The news was announced by the fashion house on Wednesday (23 November).
While the brand did not give a reason for the move, the Rome-born designer said in a statement: “There are times when paths part ways because of the different perspectives each one of us may have.”
Womenswear Daily reported Michele’s expected departure on Tuesday (22 November), citing sources that said Michele had failed to meet a request to “initiate a strong design shift,” and that the chairman of Gucci’s parent Kering, Francois-Henri Pinault, was looking for a change of pace.
No mention of such backroom moves was made in the statement announcing Michele’s departure, in which Gucci credited him with having played “a fundamental part in making the brand what it is today through his groundbreaking creativity.”
Michele on the other hand, cited “different perspectives’’ as the reason for his departure, without elaborating.
“Today an extraordinary journey ends for me, lasting more than 20 years, within a company to which I have tirelessly dedicated all my love and creative passion,’’ he said in a cryptic statement.
Michele was appointed creative director of Gucci in January 2015, just days after he led a creative team that pulled together a menswear show in just five days, following the hasty exit of his predecessor. That collection announced Gucci’s new direction, with silken blouses for men featuring elaborate bows and ruffled necks along with fur-trimmed capes, as Michele redefined masculine dressing codes.
For most of his tenure, Gucci has turned in stellar revenues, accounting for most of Kerings profits. But it has been under some scrutiny recently after underperforming rivals.
Michele’s partnerships with the Hollywood elite and VIPs were often rooted in friendships. Jared Leto has been a frequent front-row guest at Gucci shows during Michele’s tenure, for a time adopting the same straight long hair and beard sported by the Gucci designer.
Michele also has famously dressed Billie Eilish, Florence Welch, and the Italian rock band Maneskin on its current tour. And he recently unveiled a collection designed with Harry Styles.
For his last runway collection, unveiled in September, Michele constructed a parallel universe of side-by-side shows separated by a wall that when lifted revealed twins in identical looks in synchronic stride. The reveal of the 68 sets of identically dressed twins left normally jaded fashionistas confessing they had been brought to tears.
Michele joined Gucci in 2002, becoming an associate to the creative director in May 2011. In 2014, he was named creative director of the Richard Ginori porcelain brand, owned by Gucci. He previously worked as a senior accessories designer at Fendi and studied at the Accademia di Costume e di Moda in Rome.
Gucci CEO and president, Marco Bizzarri, thanked Michele "for his 20 years of commitment to Gucci, and for his vision, devotion and unconditional love for this unique house.”
“The road that Gucci and Alessandro walked together over the past years is unique and will remain as an outstanding moment in the history of the house,’’ Pinault said in a statement.
Gucci said the in-house design team would take over the collections until a new creative director is named.
"To them goes my most sincerest wish: may you continue to cultivate your dreams, the subtle and intangible matter that makes life worth living,'' Michele said in his farewell statement.
Additional reporting by agencies