Alessandro Michele Talking About Birth, Death, The Pandemic, Art And Adornment
Harper's BAZAAR Singapore|November 2021
Alessandro Michele has invigorated the 100-year-old House of Gucci with his bold extravagance and playful flair, which has attracted an entourage of stars, including the dynamic Lou Doillon, who models the brand’s spectacular creations in our shoot. Here, the designer invites Sasha Slater into his world of wonder...
Sasha Slater

It’s pouring with relentless rain in London, but in Alessandro Michele’s office in a Roman palazzo, the sun is streaming through large casement windows. It dapples the leaves of some luxurious houseplants and lights on a mahogany table where great red leather books, ceramic bowls, glass domes and what looks like a medieval wooden Madonna are grouped in an alluring composition. The Creative Director of Gucci is sitting with his back to all this splendour, wearing a green t-shirt and 1970s-inflected spectacles, and talking via Microsoft Teams about birth, death, the pandemic, art and adornment.

Michele, who has been with the Italian fashion and accessories label since 2002, turns 49 this month, but with his flowing mane of black hair, full beard and endless curiosity, he appears much younger. Perhaps that is also in part due to his almost supernatural ability to predict and define the next big thing. His hand-picked family of brand ambassadors is an enviable array of the talented, beautiful and quirky, ranging from Gen Z’s favourite musician, Billie Eilish, to Harry Styles, who has transformed his early boyband fame into something much more intriguing. This Styles has done with the help of a gender-fluid wardrobe of Gucci pieces, not least a glossy bamboo top-handle handbag that Grace Kelly wouldn’t have scorned, which he carried to this year’s Brit Awards.

Lou Doillon, the actress and singer who models in this story, is another. She calls herself one of the “Gucci children” who get to play dressing-up games with Michele’s creations. “His clothes always leave room for your personality,” she says. “In high fashion, you risk getting swallowed up by what you’re wearing and becoming a brand on legs. For him, everyone’s personality shines through. I think that’s because he has such tremendous respect for everyone.”

Michele has been adorning men and women, or as he himself says simply, “everybody”, in his exuberant designs since he was appointed to the role in 2015, unveiling his debut collection to rapturous applause. At the time, his vision of young men in pussybow blouses and floral trouser suits, and women in lace and bobble hats, was revolutionary. In his most recent show, for fall/winter 2021, women wore riding hats and harnesses, and men, diaphanous off-the-shoulder black and sequins. And models of both sexes or none wore high jewellery on the runway, which, while not unheard of, is certainly not run of the mill. Blaming post-World War II austerity for turning men away from an enjoyment of precious stones and adornment, Michele aims to bedeck us all in rubies, sapphires, opals, tsavorites and beryls. “We look more wild with jewels on,” he says in his charmingly Italian-accented, though very fluent, English. “More like an animal. We’re the least colourful animals in existence, so placing jewels on our bodies, we connect with the earth and can look like exotic birds.”

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