‘Hyper Beauty’: Inside Alessandro Michele’s Surprise Valentino Collection


MILAN — When Alessandro Michele unveiled his debut collection for Gucci in 2015, his evident mastery of the brand’s codes was the fruit of a dozen years’ labour designing behind the scenes under Tom Ford and Frida Giannini.

At Valentino, Michele took just two months: the Roman brand, which named the designer its creative director on March 28, surprised the fashion world Monday by dropping an unscheduled lookbook on the last day of Milan menswear week. The mixed-gender collection slated for pre-spring 2025 features more than 260 images including propositions across categories, from ready-to-wear to handbags, shoes and silk scarves.

More than a teaser, the collection provided a comprehensive overview of how Michele is approaching the Roman couture house’s codes: Belted ivory peacoats with V-motifs on pockets, or cropped jackets styled over matching tailored dresses paid homage to Valentino Garavani’s breakout white collection from 1968. The ladylike looks were styled with turban hats and looping strands of pearls that added a whiff of Michele’s cinematic kitsch. Elsewhere, gender-fluid styling gave a jolt of modernity to throwback silhouettes as male-presenting models wore bell-shaped capes and ruffled turtleneck blouses, while many of the most sartorial looks (including bell-bottom suits Garavani himself might have worn in the 70s) went to the girls.

“Something magical happened, a chemical reaction, and we started to work as if in an orchestra — with love, and without looking at the time. We lost ourselves in Valentino’s archive,” Michele told reporters from The Business of Fashion, Vogue and WWD about he and his team’s process of immersing themselves in the legacy of Garavani, who founded the brand in 1958.

“It’s something coming from our heart and our guts,” he added.

Where Michele’s tenure at Gucci was marked by an embrace of over-the-top, twisted glamour, at Valentino he is making an effort to connect with the intense prettiness of its founder’s couture.

“There’s a sort of obsession with what I would call hyper beauty. As if this life was not enough for him, so that it had to be amplified,” Michele said.

The debut collection is titled “Avant les debuts”, or “before the beginnings.” Michele insists that he and the “orchestra” of his studio are still “tuning [their] instruments” ahead of their first runway show scheduled for this autumn’s Paris Fashion Week, which is certainly the most hotly anticipated designer debut of the year.

The mention of beginnings, plural, was surely no accident, but rather signature Michele: During eight years as creative director of Gucci, Michele attracted a new generation of customers to the luxury fashion industry by deploying multifaceted collections that celebrated fluid self-expression and a broad range of identities. Collections blended mens and womenswear, archival shapes and maximalist embellishments, sportswear and demi-couture. Watching Michele juggling those plot lines, while testing the limits of how far the brand could be extended via collaborations was central to the thrill.

Michele’s first outing for Valentino, as such, might be seen as a collection of first steps in the designer’s latest round of simultaneous journeys.

“The process is not going to end. I still have the same gaze … It’s still me remixing things,” Michele said.

In his initial outing for Valentino, Michele interspersed hallmarks of the brand’s intensely pretty, ladylike identity — like pleated, tea-length skirts and ultra-classic pocketbook — with decadent touches associated with his own aesthetic: cascading shiny ruffles, (faux) fur trim, retro sunglasses and metallic or jewel-tone details. Other Michele-isms included contrast piping on ivory blazers, or looks that simultaneously featured plaid, paisley and monogram.

By releasing the collection on the morning of Gucci’s second menswear show by creative director Sabato De Sarno, Michele might be seen as announcing to partisans of the old Gucci that there’s a new place to shop — all while invoking Valentino’s codes just enough to not alienate existing fans.

But Michele insists that his reverence for the house Garavani built goes deep.

“I’m really in love with the place I have decided to inhabit, which is becoming my home,” he said.

“I’m touching extraordinary relics worn by extraordinary women who were his friends … His creations talk about him, about his very sophisticated fixations. About how a dress is a vehicle for extraordinary lives,” Michele said. “This world is very, very complex — and much less banal than we might think”

Meanwhile, as Michele gears up for his first foray into couture — set for early next year — the designer says he finds himself in ecstasy over the capabilities of Valentino’s ateliers and suppliers.

“There’s a level of workmanship that I see for the first time in a company. I can ask for the impossible, you know?,” Michele said. “For someone like me, it’s a continuous orgasm. It’s a climax.”

All the Looks From Alessandro Michele’s Valentino Debut

Valentino Spring 2025 Details

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