“Alessandro Michele’s exuberance ended up getting tired”

"Alessandro Michele's exuberance ended up getting tired"
Fashion designer Alessandro Michele, January 14, 2020, in Milan.

HASWith his full beard and his very long black hair in the back, Alessandro Michele cultivates his Christlike allure. But the messiah will no longer perform miracles. The man, who had spectacularly straightened the Gucci brand, leaves the stage. The creative director of the main fashion brand of the French group Kering has announced his departure, after twenty years of service and seven years at the head of the prestigious label.

A thunderclap in the world of luxury, and especially for Kering. The group is the world number two in the sector behind LVMH, and Gucci represents 55% of its sales and three quarters of its operating profit. Alessandro Michele imposed his exuberant style, his large flowers on handbags and his shoes, his shirts, dresses and trousers in bright colors and eclectic and androgynous shapes.

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An eccentric bias, accompanied by a policy of high prices and very exclusive distribution in its own stores, which has worked wonders in emerging countries, particularly in China, and also among young American stars. But you have to believe that everything is tired, even the cheerfulness and the colors, including among the new rich.

The Age of Black Tailors

In 2021, Gucci’s sales growth was twice as weak as that of Yves Saint Laurent, the group’s other prestigious brand. His ultra-classic style of trouser suits all in black declination is however the exact opposite of Gucci. Analysts refer to a “fatigue” of consumers, as if they had passed into adulthood, that of black tailors.

Paradoxically, this champion of the diversity of forms is thus criticized for not having changed his style. The relative underperformance of Gucci contrasted, in 2022, with the brilliant results of its two French rivals, LVMH and Hermès, whose stock market valuations have soared. Twice as small in turnover, Hermès is now worth twice as much on the stock market as Kering.

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The incessant confinements in China have not helped the situation. It was necessary to react, and Alessandro, who believed he could walk on water, must surrender to economic reason. After all, he had come to power in 2015 following the dismissal of the brand’s previous tandem, consisting of Patrizio di Marco and designer Frida Giannini.

As in entertainment and sport, fashion is built on the success of a few creative stars capable of imagining the motifs of a mythology corresponding to the spirit of the moment. The flamboyant Italian could take over the writer Alphonse Daudet, who noted, in the Letters of my millthat “the time of windmills had passed like that of coaches on the Rhône, parliaments and jackets with large flowers”.

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