Alessandro Michele is hearing bells — school bells — and answered their call with a kooky collection that took in school uniforms, little shorts and blazers, pastel coats shaped like art smocks and shiny metallic fabrics fit for the school disco.
He confessed an obsession with children’s clothing, tiny objects and a nostalgia for the innocence of childhood, a time when pretty much anything goes on the dressing up front and adults refrain from making judgments. “If a boy plays with his mother’s shoes when he’s five, or if he wears a magician’s hat to go to the park, nobody criticizes him, do they?” Michele told WWD, adding it’s a whole different story when a 50-year-old wants to wear the magician’s hat outside.
He’s absolutely right: Growing up isn’t easy, which is why he wanted this collection to be “a hymn to romanticism, and a hymn to men.”
Like so many Milanese designers this season, Michele wanted to examine traditional modes of male dress — and offer some alternatives. He sliced tailored jacket sleeves so they hit above the wrist, shortened trouser lengths and put grown men in school uniform shorts, like Prince George.
Michele tossed in a baby blue suit with knickerbockers that buttoned at the knee and made Fair Isle and angora knits in lollipop tones. Some shrunken sweater vests barely covered models’ midriffs — a cropped trend that has been all over the Milan runways.
There was a whole lot of sparkle goin’ on, too, from the diamond chandelier necklaces that twinkled from around the necks of suits to the tinsel-bright trousers covered in silver or green foil.
Michele even turned back the clock for women, dressing them in teeny smock dresses with round white or lacy collars.
A giant pendulum that referenced Foucault’s Pendulum swung ominously over a runway covered in dark sand, pointing to the passage of time, and Michele’s remembrance of things past. It is, after all, five years to the month that he took over the design reins of Gucci with an aesthetic that rocked the industry and continues to do so.
There were some great pieces here — the low-slung jeans with grass stains on the knees, nodding to grunge, the preppy “Love Story” corduroy suits and the bright, preppy sweaters.
The accessories? They’ll fly. Animal pins and adornments, white gloves and shiny gems will be winking from the lapels and necks of many a Gucci fan. The bags, too, will zoom out of the stores, referencing everything from Michele’s collaboration with Liberty of London to Lego-type building blocks.
But for all that was going on, the collection — which took place in a new venue and marked a return to stand-alone men’s shows at Gucci — somehow felt unfinished and incomplete, a part rather than a whole, less trend setting than in step with the trends in stores now. It was B work from a straight-A student. Time to get out your ink pot and start cracking those books again, Alessandro.