FOR THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS, GUCCI HAS SET THE FASHION WORLD ABLAZE.
And to many of its fans, the brand’s amazing popularity— marked by waiting lists for its most buzzed-about items, with velvet-roped lines of shoppers snaking outside its flagship US boutiques, as well as a global sales spike of more than 40 percent through the first half of 2017—--can be attributed to one man: Creative Director Alessandro Michele.
Michele, a 44-year-old native of Rome, has infused the Gucci line with a theatrical sense of confidence that’s hard to resist, from clothing featuring brash, colorful prints to shoes and bags accentuated with unexpected flourishes like fur or embroidery. A key element of its current success has been the familiarity of certain details, like horse-bit toggles and thick red and green piping, that come straight from the brand’s archives—although their current versions have been spunkily updated for the day’s zeitgeist. As Michele told Vogue in 2015, soon after his appointment to his current role, “I am trying to cause a little revolution inside the company—to push another language, a different way to talk about beauty and sexiness.”
The house was founded in Florence nearly a century ago, in 1921, with an initial focus—like Prada, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, and other now-iconic high-end brands—on luggage and leather goods. After several successful decades, Gucci’s popularity was amplified in the 1950s and ’60s when celebrities began to embrace new items like rigid top-handled purses and golden belt buckles in the shape of large capital G’s, oriented, like the faces of Janus, back to back. In that era, the brand became virtually synonymous with a glitzy, glamorous, international lifestyle. “It was very identifiable,” says Cameron Silver, a fashion historian and founder of the vintage retailer Decades. “It identified that aesthetic of a very jet-set traveler. The bamboo handle and the double-G motif are iconic.”
A few decades later, Gucci redefined itself as more than