“I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet Alessandro at the end of 2014, since then we have had the pleasure to work closely together as Gucci has charted its successful path over these last eight years,” said Gucci president and CEO Marco Bizzarri in a statement. “I would like to thank him for his 20 years of commitment to Gucci and for his vision, devotion and unconditional love for this unique house during his tenure as creative director.”
François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of Kering, said: “The road that Gucci and Alessandro walked together over the past years is unique and will remain as an outstanding moment in the history of the House. I am grateful to Alessandro for bringing so much of himself in this adventure. His 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.”
Michele, who was appointed to the top creative role in January 2015, said, “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 20 years, within a company to which I have tirelessly dedicated all my love and creative passion. 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. To them goes my most sincerest wish: may you continue to cultivate your dreams, the subtle and intangible matter that makes life worth living. May you continue to nourish yourselves with poetic and inclusive imagery, remaining faithful to your values. May you always live by your passions, propelled by the wind of freedom.”
Now the question remains on who could be succeeding Michele, who engineered the brand’s turnaround with his unique style. Gucci, in the statement issued late Wednesday evening, said the company’s design office “will continue to carry the direction of the house forward until a new creative organization will be announced.”
One source wondered if Remo Macco, a Gucci veteran who was recently appointed studio design director, could be in the wings. He has been tasked with offering more commercial products to balance Michele’s aesthetics.
“There has been an increasingly strong divide between the show team and the merchandising and commercial studio,” said the source, adding that Macco has acted as “a filter between all the directors of the different categories and Michele,” as Gucci has increased the number of capsule collections and special editions.
Another potential candidate could be Davide Renne, also a Gucci veteran.
Another sign of a sharper focus on boosting the top line and a change of direction may be seen in the appointment last spring of former Roger Vivier brand manager Maria Cristina Lomanto. She was named executive vice president, brand general manager, a new role for the Italian luxury company. Lomanto was tasked with focusing on coordinating collection and retail merchandising, visual merchandising, beauty and eyewear licensing and retail training, reporting to Bizzarri.
Zoning in on historic codes, iconic handbags and craftsmanship was also touted by Pinault, amplified and added to the mix for a “blend of heritage and innovation,” as the executive commented on the group’s third-quarter performance.
In 2021, Gucci revenues tallied 9.73 billion euros, just shy of its oft-stated goal of 10 billion euros.
An internal promotion path is not new at parent company Kering, and it’s not the first time Pinault has shaken up one of Kering’s key brands. Michele himself, handpicked by Bizzarri, was promoted from his role of “associate” to then-creative director Frida Giannini, in January 2015. He had joined the Gucci design studio in 2002 following a stint as senior accessories designer at Fendi. Giannini brought him to Gucci and he was named her “associate” in 2011. In 2014 he took on the additional responsibility of creative director of Richard Ginori, the porcelain brand acquired by Gucci in 2013.
Last November, in a surprise move, Pinault ousted Daniel Lee from Bottega Veneta, despite the designer’s strong performance at the brand and much critical success. Lee, who is now creative director at Burberry, was succeeded at Bottega Veneta by Matthieu Blazy, previously the brand’s ready to wear design director.
Blazy in two seasons has rapidly put his mark on the brand, taking it back to its artisanal roots.
As reported, sources say that Michele was asked “to initiate a strong design shift” to light the fire under Gucci, but this request was apparently not met by the designer, whose quirky aesthetic is very specific. Michele has helped boost Gucci’s influence in fashion, and his gender-fluid and romantic spirit has left its mark on a slew of other designers, catering to a younger and more diverse customer, but, according to one source, “Pinault has been trying to recover the uber luxury consumer.”
Michele has reinvented Gucci with a completely new androgynous style that toppled Giannini’s sophisticated jet-set lifestyle image. Giannini’s tenure as creative director at the brand lasted 10 years, while her predecessor Tom Ford engineered the first Gucci turnaround and stayed on for almost eight years.
It is unclear what the future holds for Michele, who has expressed his passion for cinematography – much like Ford – but one source speculated the designer “could be receiving a phone call from Pinault’s arch rival Bernard Arnault any time soon.”
On Wednesday morning, commenting on the potential change at Gucci, Luca Solca, senior research analyst global luxury goods at Bernstein, said this was “very good news” and that, “in order to reaccelerate, Gucci doesn’t need to move to the mainstream or to become timeless. It needs to open a new creative chapter. This, in all likelihood, can be only done with new creative energy and talent.” Without mincing words, he noted, “the sooner Alessandro goes, the better.”
Solca’s opinion is that “Gucci is suffering from brand fatigue” as Michele “has been doing more of the same for seven years. Consumers who bought a lot early (the Chinese) got bored first. This is not surprising.” He credited Kering for its ability to reinvent its brands time and again, and concluded that Gucci “has enough scale to be able to make itself heard, the moment it has something new to say, that is.” He also noted that Kering is trading at a discount to peers due to the slowdown at Gucci.
On the other hand, Jefferies equity analyst Flavio Cereda wrote last month that he did “not share the view that Gucci, as a very cyclical brand, is broken in its current guise and needs a total reset to reverse trends: we believe brand equity is very strong, as are capabilities (on- and off-line), supply chain and track record.”
The news come ahead of Gucci’s return to Milan’s Men’s Fashion Week in January.
Kering last month, reported that its cash cow brand continued to underperform versus the group’s other brands, although organic sales picked up pace in the third quarter. Revenues at the Italian label totaled 2.6 billion euros, up 9 percent on a like-for-like basis, following a 4 percent rise in the second quarter.
That was slightly below a consensus of analyst estimates, which called for a 10 percent increase in comparable sales at the maker of Dionysus handbags and horsebit loafers. By comparison, organic sales at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s key fashion and leather goods division rose 22 percent year-over-year in the third quarter.