Alessandro Michele Opens Fashion, Freedom, Family and Philosophy

TURIN, Italy — “This feels like a rock concert,” said Alessandro Michele, entering the main pavilion at the Salone del Libro international book trade show here on Saturday, marveling at the number of young visitors who were supporting him . “In this digital age, the younger generations still choose words and books,” he said with some surprise.

To be sure, this edition of the trade show was particularly crowded, surprising even the organizers. Michele appeared to present his first book, an autobiography entitled “La Vita delle Forme: Filosofia del Reincanto [The Life of Shapes: Philosophy of Re-enchantment],” written by the philosopher Emanuele Coccia, filled the room and fans faithfully lined up for an hour for the book signing.

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After being clearly touched by the reaction to his first public appearance since he stepped down from the role of creative director of Gucci in November 2022, Michele looked very relaxed and happy, sometimes focusing his her long dark hair under a cap, and trimming her green trench. , worn over light indigo jeans and a white T-shirt with green details.

Michele opened up about his family and life, as he did in an interview with WWD after the event at the trade show.

Surprisingly there are no photographs or sketches in the book and, despite Michele’s love of color and decoration, the cover is in an “uncertain” colour, with the title in red and a central, medieval-like black symbol. which is vague in memory. butterfly. “I wanted to celebrate the word, reveal its complexity,” said Michele, deliberately avoiding the word “fashion” in the title “to avoid giving the wrong message” to potential readers.

The idea for the book grew naturally with Coccia, Michele said. “We talked and recorded our thoughts” for about a year, mostly during the pandemic, and it is “very intense and personal,” he admitted, because it caused deep reflection, almost cathartic on his life. “I put thoughts and things in order, I found out my priorities, it was like going to therapy.”

The designer said that it took about three and a half years to complete the book and that he and Coccia thought of a way to create a dialogue between fashion and philosophy, deciding to “keep the two voices separate, using a font Italian for Emanuele. , weaving the two onto the page as in the Talmud or Bible manuscripts,” according to a joint introductory note.

“It was fashion that brought me to philosophy,” said Michele, who has repeatedly credited his life partner Giovanni Attili, a professor at Rome’s prestigious La Sapienza University, with helping him understand philosophy. Michele was introduced to Attili Coccia, who said he was a self-taught philosophy buff. Early on, the designer thought that “philosophy is complicated, something that binds your brain, which is only suitable for the enlightened few, but then I realized that it was close to life,” and he realized that it helped to explain his own thoughts and opinions on fashion. “much clearer.”

In fact, he recalled the surprise of journalists and editors when the press release for his first collection, written by Attili, was not about the clothes but about the philosophy. “Some thought it was a snobbish posture, but for me it was the most appropriate language,” and language that would not succeed.

Cover of La Vita delle Forme.Cover of La Vita delle Forme.

Cover of La Vita delle Forme.

Michele hadn’t thought about writing a book before and noted that he hadn’t really thought about who would read it, because “it’s not an editorial idea”. But he admitted it took some effort to “set up those appointments on my own” to record his thoughts.

Michele is back in the spotlight since he started a new phase of his career last month as creative director of Valentino, succeeding Pierpaolo Piccioli. He didn’t want to give details about his new path, but said it was “a moment of great reflection and absorption, learning and transport,” and it was evident that he was overwhelmed by founder Valentino Garavani’s archival design and the expertise of the Foundations. seamstresses and craftsmen of the famous couture house.

He also drew attention to the current events taking place outside the fashion industry, “when freedom seems to be in danger and when books seem to be watching us. People who read are afraid to lose themselves in words, which is freedom,” he argued. Michele described himself as “very picky” when it comes to choosing what to read, although he prefers history books and newspapers to novels.

“I’m a bit of a nosy pitcher. I like to read about other people’s lives, I am curious and I often read parts of several books at the same time, and I jot down ideas on notebooks and scraps of paper; my bag is always filled with pens and pencils. Writing on paper helps me think things through,” he said.

In the book he admits to being a collector of objects, “books, statues, skirts, chairs, pants, cups, pictures: everything lives, independently of its shapes, its size, its purpose and its importance,” and one of the chapters dedicated to spirituality.

The subject of freedom was a recurring theme as he said he never wanted to give up being alone. “The hardest thing is being who you are when others try to manipulate you into being different. Be what you want to be.”

He remembered that he was 43 in 2015 when the president and chief executive officer Marco Bizzarri offered him the top job at Gucci, after Frida Giannini. He believed that he would be fired after the first show, when he followed his instincts and paraded ruffled shirts on men with flowers in their hair. “I wasn’t thinking about the career, I am what I am and I just did what I thought was natural. I just wanted to talk about beauty. “

He spoke of his surprise when people started talking about gender fluidity. “I’ve never heard of this term before, I’m just working looking at what I see around me, and at the time I looked very normal.”

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“I don’t think anything, I look,” he writes in the book, saying that “imagining a garment means imagining a person, building characters from a multifaceted universe.”

He revealed that he braided his father’s hair as a child, who showed him “the simple way to be free even at the age of 60 with braided hair,” and recalled the walks with him outside in nature, “when he invited me to be quiet and listen to the wind blowing, and that seemed to be the closest thing to God.” He also writes and speaks fondly of his mother and aunt, who were twins, and led to the Twinsburg collection, his last for Gucci. “They taught me unconditional love.”

Michele finished the book by providing additional details on Twinsburg and his other collections for Gucci, from the spring 2022 set held in Hollywood to Aria, celebrating the brand’s centenary, and the Cosmogonie Cruise 2023 show in Apulia.

“La Vita delle Forme” is published by HarperCollins and is being translated into English, French and German. Michele will also present it in Milan on May 31 at Teatro Franco Parenti.

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