After months of speculation and rumors, Gucci has appointed a replacement for ousted creative director Frida Giannini. As reported Tuesday, Giannini's deputy and head accessories designer Alessandro Michele has been given creative lead at Kering's largest luxury house. Gucci confirmed the appointment Wednesday in a press release.
Michele, 42, joined Gucci in 2002, and became Giannini's deputy in 2011 when he took over the leather goods, shoes, jewelry and home collections. He is also the creative director of Gucci's porcelain brand, Richard Ginori. He previously worked at Fendi as a senior accessories designer and studied at Rome's Accademia di Costume e di Moda.
On Dec. 12, Kering announced that Giannini and her husband, CEO Patrizio di Marco, would be leaving the label after two years of declining sales. (Sales dropped 2.1 percent in 2013, 1.1 percent in the first half of 2014 and 1.6 percent in the third quarter of 2014.) Kering named Di Marco's replacement -- Marco Bizzarri, previously the CEO of Kering's luxury couture and leather goods division -- at the same time. Bizzarri began at Gucci on Jan. 1. Giannini was slated to complete the men's and women's fall/winter 2015 collections before exiting in February, but left about a month early.
If designing the menswear collection in less than a week was a test, Michele passed. He was warmly applauded on the runway by the design team after the show, in the industry's first glimpse at the man whose name had been rumored to be on the short list for weeks. In a statement, Bizzarri said, "The Gucci Men's Autumn/Winter 2015-16 collection presented on 19 January, which was realized thanks to a remarkable collaboration between the men's design and production teams, is a clear indication that the brand is ready to take a new direction.”
The menswear collection, titled "Urban Romanticism," embraced an androgynous aesthetic—a strikingly different tone for Gucci, which had been much more straightforward under Giannini's leadership. And despite comparisons to past Prada and Saint Laurent collections, it is a signal of a fresh new chapter for the Italian house. And now we have to wait and see what Michele will do with the womenswear collection, which shows in Milan on Feb. 25.