ROME — Alessandro Michele is speaking up.
The designer’s Gucci Cruise 2020 collection to be shown on Tuesday evening at the Capitolini Museums in Rome is a “hymn to freedom” that will allow him to express his belief in the idea of self-determination and gender equality.
Michele is empowering freedom of expression and, in particular, freedom of choice, supporting sexual and reproductive health and rights, illustrating this concept with the feminist slogan “My body, my choice” on some of the men’s and women’s pieces, as well as on a Chime for Change T-shirt, or embroidering an image of the female reproductive system on a gown — embellished with flowers. Some looks also display the date May 22, 1978, the day the Italian law for the social protection of motherhood and legal abortion took effect. In terms of style, the designer winks to the Seventies — a crucial time for the women’s liberation movement.
The new identity for the Chime for Change gender equality campaign was launched earlier this year, but Michele and Gucci have been committed to supporting the issue for the last five years. Chime for Change has already funded more than 825,000 euros in projects for reproductive and maternal health in countries ranging from Afghanistan and Bangladesh to Mali, the Philippines, South Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, the U.K. and the U.S., to name a few. Gucci has been fighting domestic violence, training in Italy 160 Gucci ambassadors against domestic violence in cooperation with the National Association D.i.R.e (Women’s Network Against Violence), the first Italian association of independent women’s centers and shelters against violence.
Here, ahead of the cruise show, Michele discusses exclusively with WWD the issues that are close to his heart, how fashion allows him to convey his message, his views on social media and how beauty “originated from chaos.”
WWD: Your collection strongly underscored the concept of freedom. What is freedom for you? How do you feel free and when do you feel freedom eludes you? How do you overcome that feeling? What are the norms that annoy you the most?
Alessandro Michele: I am a free spirit, I have always been a free spirit born under the stars of freedom. My parents brought me up in that way and I have spent my entire life fighting for inclusion. Nobody should have the right to decide about freedom of choice of any human being. No law should say to any person what to do or what not to do when it comes to very personal choices. Generally speaking, I am not really into rules, I understand the need of some of them but I prefer chaos. In my view beauty has been originated from chaos, chaos is actually in its own way order.
WWD: It is obvious you want to speak up for those who have no voice and I imagine fashion for you is a fit vehicle to express an opinion — at times even inconvenient. Unfortunately, as you know, social media today at times can even muzzle freedom of expression — when actually touting it. How do you cope with this contradiction? Do you feel more limited or, on the contrary, that you have to leverage even more of the tools at your disposal to express yourself?
A.M.: I’ve been given the great opportunity of being the creative director of one of the most famous and powerful fashion brands and thanks to [president and chief executive officer] Marco [Bizzarri] my voice has never been censored at all. My clothes, my shows, my campaigns and all the projects I am producing for Gucci are my voice, “my weapon” of choice. I have been lucky, I’ve been the megaphone and I really want to use it for a purpose. Social media is nowadays a great way to spread messages but at the same time it’s populated by haters and bullies. I have been bullied in my life and I know what that feeling is like and that’s why I am really pushing Gucci’s boundaries all the time to be inclusive. When I was younger I remember being teased by alpha males for wearing flamboyant clothes. If I did not use this opportunity I’ve been given, I would not be not true to myself nor to those who are facing similar circumstances.
WWD: The Capitoline Museums, unveiled in 1734, are considered the first museum meant as a location where art could be accessible and enjoyed by everyone. Is that the reason for choosing this venue — in addition to your passion for antiquity? Or are there other motivations?
A.M.: I used to go to the Musei Capitolini every weekend with my father, it was not only a place of beauty but also a place where you could have fun. I remember those moments, they are really vivid in my mind and those memories mean a lot to me. Years later, I have realized that the Capitolini was the first museum conceived to make art available for everybody, because in my modest view, art is the least exclusive thing on earth. I live in Rome and Rome lives in me, if you start from that perspective nothing is ancient and/or old, everything is contemporary, because everything is there. If every morning you see ancient monuments and statues, how can you say that they are not alive? They are there in everyday life, like me and you. It’s an ongoing dialogue between past and nowadays — future is just an assumption to define the contemporary.
WWD: The Seventies and women’s freedom are key references in your collection. How have things changed since then? Have important steps been made or are we regressing? If so, why in your opinion? Abortion has become once again a current theme after the recent Alabama and Missouri abortion laws. The date Italy approved the abortion law will be on some of the clothes, as will the slogan, “My body my choice.”
A.M.: My new cruise collection is, as usual, an homage to many things and to different cultures and historical moments. Among other citations, there are some references to the Seventies, a moment in time when boundaries were blurred compared with nowadays. A specific moment in time when different cultures were intermixed. It was a historical moment when women — finally — rejected all the constraints that were imposed in the previous centuries and they became free. That’s why I am paying homage to the Italian law regarding abortion, the law number 194. It’s unbelievable that around the world there are still people who believe that they can control a woman’s body, a woman’s choice. I will always stand behind the freedom of being, always.
The only world that I can imagine is a world where every single person can be who they would like to be, without any sort of restriction or judgement. At the beginning of this year I commissioned MP5, a Roman artist, to redesign our Chime for Change identity. She did that by integrating the double GG in the Chime logo. I really wanted Gucci even more embedded in this campaign. My aim was and is to pass a clear and loud message about the fact that the entire Gucci community is gathered together standing for gender equality.
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