FOR THE LAST COU­PLE OF YEARS, GUCCI HAS SET THE FASH­ION WORLD ABLAZE.

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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

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