A mood board without any clothing samples is an odd way of applying for a job that involves designing clothes. But Michele’s focus on what he and Gucci stood for beyond garments clearly appealed to Pinault.

The brand by then had a long history. It was founded in 1921 as a leather goods company. It was the mid-1990s when designer Tom Ford established it as a modern fashion powerhouse (paywall) with his seductive, sleek, outrageously sexy vision. Michele’s predecessor, Frida Giannini, largely followed down that path, but the clothes had ceased to feel fresh and exciting. Michele’s magpie approach was artsy, nerdy, and altogether different, and has turned Gucci again into an industry leader.

Models present a creation by designer Alessandro Michele as part of his 2019 Cruise collection show for fashion house Gucci at the Roman necropolis Alyscamps in Arles, France, May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier - RC1CC673A940
Some of the unusual looks from Gucci’s recent Cruise 2019 collection.
Image: Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier

“I discovered through that experience that the formula that is overrated is the ‘DNA’ of the brand,” Pinault explains in the interview, saying people imprison themselves by trying to reproduce that DNA. ”The brand is symbols, icons—it’s never a style.” That’s exactly what Michele showed him on that mood board.

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