Alessandro Michele

Alessandro Michele in a Nineties state of mind? Apparently. Two days before showing his Gucci collection, Michele talked about a significant creative shift for spring, and why for the moment at least, he loves the Nineties. Two reasons: Its King (Tom) and Queen (Miuccia). He also posed a nifty what-if that he would address on his runway today: “What happens if one of my girls should try to be sexy?” If that teaser doesn’t grab you, you don’t love fashion.

WWD: You seem so serene for two days before your show.

Alessandro Michele: Beautiful. I love it.

WWD: Do you feel serene?

A.M.: I feel serene because, after almost five years, I’m to the point that I’m really enjoying to be a fashion designer. That’s crazy.

WWD: Crazy that it took five years or crazy that you feel happy?

A.M: Maybe both. From the outside, it could be strange because the fashion designer job now, it’s pretty hard. I’m kind of stressed, most of all for myself.

WWD: You impose the stress internally?

A.M.: Yes. Because five years, you can risk being bored.

WWD: But you’re not bored?

A.M.: I’m not bored from my job. I’m not bored by the energy that pushes me to be creative. But I’m bored in a way from the idea that I don’t want to fall into [excessive repetition]. I’m not obliged to go ahead exactly with the same aesthetic. I mean, for sure it’s me, so there is always a clear sign of my presence in the company. But at this point, I’m pretty energized, because I feel that I have to move on in other [directions].

WWD:  Are you doing that with this collection?

A.M.: Yes, yes.

WWD: When you started, you said that you thought fashion moves too fast, and that you wanted to develop a clear, consistent aesthetic.

A.M.: I think that I am still the same. It’s the same company, the same playground. It’s me, but it’s like I want to play a different song. I think that I’m starting to define something a little bit different. For example, this time I was really trying to remember how powerful fashion was in the Nineties, and how I was engaged in the idea that it was an era when everything was so sleek and polished and beautiful…At that time, I really loved the idea of being a fashion designer. I felt that, also, with all the rules, fashion was like a bridge. At the same time, at the place where we are now, we’re talking about freedom, freedom, freedom. I was thinking about how it was when fashion was a little bit different, when it was more defined, it was a place full of unbelievable, powerful rules. It was still a bridge to escape.

WWD: Back in the Nineties?

A.M.: Yes, back in the Nineties. I felt really free also in the atmosphere of the studio, looking at the show of Tom, looking at the show of Miuccia.

WWD: Where were you in the Nineties? What were you doing?

A.M.: In the very beautiful period, in the beginning of the Nineties, I was still in Bologna, working a little bit for Les Copains. I was really young.

WWD: So you weren’t in school; you were already working by that time.

A.M.: Yes, ’90, ’95, and after I was at Fendi…I remember a lot of things. It was the very beginning of my career. I mean, it was beautiful. I felt really free.

WWD: You think of the Nineties as defined by rules. I think of that time, mid-Nineties through early 2000s, as this wondrous moment with so much happening, Prada, Gucci, Helmut, and the unbridled creativity — John Galliano, Alexander McQueen. I think that, in a way, there are more rules now.

A.M.: Not really. I mean, at that time, to [produce] like Galliano, you must be a genius.

WWD: He is a genius.

A.M.: Now the market is more open to talk about everything. Galliano was deep, deep inside culture. I don’t know him well. We’ve met a few times; he’s a super nice person, I love him. I’ve been a big fan. But that time was more about being in fashion. His unbelievable monster of creativity — Galliano was always referencing something about super-high culture, about costumes, about history.

WWD:  And many things you could not do now.

A.M.: Yes. But [otherwise] the rule was the idea to be feminine, to be sexy. To be in a way, a big market — [it was about the approach] of Tom and Miuccia. And everything was beautiful; we can say that the Nineties were for me — maybe for me because I was young, I was starting. But I remember everything was fabulous, fabulous.

WWD: Yes, it was a wonderful time.

A.M.: People in the street were fabulous. Milan was fabulous. London was unbelievable. And New York was also interesting because it was the time of Miami, of East Coast, but in a very sophisticated way, very fashionable. Everything was very fashionable, fashion, fashion, fashion, fashion. So I am trying to go back in my fashion memory and get inside my dream at the time to be a fashion designer.

WWD: So spring will have a Nineties perspective?

A.M.: Yes! I was thinking also that the Nineties were a big soul of the company. I mean the Nineties were one of the biggest, after the Seventies — I mean, we can say that.

WWD: Absolutely, Tom [Ford] created the fashion reality of Gucci.

A.M.: Yes.

WWD: Is there going to be a little Alessandro Michele looking at Tom Ford in this collection?

A.M.: Maybe a little bit. Not to be Tom; I’m not Tom. I would love to be, I adore Tom. No, I was looking at what happens if I put my quirkiness or freedom [toward] what was at that time the idea of sexiness. What happens if one of my girls should try to be sexy and contemporary?

WWD:  So what does happen if one of your girls tries to be sexy?

A.M.: I am going back to the company roots also, to some different roots — the Seventies, a little bit my fashion memory, and a little bit the idea that maybe, why not, it’s also a time where maybe the world needs to take care of fashion. So there is something inside of me that says, “now you are a fashion designer, you break everything. I mean, you had a lot of fun.” I want to have, again, a lot of fun. It’s like a kid that plays. I don’t feel myself like a fashion designer sometimes.

WWD: Really?

A.M.: No. It’s a way to be free. I don’t want to be in the market. I was saying, maybe let’s go back and look at now, what’s fashion, what’s fashionable? Because sexiness is power. And I was thinking it’s another power to be free.

WWD: “Sexy” isn’t the first descriptive that comes to mind about your Gucci. How do you perceive sexy for your Gucci?

A.M.: There are maybe a few clichés in the show. But when I work in clichés, I try always to be original and creative. I mean, cliché has a lot of power. If it’s been a cliché, it means that these kind of things move the world. Once something is a cliché, there is a reason why. So I always try to think, try to go back. I was trying to make my idea of quirkiness more sleek. It’s also a way to go back and in a way to stop the world that goes so fast. Let’s go back to look at the beautiful things of the Nineties.

WWD: Is it going to be more pared down, less decorative?

A.M.: Yes.

WWD: Are you having fun with it?

A.M.: A lot. To take off, instead to put more. You know what? Creativity is such a big word. You just have to find a way to not get bored. It’s like sex, you can do sex every day, every minute, but if you don’t find the right way to have fun with sex, it doesn’t make sense to do it.

WWD: More of the Tom Ford roots?

A.M.: I also started [thinking] about how fashion can give you rules to be a certain way. But at the same time, I would say that fashion is always an option. It’s such a powerful language. Also, when it is really fashionable, it is, like I was saying, it’s a bridge.

WWD: A bridge to what?

A.M.: To freedom, to the idea that a woman can be powerful, can change the way she looks. In the Nineties it was full of rules — Prada had her own rules, Tom had his own rules, like different villages. You would be in a village. You had your king or queen. But at that time also, it was like there were a million bridges. Which one do you want to cross?

WWD: When you say king and queen, do you mean Tom and Miuccia, king and queen of the Nineties?

A.M.: Kind of, they were. Miuccia was really the one that said, “You can be not sexy.” And Tom was saying, “Be sexy and be powerful, and be in a way ambiguous.” He was ambiguous. Gucci was himself. Now, it’s me that’s enjoying the idea that fashion is fabulous.

WWD: I love that. Fashion is fabulous.

A.M.: You know what? Fashion is fabulous. I had so much fun working on the set of the last campaign, seeing through my eyes to the very cliché of fashion…I was feeling really free because I was saying I choose [to do] this job. Looking at fashion when I was really young, it was the era of the supermodel. I arrived when the supermodels were still on the market, the middle and the end of the Nineties. So then Kate [Moss] was just starting on the market. So Kate broke everything for me.

WWD: She did.

A.M.: She put something of British coolness, because everything was droll, everything was cool because it was droll, you know? And [photographer] Corinne Day — it was another great era that was looking at the future. But I mean, I love this job so much. That’s why I say I am tired but I can resist [being bored].

WWD: To hear such enthusiasm in the lead-up to your show is great.  

A.M.: Yes. When I arrived on the market, I would love to break everything. Now, I’m trying to break everything in another way. Go back in the roots of the brand, go back in the roots of my passion for fashion…Because fashion is such an immediate language. And it’s powerful. I work in maybe one of the most beautiful markets, I think. And after five years, I want to feel myself alive like the first days of this job.

WWD: Tell me about the set.

A.M.: It’s pretty clean. I love the urban landscape. Inside, outside — it’s one of my obsessions. And you know that one of my obsessions is the past and to try to make kind of a conversation. So it will be super clean. But for me it’s an urban renaissance space.

WWD: An urban renaissance space?

A.M.: I was in the room with my boyfriend Vanni [Attili] at the beginning when I was working on the space. He was trying to refine [the concept] with me. He asked what it means. And I said, “it’s like the box of a Renaissance painting in an urban parking [lot].”

WWD: Sounds intriguing.

A.M.: There are a few stars, like in a Florentine painting. It’s like a car park by Piero della Francesca.

WWD: You usually show early. This time, you’re last in Milan. Did you have to adjust your mind-set?

A.M.: I asked to be at the end, just to change, to see what happens. I don’t know, there is just one problem: The girls, the models are working. So when I have to [do fittings], they are in and out, in and out.

WWD: It’s great to have a real fashion conversation.

A.M.: Yeah, I love that too.

WWD: Often with all of the stuff around fashion today, the fashion itself gets lost.

A.M.: Sometimes it’s all about time. We must find the time for fashion.

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