Until Monday morning, this summer’s Milan Fashion Week proceeded mostly according to script. And then, on the final day of menswear-palooza, Alessandro Michele introduced the first real plot twist: just two months into his new job as creative director of Valentino, Michele revealed an enormous surprise collection for the Roman house. If anyone was wondering whether the ex-Gucci designer would need to warm up after over a year on the bench, here was the resounding answer: the pre-Spring 2025 lookbook features no fewer than 171 looks, plus 93 more images of bags, shoes, and jewelry,

The co-ed offering dubbed “Avant les Débuts” sees Michele picking up right where he left off at Gucci, where his elaborate, artistic vision–which merged Victorian opulence with a punk-ish, gender-fluid attitude–defined an era of fashion. In look after look (after look… after look), his introductory salvo for Valentino is a clear rubric of the playfully ornate moves that Michele made his name on. There’s a plaid rockstar suit worn with a silk pussy bow and boho fringe-y suede purse. A long golden mohair cardigan with a big T-shirt, dad jeans, and leather loafers. A patterned sweater vest that would be perfect for Harry Styles, and a knit tunic you can already picture on Jared Leto, two Michele devotees who will surely soon begin residing at “Chez Valentino,” a new tagline splayed across dad hats and graphic tees.

Speaking to Vogue Runway’s Tiziana Cardini, Michele explained that his sheer enthusiasm for Valentino made it impossible to wait until his official debut at Paris Fashion Week in September. “I started working at Valentino as if we were an orchestra; everyone was playing his instrument with so much love and dedication that I thought it’d be right to be thankful and grateful to the people who have worked so tirelessly to make it happen,” Michele said. “My job is to tune the instruments, and it’s all about sharing, so to keep the collection somehow hidden from view wouldn’t have felt right. This is a beginning born out of love—it wants to be brought to light and be seen and shared.” The pre-season products will likely start hitting stores toward the end of the year.

The timing of the hastily-announced release is pointed. Monday marks the sophomore menswear show of Michele’s successor at Gucci, Sabato de Sarno, who was previously the head of ready-to-wear at Valentino. We now know that there’s essentially been a grand aesthetic reversal between the two houses. De Sarno’s first Gucci men’s collection articulated a practical wardrobe of chic daywear, while Michele is doubling down on his retro, cinematic signature, from the rococo vibe all the way down to individual products and fabrics that instantly bring to mind his work at Gucci.

Michele’s strategy fits with a broader theme that has played out this Milan Fashion Week, where designers have by and large shied away from taking risks and instead focused on playing to their strengths. Speaking to The Business of Fashion, Michele hinted—in his typically spicy manner—that moving forward he will use the tools at his disposal in the Valentino atelier to push his work to new dimensions of craft. At Valentino, he said, “There’s a level of workmanship that I see for the first time in a company. I can ask for the impossible, you know? For someone like me, it’s a continuous orgasm. It’s a climax.”

See all the men’s looks from Valentino pre-Spring 2025 below.

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