The designer who famously revamped Gucci and then left the business talks about what’s in store–meaning the future
His departure from Gucci will go down in fashion history as the most dramatic parting of ways. But the prolific designer didn’t waste much time getting back into the game. He moved to Los Angeles, found an agent, wrote a screenplay, signed a fragrance and cosmetics deal with Estée Lauder, and is currently considering several licensing deals. He talks to TIME’s Kate Betts about burning out, freaking out and the modern convenience of e-mail.
YOU ALWAYS SAID YOU WOULD NEVER HAVE YOUR OWN LABEL. WHAT CHANGED?
I honestly didn’t think I wanted my own label, because I was creatively very satisfied at Gucci and I never thought that would end when it did. I didn’t realize how much I loved the process of design because it had—like all jobs—become kind of tedious. I had taken on so much responsibility that I had no time in my life for anything but design, and so it took on a different meaning.
WAS IT HARD TO LEAVE GUCCI?
It was horrible. I did not want to leave. I was deeply, deeply depressed for probably six months. I felt like my life might just end. It’s only recently that I’m completely over it.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST SHOCK FOR YOU WHEN YOU LEFT?
I could not even send an e-mail because I had three assistants, so I never had to learn. I hadn’t shopped online. I didn’t appreciate how key that was to the way people shopped and lived today. I don’t think I was actually a contemporary person any longer, because I had become so isolated and removed from all of the daily activities that you do when you have the time to do them. I hadn’t been in a grocery store in years.
BUT NOW YOU’RE WRITING SCREENPLAYS. HOW DID YOU LEARN TO DO THAT?
Well, actually, I was a very good writer when I was young. I’m not saying it’s great, but I had read so many scripts, and it became very apparent to me that I had an idea of what I was looking for. So I just fleshed out a treatment, broke it into three acts, wrote the character descriptions, developed the story line and then got Final Draft software and put it on my computer. Now I’m working on it with this screenwriter to really pull it into a real thing.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
It’s somewhat autobiographical, but I don’t want to tell you too much. It’s about people that you and I both could know. It’s set in London and Los Angeles. It’s a love story, but not a conventional one.
WILL YOU EVER DESIGN WOMEN’S CLOTHING AGAIN?
At this point I have absolutely no desire to go back to women’s ready-to-wear. It doesn’t mean that I won’t one day, because I do miss that too, but all I have to do is remind myself of the incredible amount of work that it takes. I guess I’m still a little bit shell-shocked, mostly from having left Gucci. It took me quite a few months to become a person again.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
I didn’t have a life other than work, and I had accepted that. I didn’t remember what it was like to spend time on my personal relationships or time thinking about things that made me happy. I know I sound a little born-again at the moment, but I’m trying so hard to hang on to what I’ve learned in the past year, which is that there’s a lot more to life than work and that work can be fun, because the past two or three years of my job were actually really horrible.
WHY A FRAGRANCE?
I wear fragrance. I love scent. And it’s a way to have a voice and a revenue stream with minimal work and a much longer shelf life than clothing.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN ANTIAGING CREAMS?
I believe in good old-fashioned Botox, collagen and a little bit of a face-lift when you need it. You should take care of your skin, but when your neck is hanging down to your shirt collar, nothing is going to help that other than having it trimmed away.
WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE ABOUT FASHION IF YOU COULD?
Fashion would be more appealing to consumers if it didn’t change so quickly. The demand for change has put an enormous strain on the business and caused artificial changes in styles, and that ultimately is why so many people have rejected fashion and walk around in T shirts and comfortable pants.