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Valentino Enters Its Alessandro Michele Era

Valentino Enters Its Alessandro Michele Era

The song has stopped in at least one game of fashion musical chairs. Valentino has a new creative director: Alessandro Michele, the former Gucci designer who left that brand in 2022.

Mr. Michele, who was known for having transformed Gucci into a $10 billion powerhouse by making it a baroque treasure chest of inclusivity and magpie references, replaces Pierpaolo Piccioli, who parted ways with Valentino last week.

The appointment, which was first reported by Vogue Business, brings Mr. Michele, 51, back to the heart of the fashion world. A mediagenic figure with the beard of an Old Testament prophet, rings on most of his fingers and a tendency to quote obscure philosophers, he had been at Gucci for most of his career. His work was favored by celebrities such as Jared Leto, Harry Styles and Dakota Johnson.

“It is a great honor for me to be welcomed in the Maison Valentino,” Mr. Michele wrote in the caption of an Instagram post shared on Thursday. “I feel immense joy and enormous responsibility.”

Going to Valentino also reunites Mr. Michele with Kering, the French conglomerate that owns Gucci and 30 percent of Valentino, a brand it is expected to acquire fully by 2028. (Mayhoola for Investments, the Qatari fund, currently owns the rest). Mr. Michele’s appointment signals the group’s desire to grow Valentino, which reported sales of $1.56 billion for 2022, into a brand that can compete with such behemoths as Dior and Hermès.

Rachid Mohamed Rachid, the chairman of Valentino, said in a news release that Mr. Michele’s appointment “underlines our great ambitions for Maison Valentino.”

Speculation about the designer’s appointment had been spreading since news broke of Mr. Piccioli’s departure from Valentino. But there were those who doubted Mr. Michele and Kering would once again agree on an aesthetic vision because of his somewhat abrupt exit from Gucci after slowing sales reportedly prompted his employers to ask for a change in direction.

After the announcement of Mr. Michele’s appointment, François-Henri Pinault, the chief executive of Kering, said in an emailed statement, “I am certain that with his creativity, culture and versatile talent, he will be able to interpret masterfully the unique heritage of this magnificent house and make it flourish.”

At Valentino, Mr. Michele will work closely with Jacopo Venturini, the brand’s chief executive, with whom he also worked at Gucci when Mr. Venturini was vice president of merchandising and global markets. And he will continue living in Rome, where Valentino was founded in 1960.

Luca Solca, a luxury analyst at the wealth management firm Bernstein, is cautiously optimistic about the appointment.

“I wonder if this is a great fit,” he said. “But who dares, wins. Valentino needs new ideas, and Alessandro has been a master at reviving Gucci.”

“The acid test for him is to imagine a new Valentino that is distinct and convincing but at the same time connected to what we have seen before,” Mr. Solca added. “Not a Valentucci.”

Whether Mr. Michele will be able to do that will be apparent in his first show, which is expected to take place at Paris Fashion Week this September. He starts at Valentino on April 2.

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