A new contender has emerged in the race to succeed Frida Giannini at the creative helm at Gucci — the brand’s head accessories designer, WWD has learned.

According to sources, Alessandro Michele, a longtime collaborator of Giannini’s, is among a short list of candidates for one of the highest profile jobs in Italian fasion, according to industry sources.

Michele joined Gucci’s design team in 2002, and in 2011 was named associate to the current creative director Giannini, with direct responsibility for the leather goods, shoes, jewelry and home collections.

In September, Michele was named creative director of Richard Ginori, the Gucci-owned porcelain brand, and helped to create its new store concept in Florence that was unveiled in June.

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He has also worked at Fendi, and is a sought-after talent in the industry.

Giannini is slated to exit the luxury goods house in February following her fall 2015 women’s collection in Milan on Feb. 25. Giannini is scheduled to present her last men’s show for Gucci later this month.

Gucci’s chief executive officer Patrizio di Marco, Giannini’s partner, already exited the company, succeeded by Marco Bizzarri, previously head of Kering’s luxury couture and leather goods division.

The failure of the couple to turn around the flagging brand precipitated their departure, setting off a guessing game as to who would succeed Giannini and who might be able to get the brand back on a solid growth track.

According to sources, Bizzarri has yet to make a final decision. Givenchy’s star couturier Riccardo Tisci and one of Valentino’s creative duo, Maria Grazia Chiuri, are believed to be among the marquee names considered for the job, along with Joseph Altuzarra. Kering took a minority stake in Altuzarra’s New York-based fashion house last year and the designer has sat front-row at the Gucci show.

Kering, controlled by France’s Pinault family, has a track record of promoting inside talents.

Indeed, when Gucci was faced with replacing its tag-team of Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole when they exited in 2004, it promoted a trio of insiders – Alessandra Facchinetti, Giannini and John Ray – to succeed Ford at the design helm, heading women’s ready-to-wear, accessories and men’s wear, respectively.

Giannini ultimately took over as the brand’s sole creative director, ultimately relocating the design studios to her hometown of Rome.

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