MILAN — Oh, to be 100 and not feel it.
Gucci is marking its centenary this year, but creative director Alessandro Michele sees the brand as “an infant that is constantly reborn and recreated. It’s incredible how Gucci has gone through multiple lives and continues to be so popular.”
In an interview on Thursday, ahead of the release of the film presenting his latest collection for the brand, called Aria, and a year after his decision to change the pace of the Gucci collections, naming them after the music world, Michele is energized and happy, despite the tough past months as the pandemic continued to impact lives globally, and the work and precautions gone into preparing the film.
The designer said he felt “free,” giving “a natural rhythm” to the collections. “Of course, there is more responsibility in this self-pacing, and I want to be attentive to the company and position the brand in a respectful way. I see there is a very democratic movement, designers are positioning their brands in ways that will avoid getting in the way of the others.” Michele revealed during the interview that the Aria collection will be shown in Shanghai later this spring.
This positive mood is reflected in the video and Michele admitted that it was meant to have a strong impact on the viewers. “I like to mix, mold and work different languages and after [the film series directed with] Gus [Van Sant to present the previous collection last November] I felt like celebrating 100 years of Gucci, which is not only fashion, it’s the essence of fashion, it’s life and its great strength is being so popular. Gucci is a film, a song, a world, a character from a movie, a pop star,” he mused.
Indeed, the soundtrack of the video, directed once again by Michele this time with Floria Sigismondi, mixes several songs dedicated to Gucci, from Lil Pump “Gucci Gang,” and Rick Ross featuring Future in “Green Gucci Suit” to Bhad Bhabie’s “Gucci Flip Flops (featuring Lil Yachty)” and Die Antwoord and Dita Von Teese’s “Gucci Coochie,” among others.
Michele marveled at the number of songs containing the Gucci word. “We tried counting them but there’s one or two new ones at least per week,” he said. “But the name is so powerful that it deserves this.” For those wondering, as of today, there are 22,705 songs featuring the Gucci name. “Gucci is like a magic word,” Michele said.
Gucci’s “natural rebirth” in Michele’s eyes is “a sign that fashion is not finished and will never finish — independently of any fashion week. Fashion is a representation of life and can self manage.”
Michele said he has “found again the passion to experiment. These have been difficult months and even seeing a friend today has a great value, it’s a real gift. We took so many things for granted.”
The production of the film itself is a “great sign of love for Gucci and willpower, it was an enormous effort to fly in the models, test them and the crew and protect them.” But it’s all worth it, as Gucci in Michele’s eyes “is a great divinity, a puffing volcano and I must never lower the tone of my tribute. It’s like a fashion myth, composed of millions of stories, like a saga, there’s even a tragedy.”
The last being a reference to the murder of Maurizio Gucci in 1995, the conversation turned to the “House of Gucci” film, starring Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani, who ordered the murder of her ex-husband Maurizio Gucci, played by Adam Driver. The film, which has already garnered much attention, “reflects the great popularity of Gucci,” Michele said.
In fact, despite it being 100 years old, Michele underscored that the brand has a strong relationship with younger generations. No doubt, Michele, who was promoted to the top creative post in 2015 under the lead of president and chief executive officer Marco Bizzarri, has much to do with this rejuvenation.
However, with this collection Michele shared credit with Tom Ford, whose designs were referenced, for example, in a red velvet tuxedo pantsuit — famously donned by Amber Valletta in its original iteration. Defining him “a genius” in his ability to reinvent Gucci, Michele said Ford “understood the magnetic power of the two Gs,” bringing “ambiguous, erotic, luxurious and hedonistic” elements to the brand, and creating ready-to-wear springing from the label’s core handbags and suitcases.
Michele also pays tribute to Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Balenciaga, Guccifying the designer’s silhouettes, showing, for example, a strong-shouldered coat peppered with the two interlocking Gs, or placing the Gucci and Balenciaga labels on a shiny, sequined pantsuit. “We really wanted to surprise viewers with these designs, we laughed together imagining the reaction, it’s too bad the news filtered out,” Michele said of the rumors circulating earlier this week about a collaboration.
Aiming to continue to experiment in “a dialogue with the outside world,” Michele felt like “playing with possibly the biggest sacrilege,” blending distinctive elements and logos from two very recognizable brands, “getting out of the closed-in atelier. Creativity means dialogue, continuous experiment and freedom.”
Asked why in particular he worked with Gvasalia, Michele responded simply: “I like to do this with people that I know, real people that are part of my life. Fashion is not inspiration, it’s a series of happenings. I know and appreciate Demna and we share many traits.”
The designer said he was “so impressed by [Gvasalia’s] first show, it was marvelous. I really loved it and things stuck in my mind.”
Michele said he had fun, “regenerating” Balenciaga’s elements, which “did not really even belong to [founder] Cristobal, who was a great couturier, all about rigor, fascinating, but perhaps he would not have allowed all this.”
Throughout the Aria collection, Michele emphasized several Gucci storied designs, from the Bamboo bag and the Flora pattern — seen in an all-over motif in a suit — to the horsebit, as well as his own signature elements, such as the anatomical shape of the heart, transformed into a sequined clutch. “It’s a pop Graal, the pop heart of the brand, beating and shining in mysterious ways,” he said. “When at the end it is thrown up in the air, it’s [a metaphor for Gucci], we don’t know what the brand’s future will be like.”
The designer praised the “modernist and incredible design of the Bamboo bag, shortly after the war, it’s a true design invention, and I wanted to celebrate it. It’s a star for the brand, and I redecorated some by hand on the spot when I was styling the collection.” Michele has collected vintage Bamboo bags for years, he said.
As the story goes, founder Guccio Gucci worked at the Savoy Hotel in London as a teenager in the late 1800s and was inspired by the luxurious trunks and suitcases he saw there in his decision to set up his namesake company — hence Michele’s references to the Savoy Club in the video. References to the equestrian world abound, too, and have provided countless designs for Gucci. “I wish I had met Guccio Gucci, he was a very ingenious man, who started a myth, probably without knowing it.”
“I like the storytelling, how the images bring to life what I have in mind,” Michele said of co-directing the film, but he was cautious about the stories passed on through the years. “Like the apocryphal gospels, we don’t really know, but it doesn’t really matter, the narration must be powerful and bring back the myth.”
The Gucci characters go into the Savoy Club, but they exit out into nature — an uplifting moment in more ways than one as models are seen floating in the air, “for the true party we would like to hold — and Aria is oxygen,” Michele said.
Nature also produces gems and Michele decided to shine the light on Gucci’s high jewelry designs — a preview of the collection that will be presented later this spring. “Everything must return to life, not be closed in vaults. I have a great passion for jewelry, they are our families’ history and are never dead — just like the brand,” said Michele, wearing rings on every finger also on this occasion.
“I am lucky I have a great passion for objects — I could never have done any other job,” he said with a smile.