Related: Gucci To Open A New Restaurant In Los Angeles This Year)

Tatler Asia
© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.