A change is coming as Alessandro Michele joins Valentino

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By Marco Passoni

Although it was in the air, the news broke just before the weekend that Alessandro Michele has found his new home after leaving Gucci late last in 2022. Despite rumours linking him to Fendi and Bulgari, he begins his new role as Creative Director at Valentino today.

It is a decision which not only ends months of speculation but brings in an exciting new era for Valentino, as we all wait to see how Michele’s creativity, extravagance and flair will blend with the classic stylings of the Italian fashion house.

The appeal for Valentino is obvious. Not only is Michele incredibly creative and world-renowned, during his time at Gucci the brand’s profits almost tripled under his guidance. There can be no doubt that Valentino CEO Jacopo Venturini will be hoping that he can deliver similar excellence in his new role.

But there is no doubt that there is a clash of styles between the new Creative Director and his charge, which was rightly described by Vogue Business as Rome’s archetypal couture house. Michele has always championed the extravagant. His creations for Gucci featured intricate mixed prints and oversized accessories, with stylings which reflected his studying at Accademia Costume & Moda as he bring true showmanship to his collections. His incredible creativity and striking visuals are at odds with a brand which is more associated with the classic heritage of Valentino. It also stands in contrast to the quiet luxury aesthetic which dominates much of the fashion sector today.

But change, innovation and creativity are good. In fact there are few markets where they are more vital than in fashion.

But change, innovation and creativity are good. In fact there are few markets where they are more vital than in fashion. Michele delivered brilliance for Gucci starting in 2015, when low-key luxury was again in vogue. His collections drew that attention of luxury leaders and young stars such as Harry Styles and Billie Eilish. This ability to tap into the demands of the younger shoppers will be key once more as he begins to shape Valentino under his guidance.

There can be no doubt that Valentino will hope and expect Michele to deliver similar results to those he achieved at Gucci where he took the brand from a 1.1% sales loss at the end of 2014 with revenue of €3.9 billion, to sales of €9.7 billion at the end of 2021. He brought in youth and vibrance, reinvigorating both the image and the sales. The Valentino team will be demanding more of the same.

For me, as I have said before, the most important thing for any true luxury brand is its story – and the ability to maintain that story and experience which innovating and evolving to craft something truly new and exciting. Michele can do this. Indeed, in his first comments after the announcement that he would join Valentino, he told Vogue:

I feel the immense joy and the huge responsibility to join a Maison de Couture that has the word ‘beauty’ carved on a collective story made of distinctive elegance, refinement and extreme grace.

This ability to understand and reinterpret the story and heritage of Valentino will, I suspect, be what defines Michele’s time as the brand’s creative lead. His first collection is expected to debut at Paris Fashion Week, and it is one which many in the industry will await with great excitement. That, I believe, was part of the aim.

Marco Passoni has decades of experience in the travel retail sector. He has spent the majority of his career in senior leader positions throughout the market, including a 12-year tenure as CEO of a leading international Duty Free distribution company and a further 8 years running a retail firm that operated fashion mono-brand stores in several international airports.
Today, as Senior Executive VP and founding partner of 2.0 & Partners, he leads the company’s efforts in developing and innovating services which create new opportunities and partnerships for all members of the travel retail Trinity. A former elite-level sailor, with a World Championship to his name, Marco now spends much of his time airside, experiencing the changing travel retail industry first-hand, to better guide partners and clients on the best way to do business in this vibrant and unique market.