The Night I Fell in Love With Gucci’s New Designer

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Karen Elson, Alessandro Michele. Photo: Neil Rasmus.com/BFA

Shortly after I walked into last night’s Gucci “Supper Party” — held at Bowery Bar in celebration of the line’s resort show — I see Grace Coddington, sitting in a booth, wearing white sneakers, loose black pants, a black shirt, and a little YSL bag. I ask if I can pose a few questions for New York. “For New York,” she purrs, “anything.” When I ask her about the show earlier in the day, she says, “I saw the street was all blocked off and I was like, ‘What the hell is this?!’” Then she realized it was the show. “I thought I was going to a regular resort appointment but it was big. I really loved it. Very refreshing.”

“I know so many people here I feel like I’m doing karaoke,” Karen Elson — the special guest — says before her set. She’s got what looks like dried hydrangeas in her hair and a damn good voice. Between songs she shouts to Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s brand-new designer, who is standing by the bar, laughing and clapping along to Elson’s song.

“Would you believe I just met him today?” Elson says, after her set.

Within a minute she’s called him “a beautiful dreamer,” “a divine spirit,” and “a lovely man.” She seems to really mean it. I follow Alessandro’s messy waves across the party. He’s presented with a T-shirt that says “Italians Do It Bella” in a gothic font. Everyone laughs. He takes selfies with friends. He hugs and kisses. The mood is jovial.

I tap Alessandro and slip in beside him. I find I am talk-whispering into his hair. It’s dreamy. Will he answer some questions? Why not.

How are you feeling?
Ti-red.

Today’s show caused a big buzz. What does the collection mean to you?
It’s something that came from inside of me. I really love to work on this project. It’s hard but I’m having fun. I’m trying to be free to do what I want to do.

Has it been stressful to turn around a collection in such a short period of time? It seems like everyone wants to see where you’ll take Gucci.
Uh, I have to say, I’m quite relaxed. I am trying to work without pressure.

Where did all the animal motifs come from?
The animal, for me, means something you don’t expect. It’s between Frida Kahlo and a Fifth Avenue woman, y’know? I put fur on everything to give it a bit of eccentricism, yeah?

***

Honestly, I’m in love. He is serious, soft-spoken, and thankfully lacking in that telltale frenetic energy of the people around him. Even though his appointment was met with a collective “who?” Michele seems less than inclined to prove himself. Instead, he’d like to show you. It’s not ego; it’s energy.

But it’s unclear whether Michele has quite realized that all of this is for him. When I leave, after sharing a pizza with PR, I see Alessandro up ahead of me on Fourth Avenue, wearing a trench coat, carrying a briefcase, having left his own party in full swing.

I Fell in Love With Gucci’s New Designer