Magazine Feature

Gucci's Alessandro Michele on How The Cure & Gregorian Chants Influence His Work

Designer Alessandro Michele
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Designer Alessandro Michele walks the runway at Gucci Cruise 2016 at Dia Art Foundation on June 4, 2015 in New York City.  

Plucked, name virtually unknown, from Gucci’s accessories department less than two years ago, 43-year-old Alessandro Michele has captivated the industry’s attention with his glamorous, magpie aesthetic. Under his brief tenure as Gucci’s creative director, his fascination with elements of the Renaissance and the Baroque era has resulted in an aesthetic that fuses prints, patterns and opulent details with the Italian fashion house’s hallmarks (like the green-red-green stripe and diamante pattern) for something altogether fantastical. Musicians can’t get enough of it. 

Michele’s work has garnered prominent placement in Beyonce’s “Formation” video, and on the latest tours from brand ambassador Florence + the Machine and Madonna. Lady Gaga dazzled at this year’s Super Bowl in a custom red glitter suit with spiked red-white-and-blue platform sling backs, and Jared Leto walks the red carpet alongside Michele.

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The designer, whose listening preferences range from The Cure to Gregorian chants, says music and fashion are alike in their “ability to allow people to express themselves, to be part of a movement, not simply being a fan of a performer or of a brand.” That approach has helped propel Gucci’s sales to double-digit growth, with revenue at 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion) in the first half of 2016, after two years of decline. Here, Michele spoke with Billboard about how music influences his design process. 

What do you listen to when you’re in the studio?

I really cannot listen to just one kind of music. I like music, from Gregorian Chants – which I used for one of my fashion shows – to pop music. Music has the capability to surround me while I am totally immersed in my job and it also has the capability of bringing to life hidden thoughts.

What have you been listening to while developing the collection you’ll show in September?

Usually I listen movie soundtracks while I am working . In this particular moment I rediscovered some of Cure’s albums from the beginning of their career, as well as some songs by Black Marble. My summer has been accompanied by "Stabat Mater," a religious composition written by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi in the 18th century.

How do you think the relationship between fashion and music has evolved?

From my own personal perspective there is a deep love between fashion and music. To me, they are not separate things. I have never considered them two separate entities. Music is not simply accompanying my outfits -- it’s underlining the self-expression that season after season I am trying to communicate in my role. This is the power of music and fashion together, the capability of allowing people to express themselves, to be part of a movement, not simply being a fan of a performer or a brand.

How do you discover new music? 

In many different ways. Some of them I would say are quite common: radio, internet, friends and so on. I probably have a personal meaning of music because what I really like scouting sometimes are noises. Music is not composed by pentagrams only; I personally can hear music walking down the street or when I am in deep silence at my country house.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Sept. 17 issue of Billboard.