Ever the disruptor, Alessandro Michele marked his return to the Milan women’s runway with a men’s collection, luring a pregnant Rihanna, A$AP Rocky, Jared Leto, Jodie Turner-Smith, Serena Williams and a slew of other stars.
Take that, Prada!
The concept was to throw back to Michele’s first Gucci men’s collection in all its bow blousy-ness, which at the time haters said looked more like womenswear.
That was then, but this is now. And if Michele has proven anything during his seven-year tenure as creative director at Gucci, it’s that gender is just another label to be played with and distorted, like Mickey Mouse, Paramount Pictures or The North Face.
“Now they talk about gender fluidity, but when I started I didn’t know,” said Michele during a preshow interview, when he took stock of his contributions to fashion, also including the much-imitated idea of creating clothing for individuals, rather than trend collections. “I’m trying to say again I’m really open this way.…I want to examine the meaning of menswear, of masculinity, and how women can adopt it.”
It was actually a woman who opened the show, dressed in a men’s navy blue, double-breasted brass button suit, reminiscent of the kind of “Working Girl” power suit-and-pumps looks that were 1980s office attire, except for the green mullet hairstyle.
“I’ve always been halfway between two genders,” Michele explained.
Many Millennials and Gen Zers would agree; they’d also agree that street style is fashion, a truism that has revolutionized the luxury landscape, had Dior and Louis Vuitton teaming with Nike, Prada with Adidas, Balenciaga with Yeezy Gap and many more.
Now it was Gucci’s turn. Michele introduced a collaboration with Adidas that may be his largest yet, mixing streetwear with Italian sartorial tradition to create elevated track suit suits that should send hype beasts into orbit. Not to mention nudge them to dress up a bit more. If this is a season about power tailoring, Michele figured out how to serve it up to sneakerheads.
“The idea was to break the codes of sportswear,” he said, sharing that the collection will be sold through pop-ups worldwide, which he helped to design.
More than just slapping an Adidas logo on T-shirts and hoodies, as some others have done, Michele mixed the codes of Adidas with those of Gucci, achieving something elevated and elegant, akin to his Balenciaga Hacking Project.
A cornerstone of the collection was a red track dress, inspired by a do-it-yourself Adidas dress made by Los Angeles designer Laura Whitcomb of the ’90s era brand Label, and worn by Madonna in 1993.
“She did something in my blood years ago…and she is now part of my work because I met her in an image,” Michele said. (Whitcomb, now an art curator, was a guest of the house at the show, where she reminisced about blending high and low culture and how that spirit is reverberating on the streets today. And a Gucci version of her dress came down the runway.)
Also luxe casual was a royal blue corduroy suit, beautifully tailored with broad shoulders, a double-breasted blazer emblazoned with the Adidas trefoil leaf logo on the breast pocket, trousers with the athletic giant’s signature side stripes, worn with a leather necktie and bamboo handbag.
More than sneakers, although there were some of those, too, the trefoil stripes and leaves adorned high-heel brogues and boots, bamboo totes, silk scarves, berets and double-billed baseball hats. They trimmed a green overcoat, a cream mohair ski bunny sweater knit set, and were mixed together with GGs to make a graphic, op-art print. There was even a tricked out Adidas Victorian white satin gown.
“We share the stripes, the webbing — that can’t be too similar,” Michele said, hinting at the possibility that rather than fighting over a trademark, the brands may have joined together, similar to the way Gucci turned Dapper Dan into a collaborator. “We also share the idea of sport that’s chic, and it opened up a conversation,” the designer said.
Gimmicky, maybe, but a lot of it looked really great — and rich, conjuring images of Spike Lee decked out courtside, of Richie Tenenbaum’s sweatband wearing style, IRL stylish sportsmen like Stan Smith and…”Squid Game.”
Michele also pushed masculinity into more glam territory, with foiled trousers, wide studded belts and fur-trimmed capes, channeling daring dressers from David Bowie to Damiano David, and reiterating how today, it’s no big deal.
On the kinkier side of gender expression were fetish-y lace catsuits and mega furs, sheer corsets and bras for all, and a black leather suit covered in studs. “Things that five years ago were just part of an underground life, now it’s mainstream culture,” Michele marveled.
“Fashion is like a kaleidoscope,” he continued, bringing up his choice to use a trippy mirrored runway set. “You can’t stop its power to change.”