At an oa­sis in Times Square, alessan­dro Michele dis­cusses his first fra­grance.

Harper’s Bazaar (Australia) - - Contents - By BELINDA MCKEON

Wand I meet at his ho­tel in New York’s Soho, after what has al­ready been a long work­day for him, he tells me that he al­most added an­other layer to the day: on the way here, his peo­ple had to talk him out of tak­ing a de­tour to de Vera, one of the many an­tiques stores he knows and adores in the city.“i mean, if you are a col­lec­tor,” he says, “you find many things ev­ery­where. Also, if you go out­side just to the phar­macy, you come back with some­thing. It’s like you are a prisoner in­side a bit of a dream. If I have one minute, I take my ipad and I spy ev­ery­where.”

Michele is a mag­pie.wit­ness his In­sta­gram feed, which reg­u­larly fea­tures ob­ject tableaux from his home in Rome; he vo­ra­ciously gath­ers the arte­facts of other cen­turies, be they Re­nais­sance al­tar frontals, 1960s adi­das kicks or Belle Époque porce­lain cock­a­toos. He paints a pic­ture of him­self that any col­lec­tor will recog­nise: sit­ting in bed late at night, buy­ing piece after piece, click after click, un­able to stop (“it’s dan­ger­ous”), but see­ing his finds as res­cues. “Be­cause oth­er­wise they’re thrown away or for­got­ten; they don’t know how they are pre­cious.and I re­ally hear the voice of them. And when they come home, it’s like they have ar­rived in a hos­pi­tal, where I can take care.”

This cre­ates a cer­tain aura. “My boyfriend al­ways says, ‘Oh, there is a re­ally strong smell of old in here,’” Michele says with a laugh.“i al­ways say,‘you can re­ally smell the dead and the things that have hap­pened, and now what is hap­pen­ing.’”

Hence, Michele’s new fra­grance, Gucci Bloom, his first for the brand since be­ing named cre­ative di­rec­tor in 2015:“After two years,” he says,“i was able to give [Gucci] a smell.” Per­fumer Al­berto Mo­ril­las says that Michele’s di­rec­tive to him was that Bloom be “fem­i­nine and happy ”. their col­lab­o­ra­tion “wasn’t very com­pli­cated ,” mo rill as adds.“alessan­dro un­der­stands ev­ery­thing about per­fume, and he’s charm­ing and cre­ative.”the re­sult is a scent blended with tuberose, jas­mine and musk (“my se­cret musk,”mo­ril­las jokes),with a whis­per of the evoca­tively named Ran­goon creeper, that calls to mind sum­mer grasses and morn­ing sun­shine, but with some­thing sharper, less lan­guid, puls­ing nearby. It smells both mod­ern and tra­di­tional — which was ex­actly as Michele wished.“you recog­nise the flow­ers,” Mo­ril­las says, “but be­cause of how they were ex­tracted, what could have seemed old-fash­ioned is to­tally dif­fer­ent.”

“I was think­ing,” Michele him­self says of the idea be­hind the scent,“what hap­pened if a young girl goes in the gar­den of her old aunt, and there are flow­ers but also veg­eta­bles, and in the mid­dle of a city.”

Which is how a gar­den grew over a Times Square sub­way grate one re­cent morn­ing; a space tum­bling with roses, lilacs, dog­wood, pe­onies, with blue­bells and cherry blos­soms, and a drift­wood swing draped in wis­te­ria and spi­raea, and a paint-splat­tered steplad­der around which Hari Nef and Pe­tra Collins and Dakota John­son, the faces of the fra­grance, lazed with Michele. “I don’t like to use the word ‘whim­si­cal,’” John­son says of Bloom,“but it feels whim­si­cal. Some­thing very sweet and mys­te­ri­ous, and I like those things.”ac cord­ing to Nef, mean­while, the scent pos­sesses “some­thing an­cient, like in a kind of cool, sin­is­ter way. But the flo­rals ground it in this pret­ti­ness.” Collins says she’s never worn scent be­fore this one.“i’ve al­ways just been my body odour, and that’s it,” she ex­plains. “But this is like a layer of emo­tion that you put on, which I love. Be­cause I feel like ev­ery other per­fume has al­ways been sold just as sex.”

Michele’s reign at Gucci has been rev­o­lu­tion­ary.the sleek soft porn of thetom Ford years is a dis­tant mem­ory — that cap­i­tal“g” shaved into model Louise Ped­er­sen’s pu­bic hair has long since grown out — but so too, it al­ready seems, is the clean-lined, Wasp-man­nered vi­sion of Frida Gian­nini, who was cre­ative di­rec­tor from 2006 un­til her ouster in early 2015. Michele has un­leashed a flea mar­ket of the imag­i­na­tion onto the brand’s iden­tity, bury­ing the sharp suits and leather miniskirts be­neath a cas­cade of pieces hec­tic with vin­tage, an­tique and art-his­tor­i­cal ref­er­ences and em­bel­lish­ments. His looks are fre­quently an­drog­y­nous, even more fre­quently down­right odd, and very clearly in love with the sheer fun of mar­ry­ing dis­parate ref­er­ences, tex­tures and ma­te­ri­als.a typ­i­cal out­fit in this year’s pre-fall col­lec­tion look­book — pho­tographed in Rome be­tween a heraldic book­store

and a 17th-cen­tury apothe­cary — threw to­gether ’80s pur­ple stir­rup pants, a striped sweater with cuffs and a turtle­neck in cum­mer­bund frills, a pair of rhine­stone-plas­tered sun­glasses and black san­dals with a three-di­men­sional snake coil­ing up the heel.a full cape, printed with the roar­ing of leop­ard and tiger heads, and patched with mam­moth se­quined pock­ets, went on top, in case things seemed a lit­tle too chill.

Michele grew up in Rome, where his mother worked as an ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant at a film stu­dio, ex­pos­ing her son to the glam­orous sweep of that world, while his fa­ther, a much earth­ier fig­ure (he was a tech­ni­cian at Al­i­talia, but wrote and sculpted in his time off, carv­ing wooden walk­ing sticks, among other things), taught the young Alessan­dro to have a kin­ship with na­ture. This meld­ing of high style and quasi-shaman­ism in­formed Michele’s own ap­proach as a cre­ator, from his uni­ver­sity stud­ies in cos­tume de­sign to his early days de­sign­ing hand­bags at Fendi, but his ap­point­ment to the top job at Gucci nev­er­the­less sent shock waves through the fash­ion world when it was an­nounced. He wasn’t a mar­quee name, poached from an­other la­bel. He wasn’t a star. But while the word “un­known” was used in press re­ports, it was hardly as if Michele, then 42, had been found in a bus sta­tion; he was the head of leather­goods and shoes at Gucci, had been with the com­pany for a dozen years, and knew the in­dus­try in­ti­mately.

And yet there is un­de­ni­ably a fairy­tale el­e­ment to the story of his rise, and to the whole Michele phe­nom­e­non. Though he ex­presses him­self like an artist and not as a brand strate­gist, a prow­ess for the lat­ter must surely lie be­neath the crushed vel­vet and the lion’s-head rings. Gucci’s first-quar­ter global sales this year jumped by more than 50 per cent, con­tribut­ing heav­ily to ap­prox­i­mately $5.2 bil­lion in rev­enue for its par­ent com­pany, Ker­ing.

Still, when Michele talks about de­sign­ing, he talks about “play­ing”, and he ac­tively re­sists tenets sa­cred to the fash­ion world’s way of do­ing things, from pre­sent­ing sep­a­rate men’s and women’s col­lec­tions to the fash­ion cal­en­dar it­self. His A/W 2017 show merged both, and he con­sid­ers the idea of a sea­sonal col­lec­tion al­most dis­pos­able, cer­tainly mal­leable.“i mean, fash­ion now is like an old lady that is dy­ing on a bed,” Michele says of th­ese changes, which he sees as vi­tal for the in­dus­try.“i think we can let this old lady die. Fash­ion has done a lot of wrong things. I started when I was very young, in the ’90s, and it was one of the very at­trac­tive mo­ments, but I think they tried to stay in this bub­ble — that fash­ion was just fash­ion, we are fash­ion, and this is not fash­ion, and we have to do the cat­walk, and we have to do a sea­son of things and prod­ucts. I don’t think it’s work­ing any­more.”

Nor does Michele seem par­tic­u­larly both­ered if th­ese new free­doms — and the eclec­ti­cism of his pieces — send peo­ple di­rectly to the Gucci racks or to­wards their own ver­sions and vi­sions of those de­signs. It’s quite rad­i­cal, this be­lief of his that what might oth­er­wise be con­sid­ered theft or pla­gia­rism — the ubiq­ui­tous flo­ral bomber jack­ets, the re­birth of bro­cade, the em­bel­lished sneak­ers for miles — is ac­tu­ally a mark of suc­cess.“i like it when I see peo­ple dressed on the street and it looks like Gucci but it’s not,” he says.“it means you are do­ing some­thing right.” If you want to go in the store, he adds,“that’s fine. If you want to go to the mar­ket, it’s much bet­ter. Or if you want to buy just a pair of shoes, and then you want to go to the mar­ket, it’s bet­ter than bet­ter. I do the same. It’s like in our life if some­one wants to — come si dice, costrin­gere — force you to do some­thing, prob­a­bly you will not do it.”

There is some­thing heart­en­ing, and sub­tly po­lit­i­cal, about the rel­ish with which Michele puts seem­ingly in­com­pat­i­ble el­e­ments in con­ver­sa­tion, and in how he has con­vinced a world of poise and pol­ish to see the mis­matched as beau­ti­ful, and nostal­gia as a prompt for re­fram­ing and rein­ven­tion, rather than for re­gres­sion or ex­clu­sion. His col­leagues at Gucci say he has brought a more open at­mos­phere to the com­pany, and Michele comes across like a guy who is con­tent to have been some­how al­lowed, at the very high­est level, to do what he loves. “It’s more that my job is my life,” he replies when I ask him about how he re­sists pres­sure.“i feel happy when I work. I don’t care if to­mor­row I will be fired. If you are more con­nected with your po­si­tion than your cre­ativ­ity, prob­a­bly you feel pres­sure. But if you don’t care …”

Michele doesn’t fin­ish his thought, but the im­pli­ca­tion is clear. “I feel like a happy per­son,” he says in­stead.“i don’t feel my­self on an­other level. I feel lucky that I can ex­press my­self.”

Hari Nef wears Gucci dress, $33,795, and jumpsuit, $6760.

Michele in the gar­den. Gucci Bloom eau de parfum.

“After two years, I was able to give [Gucci] a smell.” FRA­GRANCE NOTE:

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.