Many designers infiltrate the fashion awareness on a crest of hype. Few do so on the strength of work that resonates instantly and powerfully throughout the larger culture. Immediately upon being plucked from the proverbial shadows of the backroom studio, Alessandro Michele astonished with his new Gucci, a house reawakened by an intriguing gentility rich with influences from antiquity to today’s urban culture. On June 6, Michele will receive the CFDA’s International Award.

This story first appeared in the May 25, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

You are being honored with the CFDA International Award just a year after your appointment at Gucci. Do awards matter?

I believe no designer works for the award. The award symbolizes the fact that this is a pleasure shared, meaning that people have witnessed your work and have loved it as much as you have. In this sense, this award is very significant.

You became creative director and immediately took Gucci in a very different direction from that of your predecessor, Frida Giannini, for whom you worked. Can you articulate your vision for the house?

It’s difficult to sum up one’s vision in a few words. My vision is the idea to build a path through great expressive freedom. What draws my vision near the history of Gucci is surely the expression of what is contemporary, which was obviously also the path of the family. And surely, to try a new language, a language that does not linger only on the choice of a skirt or the length of a sleeve, but to work so that fashion may have a larger breadth, one that has more to do with creativity than with the single piece or the single product.

Your work is given to dramatic, ethereal flights of fancy and intense decoration, yet you’re also heavily influenced by the street. How do you reconcile the two?

Let’s say that my great passion for decoration, for excess, for color, for what is contemporary and also for the expression of street language, chimes in the most natural way because I personally love to create dialogues between different worlds. Then, perhaps I have not forced anything from the language point of view. It’s the only song I know how to sing.

The gentleness of your first show, a men’s collection, resonated powerfully at a moment when gender issues have been at the forefront of the cultural conversation. Was that your intention?

It was not intentional. It was neither a marketing operation nor even less [intended to be about] gender fluidity and all that the press talked about. It was an aesthetic idea, an idea linked to ambiguity and beauty. The fact that in an unconscious and natural way this emerged as a message connected to sexual orientation is probably intrinsic to the contemporary language, but it was absolutely not my primary intention. It was tied to an aesthetic expression.

What makes fashion right for its time?

Let’s say that this is a question a designer can’t answer because those who do this job are unconsciously expressive of their time, but in an unaware way. So if fashion and what I do are expressions of the times, let’s say it’s perhaps right for others to judge it and say it, in the sense that I can’t do anything else but express what is my point of view. I am one that drowns in the things of today; I like to drown in different seas. If drowning in different seas is contemporary, what I do in fashion is perhaps right. But let’s say that working in fashion with less certainty and more questions produces more interesting things.

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