In a conversation on Sunday, Gucci’s Alessandro Michele described a multilayered collection encompassing, he said, “some of my passions.” Street style, the Renaissance, the Seventies, “and a little injection of some chic points of the Eighties. I love to mix and match [references] into a different language.” He named a time-traveling Catherine de Medici as a seasonal muse.
Michele’s program notes expressed the diversity angle in loftier language. For change to happen, it read, “Thinking has to be ‘rhizomatic.’…It has to generate a movement able to proliferate in different directions.”
Both descriptions foretold a fashion feast, filled with more of the nerdy allure with which Michele has so captivated fashion — the shy girl gone fashion-madcap in her own, faux-quiet way. (She may be gentle, but there’s nothing discreet about a fabulous brocade coat with blue astrakhan collar and beige shaggy, long-haired fur cuffs or a bubblegum-pink satin dress embroidered with a big, green, three-headed snake.) But her look didn’t reign supreme. Rather, it shared the runway with an emergent tougher mood, one seen in the Eighties influences — a chic, big-shouldered trench and, more curiously, a black leather chevron-quilted jacket-and-skirt combo.
Decoration figures powerfully in Michele’s work, an abundance of patterns, pleats, embroideries and fur trims on fluid clothes integrated with beautiful tailoring, styled with offbeat bravado. Most often, it delighted. Michele romances the natural world with near-literal representation and intriguingly weird placement — a pair of birds or a black panther on the bodice of an otherwise ethereal pastel gown and, more controversially, the image of a flat, splayed-out tiger (it looked like a rug) down the back of a fur coat.
Grounding the visual euphoria: a decided street beat. This is not new. While, in the midst of the decorative gentleness of Michele’s past collections, one might have missed it, it has been there all along. To drive home the point definitively for fall, he enlisted Brooklyn-based artist Trevor Andrew (aka GucciGhost), who has built his artistic persona based on his longtime obsession with Gucci iconography. The result: bold GG graphics. One fabulous pairing juxtaposed a red-on-ivory graffiti-printed satin skirt with a black sweater decked with pearl-embroidered yoke and ruffled cuffs, a perfect fusion of street-smart and Renaissance-fair.
It was all fanciful, fun and abundant — perhaps too much so. One handbag featured the word “Real” graffiti-ed on black leather. This may read as ridiculous given the pictures here, but in Michele’s urge to “proliferate in different collections,” one felt the faint pull of a more commercial mandate. Whether an accurate inference or not, certain elements felt random — the tuxedos interspersed throughout, for example — and seemed to have no other reason for inclusion in the lineup.
In a very short time, Michele has produced remarkable work that has rocked fashion. Yes, every designer must keep moving forward, and if he feels now’s the time to toughen up, Godspeed. But if he’s responding to external grumblings, let’s give the guy some time. It’s only been a year. A year rich with provocation and beauty.