Gucci dumps 'sex sells' mantra for a blooming gender-fluid image
Fashion creative Alessandro Michele has managed to redefine the Italian luxury brand since taking over two years ago
How does your garden grow? If you're Alessandro Michele - Gucci's creative director - the answer is: ''Well, thanks - no greenfly here."
The Italian, who took over from Frida Giannini in 2015, has overseen a sales rise of 43.4% year-on-year in the first six months of 2017, far surpassing parent company Kering's expectations. Life is sweet.
Gucci is blooming. It showed at a party hosted by the design house at the launch of Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town last weekend.
It saw guests including Elana Brundyn - Zeitz's director of institutional advancement and external affairs - and Emilie Gambade - Associated Media Publishing's brand director - dressed in glorious floral dresses with long sleeves and collars that were a riot of print and the envy of anyone who wasn't in one.
Singer Ricky Rick was a total hit in a shiny blue floral tracksuit.
''Trees and flowers are so important," says Michele, 45. ''The idea of blooming is the idea of becoming something different."
It's impossible to overstate how radically, in the two years since he took charge, Michele has redefined what Gucci represents, particularly with respect to how much he has veered from the established Gucci narrative of ''sex sells".
Sex sells, but Michele's version is less flagrantly heterosexual.
Gender fluidity is key to his aesthetic, which is possibly why his menswear is worn by women and his womenswear by men, and also why he resonates so much with young people, who increasingly baulk at defining their own sexuality in narrow terms.
Like Yves Saint Laurent, it should be noted Gucci now generates 50% of its revenue from those born after 1980.
''Beauty is in between," Michele says.
''It's about the things that are not really clear or are not really perfect. The things that make you feel not comfortable but curious, that you want to get closer to to understand better why they're different. Why do we have to decide to be in just one place, just one shape, just one state of mind?"
The commercial pressures on him must be immense.
''I don't even think about it, you know," he says. ''I simply believe that I have to create a beautiful object. I'm obsessed with objects. That's why, in the end, the products look so beautiful."
He pauses. ''But I don't like to talk about them as products. It's something that makes creative people feel uncomfortable. I'm not against marketing - I just think it has to work in another playground. When I start to create, I think only about beauty. Afterwards is when they have to try to do the marketing."
Fashion is a very serious business. How is it that Michele appears to have so much fun?
''The idea that you're an adult but also still a child is somehow negative. I think we have to keep our inner child."
• This article was originally published in The Times.