It’s the end of an era for the biggest Italian fashion brand.
Alessandro Michele, creative director of Gucci since 2015, is expected to leave the company. Gucci’s design studio “will continue to drive the direction of the House forward” until a new creative setup is announced, the Kering-owned brand said in a statement.
“There are times when paths diverge due to the different perspectives that each of us may have. tirelessly dedicated all my love and creative passion,” said Michèle.
“The path traveled together by Gucci and Alessandro over the past few years is unique and will remain as a defining moment in the history of the house,” said François-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering. “His passion, his imagination, his ingenuity and his culture put Gucci at the forefront.”
After taking the creative reins at Gucci in 2015, Michele rekindled excitement around the Milan-based house, quickly dominating the fashion zeitgeist with its decadent layering of brand signatures, streetwear-inspired merchandising and his quirky and fluid style. A comprehensive overhaul of Gucci’s products, communications and store décor, led by Michele alongside CEO Marco Bizzarri, attracted a voracious following for the brand and helped usher in a new generation of younger consumers into an industry. luxury that suited tastes. more mature buyers.
From 2015 to 2019, Gucci’s revenues roughly tripled and profits quadrupled during a period of unprecedented rapid expansion in the modern luxury sector – with quarterly growth rates sometimes approaching 50%. This year, Gucci is expected to end the year with annual revenue exceeding 10 billion euros ($10.3 billion), a major milestone for the company.
But Gucci was hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic – with revenue down 22% in 2020 – and has since grown much slower than mega-brand rivals like Louis Vuitton, Dior and Hermès, whose sales exploded as consumers shaken by uncertainty poured in. to first-class luxury items considered unlikely to go out of style.
Gucci’s slowing momentum is partly due to higher exposure to struggling channels including wholesale, off-price and travel retail, which the company has since sought to reduce. ‘activity.
But there were also signs of consumer fatigue as the novelty factor of Michele’s twisted, maximalist aesthetic faded. In a meeting with reporters in February, Kering Chairman Francois-Henri Pinault said he wanted the company’s brands to refocus their efforts on a more timeless approach to luxury.
In recent seasons, Michele’s designs for Gucci have included more understated and higher fare: less streetwear and more tailored or embroidered knitwear, and classic handbags that have deployed one or two key signatures of the brand. branding like horse bits and red-green stripes rather than layering them with decorative elements like painted flowers, moth charms or cartoon characters. Gucci hired a new merchandising director to overhaul its retail offering and announced a full return to the fashion calendar with 6 collections per year in an effort to drive innovation and novelty.
Yet the evolution of Gucci’s collections has struggled to capture consumers’ attention, perhaps drowned out by the designer’s ultra-coherent and funky topline message, which is always reinforced by over-the-top style on the catwalk (the scarves and eyeglass chains abound) and a campy, Old Hollywood vibe on the red carpet.
Sales missed estimates for the third quarter, rising 9% from a 22% jump at Vuitton-owner LVMH and 24% at Hermès.
Analysts and investors have raised concerns that Gucci’s recent changes won’t be enough to accelerate growth in line with its peers.
“Gucci is suffering from brand fatigue,” Bernstein analyst Luca Solca wrote in a note to clients. “To reaccelerate, Gucci does not need to generalize or become timeless. He must open a new creative chapter.
Michele also hinted that he could enjoy a break just as the brand looks to pick up its creative pace. “The work is getting more and more intense for me,” he told reporters after his show at Milan Fashion Week in September. “This fatigue is something different. Behind the scenes work [this season] was more tiring than usual,” he added.
Shares rose 2% in early trading on Wednesday following a report by Women’s Wear Daily citing unnamed sources that Michele’s departure from the brand was imminent.
Additional reporting by Lauren Sherman.