Who Will Be Alessandro Michele’s Next Muse?

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Who Will Be Alessandro Michele’s Next Muse?

It was just announced that Alessandro Michele, the Italian designer credited with Gucci’s reemergence toward the end of the 2010s, will be Valentino’s new creative director, just after Pier Paolo Piccioli’s exit was announced last week. There are opinions, of course there are. Whenever there are reshufflings like this, there are whispers and gasps of what it could possibly mean. He’s yet another man designing womenswear, an already male-dominated field. He’s had such a specific look at Gucci, and how will that translate at a place like Valentino? My big question: If he’s going to make the same kind of splash at Valentino that he made at Gucci, he’s going to need a new superstar muse, and I wonder who that will be. I actually think Pier Paolo’s relationship to his muses at Valentino—Naomi Campbell, Florence Pugh, Zendaya—were very much like Michele’s at Gucci, a relationship that oozes reverence and adoration, that knows fashion happens where people are looking. 

I first became acquainted with Alessandro Michele on Tumblr. It was 2015. He had a long tenure at Gucci, working his way from handbags and leather goods and into menswear. At the same time, a young Harry Styles, hair growing rebelliously long, outfits increasingly flamboyant, was becoming a burgeoning style icon. It was One Direction’s final year as a band, and he was finding his individuality. He wore a black and white floral printed suit to the 2015 American Music Awards. He stood next to his bandmates, who wore gray, black, and navy suits.

From then on, from my stan vantage point, the fashion evolution of Gucci almost felt like Michele’s steady bids to a rockstar muse. Styles had the kind of beauty that was agnostic to the clothes he wore—he was just as much of a sex god in a black t-shirt and skinny jeans as he was in a pink velvet cropped blazer. He knew that, I’m sure, and so did Alessandro Michele. That’s what made their partnership so great. A young singer who wanted to be seen as a rock legend and a designer who wanted to make people take camp seriously. It felt like the actual runway was less important for Michele because he had a living, breathing model living on high visibility, culture-rich soil. If the goal was to make androgyny sexy, who better than a pretty boy graduating from Boyband Member to Instant Classic? Michele’s Gucci was never more prolific than when it was on display at arenas worldwide on the body of a young star holding the mic.

It’s everyone’s instinct, mine too, to wonder what he could offer outside of his wallpaper prints and high saturation technicolor world because his era at Gucci is how most of us came to understand him. I think this is why I’m personally very excited to see what comes of Alessandro Michele’s go at Valentino. I don’t see his success at Gucci to be a right place, right time accident—I see it as Michele’s smarts, his ability to see that the culture was steering mainstream fashion into androgyny, and it was only a matter of who might be the one to stick the landing. 

It’s also worth noting in my opinion that there’s another character in this story, a young American designer named Harris Reed, who very much belongs in the Gucci universe under Alessandro Michele. Reed made his name as a student at Central Saint Martins for his genderless clothing, working with stylist Harry Lambert to dress Styles between courses. Reed is also responsible for the gown Styles wore on his Vogue cover. After Reed became the creative director at Nina Ricci in 2022, he dressed both Gucci muse Harry Styles and Valentino muse Florence Pugh. So idea that Valentino is a far departure from the world Michele created at Gucci doesn’t feel right to me. The visual sensibilities of Valentino and Gucci have been headed in the same direction for a while now.

There are a thousand ways to do this right, but my one hope is that Michele take this moment and not make Harry Styles the face. His moment with Harry and Gucci worked so perfectly because it was imposing, because there were skeptics, because it forced people to swallow the pill that they misjudged Gucci and misjudged masculinity. I would love to see with this move to Valentino, Michele find a way to do that again. A new note, a new rising star, a new set of manners to reinvent.

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