Why The Fashion World is Honouring Gucci’s Alessandro Michele

It comes as no surprise...

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So Alessandro Michele will be awarded the top gong of International Designer of the year at the British Fashion Awards on Monday night. This comes as no surprise.
 
Michele is the creative director of Gucci, a position he has held since January, during which time he has put out just five shows – three womenswear, two men’s. It is a measure of this designer’s lightening bolt impact on the fashion industry that he will be honoured in what must surely be record time for a creative director so recently installed at a major fashion house.

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In less than a year, Michele has completely reimagined the Gucci brand with an entirely new aesthetic, spirit and attitude. He has returned Gucci to the centre of the fashion conversation and has become the figurehead of Milan’s new generation of design talent. It was the suddenness and risk-taking nature of Gucci’s full-scale change that shook up an industry that had become inured to the vampish-tough glamazons that had paraded its catwalks under the brand’s former creative director Frida Giannini. Instead of super-sexed gloss, Michele offered bobble hats, granny coats, vintagey dresses, and a whole world of dazzling dressing up box accessories on geeky girls that looked like boys and geeky boys that looked like girls.
 
The affect has been profound: First, the fashion professionals’ litmus test of putting their money where their mouth is and mobbing the Gucci store in Milan during the city’s men’s and women’s fashion weeks. Then there’s the expanding celebrity cool, from Dakota Johnson to Gia Coppola queuing up to wear Michele’s fragile lace and trompe l’oeil dresses. Sales, according to parent group Kering, are up since Michele’s arrival, reporting a small but significant 4 per cent rise in the second quarter of 2015. But the real test of a designer’s stature is the influence they wield in fashion’s grand scheme. Who hasn’t noted those high street Gucci renditions – all those moc-Gucci loafers, all those crisp pleat 3/4 length jacquard skirts? And what of the Michele-effect across other designer catwalks? We now see Michele’s ‘molto merch’ affect everywhere: the full-scale merchandising of every single look with a different bag and shoe, all mesmerizing in their attention to detail. It’s a style that represents layers and layers of personalisation. Personality! Individuality! Diversity! All three buzzwords will pepper a zillion column inches in the next six months – and all can be traced directly back to this Gucci-Michele-led style revolution.

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It’s interesting, too, that Michele worked for Gucci for 13 years before he was given creative control. He is the ultimate back-room designer made good. And, along with Céline’s Phoebe Philo, the reason fashion’s powerhouses are now looking within their ranks to fill creative director roles; knowing the company and characters within it and the demands of the role is critical in an age of superfast fashion production. Since Michele, the industry has become even more comfortable with the idea of an ‘unknown’ taking the creative hotseat; it spells ‘down to earth’, not ‘diva’.
 
As for Michele himself, the softly spoken designer from Rome who references ancient Renaissance scripts, philosophy and art within his creations, is not one for taking celebrity-conjoined selfies. Refreshingly, it takes some digging to even find him on Instagram as he goes under the moniker @lallo25. This is a designer, an authentic creative, who is confident enough in his work to let it do the talking.
 
So, here’s to you, Alessandro Michele: no designer out there represents International Designer of the Year better. Or deserves it more.