Alessandro Michele is a master of unity. He is a conductor - bringing together different notes and rhythms in a strange but seductive harmony. Disparate decades, cultures and genres are clashed and correlated on his runway. He designs like a DJ - sampling, referencing and paying tribute, all while offering the odd scratches and unexpected beat drops that give pace and intrigue to a great set.
After yesterday’s Cruise show, staged in the imposing Palatine gallery of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, much was made of the fact that Michele really wanted to hold his runway in the Parthenon in Athens (aim big, is the Gucci motto, not only in terms of location, but also collection size - note the 115 looks). The Parthenon team seem to be the only people not currently drinking the Gucci kool-aid - they turned down the offer. No matter - the classical elements, most obvious in the gilded wreaths worn and carried by models, may have been intended to shine in a big fat Greek fashion show, but they worked just as well here in Florence. That’s because nothing really looks out of place on a Gucci runway - they are a vibrant free-for-all, a lesson in something-for-everyone. In this democratic vein, Michele nodded to the way people freely interpret brands and create their own messages and symbols based on their design heroes. He’s long had an interest in the way the internet and social media has taken the power away from brands in terms of controlling their own narrative and messages, hence why he embraced the subversive wit of meme makers, who often turn brands into jokes, for a recent watch campaign. How smart - long gone are the days where brands can dictate how their output is communicated and discussed. Dialogue now is complex, quick and audience-led. He’d nodded to this again at this show with garments emblazoned with slogans such as Guccification, Guccify Yourself and Guccy. They’ll fly off the shelves and dominate street style. But there’s more to them than surface. To misspell your own brand name is a punchy statement - one that shows supreme confidence. Gucci are the leaders of the pack at the moment, so they can afford to be so daring and tongue-in-cheek. Other brands are reaching and hoping, but Gucci are at the top looking down and playing.
‘Guccy’ sums up Michele’s Gucci - he’s taken what we all know, those illusive ‘codes of the house’, and messed with them, twisting them up with his own references, his keenest obsessions and the moods and ‘it’ items of the moment (see those ubiquitous and on-trend chunky dad trainers). He’s playing with fashion by playing with the house itself. It’s hard to criticise or parody his work when he’s doing it himself with such freewheeling joy and amusement. It must have been tempting, when showing in such regal settings, filled by great art from the masters, to try to elevate the collection and promote the preciousness of his pieces. He’d stayed away from any expected and stuffy fashion-as-art schtick and instead promoted the relevance and realness of his clothing. How refreshing.
‘Guccy’ also suggests fakery and bootlegging. It’s a popular trend at the moment to craft items that look like they could be knock-offs - see the work of Demna Gvasalia or the much-discussed collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Supreme. After all, why let the fraudsters take the cash when you can peddle the heavy-logos and chintzy flashing looks on your own shop floor? Those eighties-esque branded leather and fur pieces made me think of Dapper Dan, who sold monogrammed statement pieces from his Harlem boutique long before brands would dare to offer such smile-raising, unsubtle items in their own stores.
There were lots of new trinkets and details on show to delight the magpie-like Gucci consumer - those darling pearl embellishments certainly delighting those on the front row, brandishing iPhones in the hope of posting an Instagram hit. But, to me, it was the closing look that said the most - it was a printed pleated skirt, worn with a branded knit and a good bag. It’s certainly the look Michele is most known for, one that has run through his collections since his first season and a style that has filtered down from his dazzling runway spectacles to the racks of the high-street. It’s also proof that, wherever his mind wanders or wherever he stages his show, a classic winning formula remains just that - once you’re on to a winner, keep at it.