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Italian Fashion Designers news: Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele received the International Fashion Designer of the Year award at the 2015 British Fashion Awards (BFA), presented to the designer by BoF’s very own editor at large, Tim Blanks. The award, previously won by the likes of Nicolas Ghesquière and Miuccia Prada, is an acknowledgement of Michele’s achievements since stepping into the role of creative director at Gucci in January this year.
Michele first joined Gucci in 2002 from Fendi, working under Tom Ford, but his promotion to head Gucci italian fashion house surprised many in the industry, who considered him a relative unknown. Michele responded in kind, acknowledging the unorthodoxy of his appointment as creative director of Gucci by François-Henri Pinault, chief executive officer of Kering and Marco Bizzarri, chief executive officer of Gucci. “They had the courage and the foolish act to appoint an unknown guy like me as the creative director of one of the most influential fashion houses in the world,” Michele told the audience. “Over ten thousand thanks,” he added. “One for each Gucci employee all over the world.”
It was a significant moment for the designer. Ten months ago, Michele was an unknown quantity; a worker bee in the Gucci design team. But last night’s accolade rounds off a year of consistent international critical acclaim for the designer, since he was appointed creative director in January and designed his first runway collection in five days.
For a business like Gucci, which posted revenues of around €3.5bn ($3.72 billion) last year, it’s not just about critical success. BoF can reveal that Michele’s collections for Gucci are also having considerable commercial impact. So much so, that Marco Bizzarri has decided not to markdown Michele’s first two collections — Autumn/Winter 2015 women’s and men’s, including ready-to-wear, shoes and bags.
“First of all, I wanted to give the collection of Alessandro the longest-possible time at full price in the shop. It’s so new for our company; so new for him,” Bizzarri says, of this break with retail tradition. As the US gears up for Black Friday, fashion houses will markdown their Autumn/Winter collections this week. “I think it’s too early to put them on markdown now. Alessandro’s fashion show collection started arriving in August, so two months and a half later, I didn’t want to do this kind of action now,” he says. Michele’s Autumn/Winter 2015 collection began arriving in stores in June, and early deliveries of Cruise followed in August, three months ahead of the usual seasonal schedule.
According to Bizzarri, discounting the Autumn/Winter 2015 men’s and women’s collections would have little impact on sales: “The full-price sell-through is super high, so even if I put them on sale now, the impact on sales would be tiny,” he says.
Currently, Gucci is in the throes of a global creative turnaround. At present, only 25 percent of the leather goods on the shop floor are from Michele’s collections, with the majority from previous creative director Frida Giannini’s reign. By February 2016, Michele’s share of what Bizzarri terms “the bulk of the business” will rise to 50 to 60 percent.
So far, Michele’s new store concept has been introduced to Gucci’s flagship in Via Montenapoleone and newly-opened stores in Seoul, Korea and Times Square, Hong Kong. By the end of 2015, 30 stores will be renovated to implement the new store concept, and Gucci’s London’s Bond Street location will also be made over in the first semester of 2016, to tie in with the label’s Cruise show in the city. To roll out the new retail concept across all of the brand’s stores will take the company from three to four years.
“Now, the challenge that we have, the two of us, myself and Alessandro, is to keep on pushing ourselves to innovate as Alessandro innovated at the very beginning, and take risks,” says Bizzarri. “Always try to challenge our team and our people, and we always need to be at the front, at the edge of innovation. Keep on risking. Don’t try to play safe.”
The designer has since silenced his critics with his coveted collections, and his appointment has seen a significant turning point for the brand. Though Michele has presented just four collections in his new role, he has already established a signature vintage-inspired aesthetic that has been worn on the red carpet by stars including Sienna Miller, Keira Knightley and Dakota Johnson. Gucci now ranks at number two in the global luxury goods market.