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opinion

Gucci’s dumped creative director Alessandro Michele the latest to go in fashion’s churn cycle

Carla Zampatti (L), and former creative director of Gucci Alessandro Michele.

Carla Zampatti (L), and former creative director of Gucci Alessandro Michele. Photo: The New Daily/Getty

There was surprising news this week from the world of high fashion when Alessandro Michele stepped down from his role as the Creative Director of Gucci.

The explanation was vague, but it was reported that sales had slowed for the last few seasons and so management were pressuring the designer to go in a new direction.

It’s hard to imagine precisely what direction they wanted him to go in.

Since Michele’s appointment in 2015 by Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri, revenue at Gucci has almost tripled, and he successfully redrew the boundaries of high fashion for a new era.

His beautifully jumbled and eccentric take on gender and fashion spawned a sea of imitators, and reaffirmed Gucci’s relevance.

Every Gucci store in the world seems to have long lines of customers queueing to get in, so what on earth were management expecting of Michele?

It’s another example of how the fashion world’s relentless quest for profit, newness and the next big thing leaves many victims in its wake, but most importantly a very confused consumer.

Italian fashion designer Alessandro Michele, formerly creative director at Gucci, at the 79 Venice International Film Festival 2022.

Gucci customers liked Gucci clothes and all his nutty and extravagant designs.

There’s even an exhibition on at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney at the moment called Gucci Garden Archetypes – an immersive, multimedia exhibition exploring the advertising campaigns envisioned by Gucci Creative Director Alessandro Michele, and first held in Florence.

But no, off he goes, because sales have apparently slowed post COVID.

I hate to break it to Gucci management but their customers, ie humans, may still be trying to get their bearings after a very intense global event and maybe everybody should just calm down for a moment.

The whole Gucci knee-jerk reaction sits in stark contrast against another fashion show currently staged at the powerhouse which is the Carla Zampatti retrospective.

Zampatti held her own for decades in the world of Australian fashion because rather than violently changing direction midstream, she quietly evolved and moved with the times.

She listened intently to what her customers wanted and what would work in their lifestyles, taking them on the journey with her.

Fashion doesn’t have to be fickle

It’s one thing to seek a new customer, like a younger audience, but what if you lose the other ones on the way through?

Most of my grown up female friends were huge fans of Phoebe Philo’s Celine, but once she left, Hedi Slimane’s Celine didn’t cut it.

Same could be said for Marni, which was once quirky and wearable and beautiful but is now just plain weird.

A tribute to fashion designer Carla Zampatti during Australian Fashion Week 2021.

It’s vexing that the management of high fashion labels consider their clientele to be so disposable, let alone the designer themselves.

Luxury fashion comes with luxury price tags, so the least we can expect is some sort of conversation, maybe some gratitude for the customer.

The Carla Zampatti exhibition gives testament to this.

She had great respect for the women who bought her clothes.

Maybe before you decide to show so your creative director the door, you might want to vox pop a few of the shoppers queueing outside your boutique.

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