Italian heritage brand, synonymous with slick suits and jet-set sportswear, wakes up one day and assumes a more feminine, romantic guise. Following newly anointed creative director Alessandro Michele’s first effort five months ago, Gucci’s transformation — headlined by silk blouses, lace shirts and a fey attitude — instantly reverberated throughout the fashion world. It ignited a trend towards wan models with ambiguous sexuality and fanned the androgyny trend all the way up to some of fashion’s biggest names.
Gucci’s show Monday was billed as Michele’s real men’s debut, as he had not yet been appointed Frida Giannini’s successor last January when the design team binned her final designs and quickly pulled together a daring new aesthetic. The spring collection amplified his idiosyncratic, “genderless” approach as he lavished his thrift shop Seventies collection with florid embroideries of exotic birds, butterflies and flowers.
Choral music swelled through the vast former customs warehouse as sheepish, often bespectacled models traversed a 300-foot runway. Michele’s is not an in-your-face proposition, but what his inscrutable press notes describe as “a new poetic horizon.”
“Dressing up can give you the possibility to express anything that you want to be,” the designer said backstage, saying the gender ambiguity comes from today’s young generation, which he studies fastidiously. He aimed to make “every single look really unique.”
Except for the radical bell-bottomed pants and jeans that puddled over Corvette red loafers, almost every garment and accessory was painstakingly embellished, from fur trim on jade green silk robes and silvery botanicals crawling over a red tracksuit to the punk studs lining the Achilles tendon of silvery sneakers. On Michele’s coed runway, the line between suits and pajamas blurred in a barrage of lavish silk brocades and wallpaper prints. Bow blouses, or ones with pointy collars or sailor airs, were worn by both sexes — and sometimes it was hard to tell him from her.
The press has been gentle on the unassuming Michele, embracing his daring neo-dandyism and recognizing his influence. But what will customers say? His first designs for fall have already landed in Gucci’s flagships on Via Montenapoleone in Milan and Rue Royale in Paris, and will soon hit other of the company’s stores. “Super good,” is how chief executive Marco Bizzarri described the initial consumer reaction, flashing a big smile.
No wonder he and Michele both described themselves as “happy.”