Alessandro Michele is officially exiting his role as creative director of Gucci, a position he has held for seven years, though he’s been at the brand for a total of 20 years. The brand’s parent company confirmed the news on Wednesday afternoon.
“There are times when paths part ways because of the different perspectives each one of us may have. Today an extraordinary journey ends for me, lasting more than twenty years, within a company to which I have tirelessly dedicated all my love and creative passion,” Michele said in a statement shared by Kering and posted to Instagram. “During this long period Gucci has been my home, my adopted family. To this extended family, to all the individuals who have looked after and supported it, I send my most sincere thanks, my biggest and most heartfelt embrace. Together with them I have wished, dreamed, imagined. Without them, none of what I have built would have been possible.”
“[Michele’s] passion, his imagination, his ingenuity and his culture put Gucci center stage, where its place is. I wish him a great next chapter in his creative journey,” Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault said in a statement. Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri also expressed his gratitude: “I would like to thank [Michele] for his 20 years of commitment to Gucci and for his vision, devotion, and unconditional love for this unique House…”
Rumors of the designer’s departure began to circulate on Tuesday. An anonymous source told WWD that Michele was “asked to initiate a strong design shift,” which he had failed to meet. Another source revealed that Gucci’s parent company, Kering, simply wanted a change of pace with the brand and to revamp its image.
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Michele was promoted from within the company in 2015 to succeed Frida Giannini. Before the appointment, he oversaw leather goods, shoes, jewelry and home collections at the brand. Under Michele’s leadership, Gucci has embraced a younger and more diverse demographic. His novel, quirky and gender-fluid point of view pushed Gucci to the forefront of cultural conversation. Since 2015, the brand has also taken on highly successful collaborations outside of its traditional jet-set aesthetic, such as HA HA HA with Harry Styles, Gucci x North Face and Gucci x Balenciaga — cementing the house’s status as one of the buzziest luxury brands. Last Spring, Michele continued to surprise fans by sending 68 sets of identical twins down the runway, in a bizarre yet effective way to grab the public’s attention.
Brand building aside, Michele’s direction also profoundly impacted the company’s bottom line. During the designer’s tenure, Gucci’s growth exceeded 35% for five consecutive quarters. However, more recently, the brand reported underperforming sales in comparison to other brands under the Kering umbrella. According to WWD, estimates had projected a 10% increase in comparable sales, and the brand came up short of that at 9%.
This isn’t the first time that François-Henri Pinault, chairman and chief executive officer of Kering, has made an unexpected decision in terms of ousting creative leadership. Just last November, the company replaced designer Daniel Lee with Matthieu Blazy at Bottega Veneta, despite Lee’s outstanding performance and short three-year tenure.
So far, Gucci has not announced a successor to Michele, leaving the brand’s design office to lead in the interim.