Kering confirmed Alessandro Michele’s departure from Gucci on Wednesday, the latest shakeup in the fashion industry after high-profile departures from Burberry, Bottega Veneta and Ferragamo.
Mr Michele was a relatively unknown designer when he took over the creative reins at Gucci in 2015 and some saw CEO Marco Bizzari’s appointment as a gamble. Yet with his debut collection, he brought an evolution home that struggled to maintain momentum and influence after the exit of Tom Ford.
Investors have been waiting for this same design change over the past few seasons.
At the time of Michele’s appointment, Frida Giannini and Patrizio di Marco, then creative director and CEO of Gucci, were fired by Kering chairman François-Henri Pinault, a messy exit that Pinault hoped to avoid with Michele. The luxury group did not suggest that Mr Michele had been asked to leave and, in a joint statement, said Alessandro Michele was stepping down from his role, “having played a fundamental role in the making of the brand what it is today thanks to its revolutionary creativity, while remaining faithful to the recognized codes of the House.”
Mr. Pinault repeated: “The path traveled together by Gucci and Alessandro in recent years is unique and will remain as a defining moment in the history of the House. I am grateful to Alessandro for bringing so much of himself to this adventure. His passion, imagination, ingenuity and culture put Gucci center stage, where it belongs. I wish him an excellent next chapter in his creative journey.
“His ingenuity and culture put Gucci center stage.”
Gucci in 2015 was the most prominent brand in the luxury landscape. The gender-neutral silhouettes proposed by Mr. Michele sparked seismic change not only at Gucci, but influenced an entire industry. The style became increasingly maximalist, with runway presentations a bohemian mix between old school Hollywood and nerdy librarians, while increasing sales, where items like the Double G logo belt were flying off the charts. shelves.
This momentum propelled Gucci’s revenue to unprecedented growth, accounting for nearly two-thirds of Kering’s revenue. In 2015, sales jumped 15.4% and by the last quarter of 2016, they had jumped 21%. It spurred Kering’s biggest year-over-year sales increase since 2012.
But if all the good things in fashion come to an end, double-digit growth has slowed this year, with Gucci posting just a 4% rise in the first quarter, below analysts’ expectations of 11% and below rivals like Louis Vuitton and Chanel.
Michele’s collections, creative as they were, had also caused fatigue, with shoppers expressing a need for something new. Gucci’s style was rich in color and personality, oversized sunglasses and pussy-bow blouses came to define a decade, but how do you top maximalism when style reached maximalist heights?
The Gucci character defined a decade, but has since caused fatigue
The pandemic has not only led to a change in consumer spending, where store closures in China have had a negative impact on the luxury sector and been particularly difficult for Gucci’s results, but it has also changed the way in which people dressed up. Trendy fashion items have given way to timeless classics and tailoring has been replaced by comfort wear. Gucci offered little understated luxury, and the company took steps to appoint a new director of merchandising to focus on more commercial products.
Despite the brand’s stellar parade this season, a much-loved presentation of twins and duality, the hype it garnered in 2015 has faded, and Kering can’t afford Gucci to be stuffy.
Even as Saint Laurent is on course to exceed 3 billion euros in 2022 and Bottega Veneta heads towards 2 billion euros, Gucci has always been the star of Kering’s portfolio.
While the hype for Gucci’s pie fashion fell short of analysts’ expectations, only a refresh of the brand could bring it back to previous levels of desire. Some also wonder if the current CEO, Mr. Bizzari, will leave in the same way.
Alessandro Michele posted on his Instagram: “There are times when paths diverge because of the different perspectives each of us may have. Today marks the end for me of an extraordinary career spanning more than twenty years within a company to which I have tirelessly devoted all my love and my creative passion.
“During this long period, Gucci has been my home, my adoptive family. To this extended family, to all the people who have cared for and supported it, I send my most sincere thanks, my biggest hug and the most sincere.With them I wished, dreamed, imagined.
Kering said Gucci’s design office will continue to lead the House until a new creative organization is announced.