For the penultimate episode of Season 1 of As Me, Sinéad brings it back to fashion with Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele. He sat down with Sinéad in Milan prior to #stayhome, but much of what Alessandro says feels relevant to these strange times. He shares his zest for life, even in the most tragic of moments, how the unique little boy he once was shaped who he is today.
[00:09] Sinéad Burke: Welcome to As Me with Sinéad. I’m still at home, as I imagine you might be, too. This is week seven for me in Ireland. And as we’ve discussed before, it’s rare that I am in one place. But it’s been lovely to have a routine, which is in many ways a privilege and a currency that I wasn’t aware of before. Having a schedule that meant I was in most different countries, sometimes every day. The speed of that, it was just a blur. So now every morning I wake, I do a skincare routine of cleansing, exfoliating, serum and moisturizer and have 10 minutes to myself in total quiet whilst the rest of the house is asleep. And then I go for a walk and call a friend. And for 40 minutes we narrate to each other what’s going on in our heads. In many ways, answering the question that we always ask on this show: what’s the monologue that’s inside your head? And it has been comforting to realize that even though she and I are experiencing this isolation in two different parts of Ireland, our experiences and our fears and our anxieties and our worries are really similar. And then I come home and I water my plants. And you’ll be pleased to know that they are still in existence. Though I do have questions about the tomatoes, I have recently learned that I should be bringing them inside at night. That it’s far too cold for tomatoes to flourish in Ireland’s current climate. So I feel unexpectedly responsible for their death. I really hope that they’re OK.
[01:46] Sinéad Burke: What’s on my mind this week is the trauma that will each be left with even when things begin to reopen. I don’t think this is going to be something that we just experience in this moment, and once a new reality begins to arise that we’ll have forgotten this, I think of the older people who have tried their very best to grip on to any remaining thread of independence. And we have told them that, at least here in Ireland, if you’re over 70, you must cocoon. I’m thinking about the children who won’t get to go back to school this year, who miss their friends. Who maybe if they are the only child in their family, miss interacting with other children and may not get to do so still for some months. What’s on my mind is the time that we’ll need to heal each other after this moment. I think we’re all very conscious and focused of checking in with friends and relatives and asking them how they are right now because the understanding that they might need you is tangible. But what happens when our lives begin to accelerate again? Will we forget to ask people how they are? And mean it? And allow people to be vulnerable and explain the thoughts that are in their head? I’m not sure because it’s not something that I’ve historically been good at. But I’m really going to try and practice.
[03:07] Sinéad Burke: But in brighter news, this weekend I had the amazing opportunity to speak with one of my favorite people for Pod-A-Palooza, which was this incredible virtual festival to raise money for Covid-19 and affiliated organizations all around podcasting. It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like that. And Stephanie from Last Day and Andy from In the Bubble also participated. But I got to talk to the wonderful DeRay McKesson, who has been a guest on this show, and if you haven’t listened to that episode, you do so right now. DeRay and I, we both share a background in teaching, though, his is maths, which is not my skillset. But we got to talk about advocacy and podcasting. You know, DeRay brought so much insight from being the host of Pod Save the People and how it’s important and necessary to tell the same story until people listen. And to find a new way into it. And how in terms of his work and his advocacy in police brutality, you can’t hear it enough. It taught me a huge amount. And I also learned that he had a certain flippancy when choosing to buy his now infamous blue vest, which I told him here in Europe is called a body warmer. He wasn’t so convinced. But really, in many ways, what it underlined to me is the importance of education. And how As Me with Sinéad and Pod Save the People are vehicles to educate people of their own ignorance and biases. It’s a tool we all need to wield and learn from. Maybe you listening to this, maybe you’re next to use podcasting as a platform for advocacy.
[04:44] Sinéad Burke: But if you want to listen to that conversation, or perhaps even watch it, it’s going to be up on their website really very soon. And I know I’m biased, but I definitely think you should. This week’s episode is bittersweet because this is our last official episode. We’ll have a grandiose goodbye next week. But this has been a project that I’m so proud of. I’ll never forget Stephanie and Jess of Lemonade Media sending me an email around this time last year, if not a couple of months before. And it was one of those emails that you kind of think this sounds too good to be true, but it wasn’t. And it has been a project that has changed me and shaped me. But as is that wonderful, possibly overused phrase, all good things must come to an end. At least for the moment. So in thinking of who to be our last official episode guest, well, this week’s guest couldn’t be more appropriate, or more fitting, because this week we are speaking to the creative director of Gucci, Alessandro Michele. And it feels even more important now because when we recorded this episode, we did it in Milan. And looking at what Italy has experienced in the past few weeks, and how they’re beginning to come out of such a troublesome period, it feels right that we honor somebody who is such an icon in their own country. And it’s important to know that we did record this episode before Coronavirus. But Alessandro’s positivity and his gratitude for life was so contagious that even though the outside world continues to be turbulent, this feels like such a brilliant fit for this show and this moment.
[06:26] Alessandro Michele: You can do what you want if you believe in your passion. It’s something to make you alive, strong and happy. If you find your passion, everything is easier. My passion is like my blood, it’s always with me.
[06:43] Sinéad Burke: Are you ready for this week’s episode? Let’s go.
[06:52] Sinéad Burke: On this week’s episode of As Me with Sinéad, I’m sitting across from a person who in many ways changed my life. I got to meet them for the first time in February this year. And they are the kind of person who, when in their presence, there is an aura of such kindness, creativity and curiosity around them. And since then, I’ve been very blessed for a friendship to blossom and to grow, and to learn so much about who they are as a person. So when this podcast came about, I emailed him and said, “will you please talk to me about who you are?” And with the generosity that he is known for, he said yes. And not only did he say yes, but he said yes to doing this two days after his presentation and his show at Milan Fashion Week. I’m sitting across from Alessandro Michele, creative director and genius at Gucci. And we are in his office here in Milan, which you are not privy or fortunate to see, but we are surrounded by nature with the most beautiful murals on the wall. Alessandro, this is such a gift. Thank you so much for speaking with me.
[08:06] Alessandro Michele: Thank you. I am so happy to be here with you. And thank you for your presentation, it is such amazing. I didn’t know if you was talking about me. I’m so happy, you know? Being with you is such an honor because for the very first time that we met, I understood that you were so special. I have time to spend with you also for a nice chat, it’s a gift. So thank you again. It’s beautiful. You know, people — nobody has time to, you know, to spend time to chat and to share things. So I quite like the idea of the postcard, that it’s I think that they are getting really popular with young generation. And I love it because it’s like that we are getting back in the past, when my granny was usually, you know, listen all day the radio and the beautiful conversation and voices, you know, they’re such a powerful, you know, element of human beings, the voice. So I think that, like, you are so brilliant that you immediately understand that, just the voice is so powerful.
[09:22] Sinéad Burke: And for me, one of the most powerful parts about this is that the people listening to us, as you said, have no idea what we look like. They have no idea what kind of room we’re in. They just get to know us and what we think and what we believe. And my first question is, how do you describe yourself both you, as Alessandro, as a person, and you as the creative director at Gucci?
[09:51] Alessandro Michele: Much easier Alessandro as a person, because I can’t see the other one. I’m just in touch with Alessandro the guy. I’m not so good to describe myself. The only thing that I can say is I’m that kind of happy person. I mean, I’m really love my life. I have a big passion, more than one. My first passion, it’s humanity. I love to be alive. And fashion is just one, you know, language that make me feel alive. I really worked hard in my life to be what I am. I’m not talking about my position because my position, it’s just beautiful because I have the power to use my creativity. That’s the only power that I have. And to share with everybody my creativity, my vision, that’s the only thing that I can say about my job. It’s such a hard and, you know, not easy job, because if you want to work as a person and not as, you know, a character of fashion, it’s complicated, you know, because it’s like I’m usually say it’s like everyday be with your therapist. So it’s like a therapy that doesn’t, you know, finish, never. It’s unbelievable. I’m just a person, you know, it’s such a beautiful sensation to feel yourself like a person on the earth.
[11:27] Sinéad Burke: And if we were talking to the people who know you best, how would you like them to describe you, Alessandro, the person?
[11:33] Alessandro Michele: Honestly, my closest friend, maybe they would say they quite like to go out for a nice dinner with me because they have fun. I think that they love me like I love them. It’s a mutual love. Every single person that is a friend of mine, they understand that I have a personal conversation with each of them. So I try to be really in them in their life, you know, in a very sincere way. So they really feel me. I try to be, you know, both things: a deep friend that try to understand you. And at the same time, I try to make your life easier, if I can. That’s it. Also with a dinner. Well, and nice breakfast. It’s a very simple way. You know, I think that they understood that my friendship is something simple, clear, transparent. Being authentic, it’s so powerful.
[12:47] Sinéad Burke: And what were you like when you were younger, when you were in school? Were you always creative and sure of your voice?
[12:57] Alessandro Michele: I think that I was almost the same person, exactly the same that I am now. I just care that I want to be, you know, sure to feel with the right things that make me feel good. I really care about my little boy that is still living inside of me. I think I was always the same. I was a nice boy, happy boy, curious. You know, I wanted to change my life. I wanted to change the life of everybody. I was a delicate boy, but really strong, you know, with a crazy idea in his mind. I enjoyed it so much, you know, to be alive, like now. So I didn’t stop from the very beginning of the morning until I was going to sleep, just like crazy alive. So I was changing my hair a million times. The first time that I changed the color of my hair was like 12. And I remember that I came out from the restroom of my family and my mom was like, I can’t believe tomorrow going to school. But they were so open, you know, because they understood that they were all signs of my energy. Because I was a good guy at school, but I was such a crazy guy because I went to school in million different looks. Crazy. I didn’t care, you know, I didn’t care about the seasons. I didn’t care about, you know, the idea that the cool, I mean, was crazy to go so young at school with that look.
[14:40] Sinéad Burke: I think it’s interesting that you describe yourself as a delicate but a very strong boy. And as you know, my background is in teaching. And I’m often curious because often those children who are both delicate and strong, school sometimes is not easy for them because whilst they don’t care what they look like, other people care, and maybe not in positive ways.
[15:04] Alessandro Michele: No, no, it’s not easy, because if you are different — I found myself really different. Maybe I didn’t know about the idea that I was, you know, a gay guy. I didn’t know, I was too young. I didn’t understand, really. I understood that I was different in different ways. Thanks God that now there is a new word that can, you know, help people to survive because was not easy to survive. I mean, I met a lot of nice people, and the other 50 percent was kind of terrible, you know. Little kids, and obviously, I mean, the blame was of the family. You know, it’s the word now, thanks God it’s changing. And, you know, families they are more open. They try to teach to all these kids, how is important to, you know, to respect every human being.
[16:11] Sinéad Burke: But it was hard.
[16:13] Alessandro Michele: Very hard, still very hard, I think. But it’s beautiful, I was talking with my nephew a few days ago, chatting by phone, asking about the very beginning of the school. He changed because he moved from a little village outside Rome, in Rome, in the center of the city. So he’s in a new school. And he was like, “oh, I’m so happy because I have a new friend.” And I said, “oh, who is he?” And he said, “is this such a nice guy.” And blah, blah, blah. So I was asking about more and more. And at the end, he said, “oh, he is. He’s nice. He’s a nice Asian guy.” I mean, I was asking exactly, you know, which area of Asia. He didn’t know. You know, he just said it he’s Asian. I loved, you know, the word Asian. And I loved the idea that he didn’t specify because at the end, it was more of me, you know, that I want to get into the description of the guy. He was more, you know, about, you know, how he was nice, you know? And that’s what I like.
[17:27] Sinéad Burke: It’s so interesting that as people when we talk about language, as you said, language can be really powerful, and can help give us independence and can help make us feel more comfortable. But it can also be hurtful. You said that when you were younger, you didn’t have the language to say things like that you were different, or perhaps that you were gay. When did you first have that language?
[17:53] Alessandro Michele: I first had it when I decided, you know, to start my career in fashion, when I went into Fashion Academy. Because the beautiful thing about fashion, that it’s really a powerful platform, you know. Also almost 30 years ago, a long time ago, but it was a beautiful, you know, space where everybody were more, you know, open to light to express and be yourself. So have to say, really, thanks God that I decided to go there. And the real school after was my job, because the job was more and more, you know, open than the school. So the real life. And I felt much, much better, you know, because I think that the world is full of flowers everywhere. But if you don’t give them the chance to bloom, that’s really a shame.
[19:00] Sinéad Burke: And I think in many ways we are a little bit similar. I love the story of you coming out of the bathroom with your hair a tacky yellow, and your mother kind of rolling her eyes and thinking, of course he’s done that. Exactly the story of the flower blossoming. The reason why I’m a success, the reason why I’m sitting across from you today is because I have amazing parents, and I have amazing siblings, brothers and sisters. And regardless of what it is I choose and dream to do, even if it seems impossible, they are so supportive of me. But when you told your parents and your family that you wanted to be a fashion designer, what age were you and what did they say?
[19:47] Alessandro Michele: They thought that I was crazy. Not in a nice way, but they thought it’s not a job. And if you don’t get the job, what can be the other chance, you know? I mean. It’s like when you came out and you say, I want to be an actor. But in case that you don’t get the job, what’s the plan B? I didn’t have the Plan B, I never had a plan B, because I don’t care about the Plan B, I’m the person that I want to life now. I believe in things and that’s it. There is no plan B. They were open, you know, they really love my soul. They really support me in the way that be yourself. I mean, we don’t care. Be what you want to be. And they were just upset about how many, you know, huge walls I was meeting on the way. But they were happy, I mean, at the end they said, do what you want to do, it’s you. And also, you know, there were no other chance, because it was really — I can’t say that I was in a way tough, you know, because I really wanted to be. I didn’t care. You know, I went with my face everywhere. And it was not easy because I was always, always, always like dying. It’s almost like this, like today, you know, I’m working in fashion, I’m trying to do and express what I have in my mind, but every time I have to go on the stage, every time I have to meet someone, I feel so nervous. Because there is a part of me that is really shy. I’m not shy, but it’s not easy to be public. It’s not easy to be, you know, in front of everybody. So there is always a part of me that’s scared, you know? And I was scared that time. But when I decided it was so strong inside of me, you know, when you have something that you really wanted to do it.
[21:56] Sinéad Burke: And you spoke there, and you mentioned that when you do have to step in front of a microphone or stand on a stage and be in the spotlight, you get nervous. How do you build up your confidence? How do you step into Alessandro, the creative director?
[22:14] Alessandro Michele: Honestly, I just love feeling the power of the people. This is the only thing that make me feel a little bit better, because it’s every time it’s like a big hug. Because in the moment when I go on the stage and I feel — I don’t know why — I can feel something. It’s hard, but the power of, you know, of love, of people, and also a piece of myself that love the job and believe in what I’m doing, that I think inside of me go on the stage and it’s nothing. Because I think that I’m really in contact with myself, with all the things that, you know, make me insecure. And I have to say that being secure in a way and feel the idea that I’m nothing in front of the stage, in front of the people, make me feel alive. It means that I’m a person. And I can’t be resist to be just like everybody, you know? I’m like everybody. I remember when I received the first awards, I was like, that’s such a crazy thing. I’m just a person. I didn’t do nothing special. The idea that you feel always not really prepared helps.
[23:37] Sinéad Burke: I think it’s wonderful when you can stand in the spotlight and feel people’s support. What I have learned from my own experience is that it’s hard sometimes to stand in the spotlight when, not necessarily the support isn’t there, but I find it difficult standing in front of a classroom when I’ve made a mistake. And when children say to me, “no, you did that wrong.” But it takes real bravery and courage to step forward when something like that happens.
[24:08] Alessandro Michele: Yeah, it’s hard. It’s almost the same when I’m working with all my big family and in the studio, you know, they are a lot. I can’t see myself like them when I was 22, 24. It’s interesting, you know, because you are always just a person in front of other person. And you pretend sometimes to let them learn and listen you. But it’s not — I mean it can be hard to listen to them. I’m learning a lot. It’s beautiful. Have young audience and have the chance to share time, thoughts and piece of your journey with young people is beautiful.
[25:03] Sinéad Burke: And there are probably lots of young people listening to this. I can just imagine young Alessandro flicking through magazines and looking at images that were on the catwalk and thinking, I want to do that. And there are lots of young people who perhaps don’t have the vocabulary to describe how they feel different, but they feel like fashion is home to them. What advice would you give them?
[25:30] Alessandro Michele: Passion. I mean, believe in their passion. You can do what you want if you believe in your passion. It’s something to make you alive, strong and happy. So don’t care who you are, where you’re from. Because I came from a very complicated, you know, place where it was not really hard also to go out with blonde hair. But I really believed, and I found my passion. If you find your passion. Everything is easier.
[26:05] Sinéad Burke: How do you describe your passion?
[26:07] Alessandro Michele: My passion is like my blood. It’s always with me. I don’t need to think about my passion, My passion, it’s me. I am my own passion. When I walk in the suite, when I go to sleep, I mean, I feel surrounded by my passion, and my passion make me feel so, so happy. Otherwise, I couldn’t do this job. Because it’s such a stressful job. But I can’t resist. And more passion you have, more you will live forever.
[29:02] Sinéad Burke: I’m so inspired by how you talk about your passion. And I have days where I just feel like giving up. I just feel like I don’t have it in me anymore. I just want to go to bed. Do you ever have days like that?
[29:21] Alessandro Michele: Yeah, sure. I think that is totally normal, because when you love something so much, and you really want it, and you want to go ahead with something, and you are human, everyday you want to give up, and everyday you want to go ahead. That’s the energy. There’s two different part that it’s you that they produce power. It’s something chemical. If you put the part of Sinéad that won’t give up, that is too much, that you feel that you don’t have the power every day to go ahead, it’s in conversation with the one that is like a warrior. In the middle, there is the energy of Sinéad. So you need both because otherwise you feel yourself like you’re not immortal. You must feel that you count to be in contact with everybody, with your passion, with the things that are, you know, between you and the people that surround you. I think that is completely human. It’s like love, you know? You feel that when you love someone so much, you feel that you can’t go ahead. But you want to go ahead.
[30:45] Sinéad Burke: And in the moments where you feel like you can’t go ahead, what do you do?
[30:50] Alessandro Michele: First of all, I need friends. When I feel there is too much. I feel that I must, you know, like, you know, try to swim in the love that surround me and all the friends and people. So immediately I wanted to chat with someone and feel myself connected. I’m not that person that, you know, decide to stay at home. I deal with my bad moments sometimes with just with my friends, with my boyfriend, that he’s a great person. The thing that really saved me in my life also in the very bad moments, it’s love. There is nothing else. A different kind of love. For me its just one with different faces, but it’s almost the same. I mean, if you are not surrounded by love, you can’t work, you can’t fight, you can’t live. There is no reason. I’m not saying that you need to find a boyfriend or girlfriend. Love is such a complicated and mysterious and fascinating thing. It’s everywhere. You have the chance to see love everywhere if you want to see. And that’s the only thing that you need in your life.
[32:21] Sinéad Burke: We’re living in complicated and challenging times, but what gives you hope?
[32:29] Alessandro Michele: Young people, really young, 19, 20, 21, 22. I think that they are amazing. They are different from me and from people of my generation. They are more loyal. Maybe they don’t believe in politics, but they believe in one politic that is the heart, love, equality. Maybe they don’t like to go to vote, I don’t know, because it’s something very personal, I didn’t ask. But they vote in their life. They act every day. Like in my studio, guys ask me why we don’t stop to use plastic bottles. I decided to clean up all the company from the plastic bottles. I was yesterday listening to the beautiful speech of Greta. I was preparing me to go to bed and I went to bed like, thanks God that someone gave the voice to this beautiful girl. She’s an angel. If there is, you know, a religion and if it’s true that some saints really existed in the past, they were human. We can call her like a saint.
[33:45] Sinéad Burke: And I think one of the important things when we hear from young people — you mentioned Greta, I listened to her speech, too. And it made me think, what can we do? What can we all do? Because the responsibility on young people to change the world is so important. But those of us who are older, I’m outside of 25, those of us who are older, we have the responsibility to do better and to do more.
[34:13] Alessandro Michele: I don’t stop to learn. I am learning that I have to respect more and more, you know, the earth. We must start from really little things, you know, like I was thinking to wash million times your clothes. Million times. I mean, I smell like a flower. I don’t need to wash my clothes every minute for a spot.
[34:41] Sinéad Burke: We have to be very conscious of it.
[34:43] Alessandro Michele: Very conscious. But not that you are in front watching TV and saying that’s so true. You must switch off the TV and start to do every single thinking. The hurt is you in your apartment. You know, dealing with you and trying to tell you you can go ahead with this, you know, acting like crazy, that we put it in the fridge million, you know, boxes and things and stupid things, foods that we we are not going to eat. And, you know, I mean, I was thinking for my crazy, you know, obsession with creams and things. And it was saying how many creams you need? Maybe one, just one.
[35:32] Sinéad Burke: It’s hard because we’re working in a fashion industry where it’s about creating dreams and creating beauty. And it’s trying to find that balance between designing a world where people feel comfortable and safe to be themselves, but understanding that it has an impact on nature, it has an impact on the world around us and something we need to be conscious of.
[35:54] Alessandro Michele: Yeah, you must be conscious when you work. I’m trying to say that we must keep our clothes. I love clothes. I have million clothes. But I mean, I care of every single thing that I have. I mean, I wear clothes that are from, you know, years ago. And I adore the things that surround me. I preserve everything, you know, from time. And from, you know, the ruin. So and and when I’m working, we are not using some color, we are not using a lot of things because, you know, the company started a long, long time ago because Pinault family, they are really, really, really in these kind of things in their life. It’s not marketing. So I can’t use a lot of things from a long time. So for me, it’s completely normal. You know, now we are working in a lot for a lot of different ways, trying to respect in the best way, in the best way. And also, we didn’t stop. I feel so proud to work in this company because I feel not guilty, never. Because also we know that there are still things where we must work on that. It’s such a conversation that never stop. Every day, you know, every morning, every day. And that’s so beautiful because I love this job. I want to do this job in the right way. I mean, I feel lucky because I love people, you know, I love humanity. I don’t feel never uncomfortable. It’s the only way that I feel really uncomfortable. Like today, I was uncomfortable to have this chat because there was like a microphone. But I was in love with the idea to meet you and talk to you. So I think life it’s about a very simple thing, I know that it’s I’m kind of someone can say you are saying such a stupid things. It’s so easy to say that you love your life, but I loved life also when I was a young guy. Slso when I had a lot of problems. Also, I have to say something strong, I loved my life also when I lost my mom and my dad. I thought, this is my life and it’s the energy of the earth. Me, it’s almost like them, one day I will die. And I had a great father. My father teached me that we are like trees. We can put seeds everywhere and you will live forever. And he told me maybe one day where I will be not anymore with you, I will be a bird. So every day could be possible that there is a bird that came to me where I’m eating, having breakfast, and I think that is my dad. That’s what I believe. I believe that earth is such a mysterious and beautiful place, you know, and there is no time to be scared, to be upset. It’s just beautiful. Also, when we have bad moments, you know, and it’s not easy to go ahead, I think that if we are really connected with people, and the people that it’s me, the people people, it’s me.
[41:35] Sinéad Burke: What’s been your happiest day?
[41:38] Alessandro Michele: One day that I really felt something special in my life, that was when my second nephew, Pietro — I love both, I mean, they are beautiful. But the first, I didn’t have the chance because I was in London, I lived in London, I didn’t have time to come back and meet him the very first day of his life. And I adore him. But the second, when he came out it was the beginning of my holidays and I was in Tuscany. And it was during the night I received this call and someone told me, “you have another nephew, he’s here.” And I completely, you know, escape and running away in Rome, kilometers and kilometers with my car. And so I saw him that it was already, he came out just a few hours ago, and there was a beautiful light that came in the room and was spraying this little human being in my arms. I felt what was life? I felt myself in my hands. I said, maybe you’ve been like him a long time ago. And I was like, that’s a real mystery. I can’t believe that something like this can happen. He was looking at me, maybe no, because he couldn’t. But I felt like it was a baby me looking at me. And I felt happy because I felt myself. I mean, my dad and my mom, they’d gone. They were not anymore with me. But it was like the end of a lesson, you know, that maybe they were, you know, this little kid. Because life it’s mysterious and the energy of the earth is, you know, going on and going on. And it’s beautiful.
[43:59] Sinéad Burke: As we said earlier, this is a podcast and they’re just listening to our voices. But what is it like to live in your body?
[44:09] Alessandro Michele: Not easy, sometime is not easy, because there are days where I don’t like myself. And I didn’t like myself. Now in the last few years, like three or four years, I’m loving me so much. It’s like that I can see in front of the mirror that I’m getting old and my face is changing. I’m usually called myself with a friend of mine from Los Angeles, the beaver. It’s like a funny way to say that I’m changing and I’m getting maybe less beautiful. But when I look at me, I can see a much better person. And it was not easy. This body, this phase at the very beginning of my life, you know, because I felt like that the people can recognize that it was something not regular in me. There was a part of me, you know, that going through people, for example, in school, at the school when I was walking, you know, the end of the lessons and he was coming out to the classroom and there was a huge quantity of people. It was like maybe they are looking at the very bad me. And it was also about my body, you know, because the body, it’s such a crazy, you know, representation of yourself. You know, it’s like they don’t know how I am. You know what? I was so afraid that they didn’t have the chance to talk with me, you know? And now it’s more that I found a way to deal. And we feel much better and we are loving each other.
[46:09] Sinéad Burke: What was the moment that changed you three or four years ago.
[46:11] Alessandro Michele: When I had the courage to show all of myself? Yeah. When I said let it be.
[46:21] Sinéad Burke: How did that moment come about?
[46:23] Alessandro Michele: Being really sincere in a way that the power came from the other people. I found the power because people really loved me. That was the moment. I remember that when I started to work, I understood that everything was going on the right way and people were in a way appreciating me. I felt, you know, myself better and better. I said, maybe I can give up. Take off the mask. I think that it’s important that if people try to really get into your mind and try to understand you and your reason, people find the time to really be in touch with you, appreciate you. It’s so important, you know, because it will be someone that will help you. It’s a mutual thing.
[47:17] Sinéad Burke: Exactly. I fell in love with fashion for that reason, because when I would walk down the street, people would look at my body and they would be cruel or they would be kind. And I didn’t choose to live in this body, but I am very proud and I love my body now. And like you, it has taken me some time to get there. And for me, I think that’s why I love fashion, because fashion is not a mask for me, but it’s a way to reveal the most sincere me to the world. Because if I can wear a blue silk gown in the biggest business conference in the world, that will tell you that I am courageous, that I don’t give up, that I am feminine, that I am strong. And I wonder how you see your role here at Gucci in doing that for other people.
[48:20] Alessandro Michele: It’s something very, you know, natural for me because I am one of these people, those people I feel in the audience. I feel myself in the audience. It’s about my life. I have to say that when I started, I didn’t feel the pressure that I had to do something fashionable. I thought that fashionable was to be sincere, you know. And I didn’t have other chance to say other things, because it’s I mean, I had just something in my mind. So I am feel very happy if other people are finding something in what I’m saying, and they are feeling, you know, connected with the idea of freedom. Also, when I’m working, there is always a problem with someone because it means that I’m not acting. I’m doing something, you know, in the right way because I’m trying to saying the truth. And I’m opening kind of a conversation, you know, and I feel really good when I can express something that belongs to me but also belongs to other people. And when you are working, you are not thinking about money. When you’re working, you’re not thinking that you are building your popularity. It’s just that you are doing what you are thinking and what you believe. Not easy in an era of likes and this kind of things where people are trying to find, you know, a kind of, you know, a reason to exist. I think that’s pretty crazy. You know, it is something that is going wrong.
[50:12] Sinéad Burke: When you get older and older and older, when the full circle of life is approaching its end. What do you want to have achieved?
[50:24] Alessandro Michele: I just hope that things that I’ve done, they will, like I was saying, like seeds grow something in other people. I hope that I have been authentic and someone just maybe also one person, five, 100, 1 million, they change something in their brain. I don’t want to do big things. I want to do small and little things, you know, in people. I hope that when I will, you know, look back at what I’ve done, will be nothing to regret because I don’t really like to regret. It means that you didn’t have, you know, the time and and you didn’t have the courage to do something in the right way, because if you do something that you really believe, you will not have regrets. Sometimes, I mean, I imagine myself in a million other bodies. I don’t know why. I mean, if I don’t go in front of the mirror, I forgot how I am. I’m not usually look at me.
[51:42] Sinéad Burke: What do you sometimes think you look like?
[51:46] Alessandro Michele: It’s the part of me that I tried to dream about, you know, the physical act to walk and to be in a street. That’s why I imagine me like if I have not a regular body. It’s just a machine that hold my brain. You know what I mean? Yeah. It’s so strange. And when I go in, maybe I’m in a restaurant. I go in the toilet and I look at me, oh, my gosh, it’s so fun to look me in the mirror because it’s it’s so clear that I care about I don’t care, you know, because it’s that it’s like that I’m not finding a way to be really good looking. I can cut my hair. I want to be just comfortable with myself. I feel myself like a plant. So that’s why I let my hair grow. Yeah. It’s like to be more close to the nature.
[52:48] Sinéad Burke: Well, I think we’re different. You go to the bathroom in a restaurant and you can see yourself in the mirror. I can’t. So I imagined myself in all different bodies, too. And it’s usually the world that reminds me because people say, look, there’s a little woman.
[53:06] Alessandro Michele: You are such a miracle. Yeah, it’s so true. You know, it’s such the proof that the world is mysterious and fascinating, you know, but not because you are exotic, but because we are all different. And the idea that we are all different make the world so unbelievable.
[53:31] Sinéad Burke: It makes it curious and exciting. I have loved speaking with you. Thank you so much for embracing your nervousness and being so kind, and sitting across from me, I have learned so much. And I am so grateful for your time and for sharing your energy and your ideas.
[53:52] Alessandro Michele: Thank you, Sinéad. I love you so much and I hate my English.
[54:02] Sinéad Burke: My favorite part of this conversation was the emphasis on curiosity and kindness. I think when we talk about leadership so often, the definition of leadership is quite archaic, and maybe even aggressive and a bit masculine. And Alessandro has a really important and overwhelming role, and is required to be both public and private and an artist all simultaneously. But actually listening to him talking about the value of kindness, and how it’s essential for what he does, and the importance of curiosity and asking why and being curious about the world around you really encouraged me to do better with that in and of myself. Make sure you join us for next week’s episode, we have something really special planned. And I’d like to admit that I won’t be getting emotional. Well, really, that’s unlikely. T
[54:54] Sinéad Burke: This week’s person you should know is the wonderful Eleanor Welch. Eleanor is an actor here based in Ireland who has autism. And that’s not entirely relevant, except I was first exposed to Eleanor’s work when I saw her on stage in Ireland’s Abbey Theater on a play written by and about autism and autistic people. It was transformative. And during this pandemic, I’ve had some really lovely opportunities. And one of them is to write a 10-minute play. It’s called These Four Walls. And it goes out tonight on YouTube for the Abbey Theater. And it’s about the importance of education and teachers. And Eleanor plays the lead role. So even if you don’t watch that play, you should become familiar with Eleanor’s work because she’s really extraordinary.
[55:36] Sinéad Burke: As Me is a production of Lemonade Media. Claire Jones is our assistant producer. Ivan Kuraev is our editor. And Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs are our executive producers.