By Mimosa Spencer and Silvia Aloisi
PARIS (Reuters) – Creative director Alessandro Michele is leaving Kering’s star label Gucci after seven years, two sources said on Wednesday, with his departure following tensions between him and Kering’s senior management, one of the sources said.
They said the French luxury group is expected to confirm the departure of Michele, a former accessories designer credited with reviving Gucci’s popularity with flamboyant and gender-fluid styles.
Kering and Gucci declined to comment. Michele did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“There is little doubt that Alessandro is leaving,” one of the sources said, adding that the group needed to find someone quickly to step in as creative director for Gucci, which accounts for the bulk of Kering’s profits.
“It’s a brand that was losing momentum, if they don’t put someone in charge quick it will lose even more momentum,” this source said.
Michele’s departure comes as the key holiday season approaches and the January fashion shows.
After pulling back during the pandemic, Gucci plans to return to a full fashion calendar next year, with six collections.
Kering shares opened up 2% on Wednesday after Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), citing unnamed sources, first reported Michele’s departure. The shares later gave up gains, and were down 0.4% in mid-afternoon trading.
The shares are down by around 24% since the start of the year, compared with a drop of around 4% for LVMH.
“After seven years in charge of Gucci’s creative engine, it may well be time for a change, and consensus amongst institutional investors appears to be forming that a new approach is required to reignite the brand,” RBC analysts said in a note.
Michele, 49, is known for his eclectic personal style, instantly recognisable at red carpet events, with long hair and beard, often wearing elaborate, brocade tuxedos.
Alongside CEO Marco Bizzarri, he oversaw a period of soaring growth at Gucci between 2015 and 2019, with profits increasing nearly four-fold and revenue almost trebling.
But in recent quarters, Gucci has begun to lag its peers, with its performance in the key Chinese market becoming a source of concern for investors amid COVID-19 lockdowns.
(Additional reporting by Piotr Lipinski and Dominique Vidalon; Writing by Mimosa Spencer and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Louise Heavens and Jane Merriman)