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Michele relaunches Gucci with romantic flourishes against hard urban background in Milan

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MILAN — Alessandro Michele strove for discontinuity in his Gucci debut, relaunching the brand with romantic flourishes against a hardened, urban background.

Michele was an unknown to much of the fashion world when he was named as sole creative director to one of the world's best-known fashion brands last month. No more.

His debut collection, previewed Wednesday on the first day of Milan Fashion Week womenswear shows for next autumn and winter, displayed a confident break with the past, reasserting the double-G brand logo with prominent belt-buckle placings in the opening and closing looks but also introducing a new motif: birds in flight.

The collection snatched elements from the hastily assembled menswear collection, a team effort, shown last month after his predecessor Frida Giannini's earlier-than-expected departure. There were the same elaborate poet bows on silken shirts and loose-fitting suits with contrast piping, nods to androgyny for both men and women.

PHOTO: A model wears a creation for Gucci women's Fall-Winter 2015-2016 collection, part of the Milan Fashion Week, unveiled in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
A model wears a creation for Gucci women's Fall-Winter 2015-2016 collection, part of the Milan Fashion Week, unveiled in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Michele put his signature on the new collection with a pleated chiffon-y floral dress with a built-in cape; crinkled leather dresses in red and peacock blue and military-style coats with fur trim that had an antique feel. A red dress with pleated tiers was paired with flats for the perfect day-into-evening dress.

Footwear included whimsical furry sandals and clogs, fitting for either a Hobbit or Dr. Seuss character, depending on your sphere of reference. Glasses complemented the looks.

"It is effortless. It is now, now, now," gushed Floriane De Saint Pierre, who runs a fashion brand consultancy in Paris, after the show. "Alessandro is such a huge talent. He is able to recapture the spirit of the Gucci brand and give it a new expression."

Michele, 42, rose from accessories designer to Giannini's assistant in 13 years at Gucci, prior to his appointment as creative director for all brands. He previously designed accessories at Fendi.

Michele's break from the past was evident also in the background itself. Gone was the elegant if staid carpeted theater of the past, replaced with an urban subway platform backdrop, complete with a corrugated metal runway. The contrast of urban toughness with the romantic looks was part of Michele's message.

"There is no room for consolatory nostalgia," read the Gucci press notes. "Rather the need to affirm freedom."

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