Anachronistic — in fashion speak, the descriptive sounds like a slam. In fact, it’s intended here as anything but, as the collection Alessandro Michele showed for Gucci, his second for the house following his surprise appointment in January, was a delight.
Why anachronistic? Certainly not for the fashion per se, though Michele worked a healthy vintage vibe, but because the show recalled a time in fashion when it was OK, laudable even, for creativity to trump polish, even high up the commercial food chain. Michele called it “a modern translation of decorative. It’s one of my obsessions,” he said. “I tried to put together some beautiful kind of dressing in an eccentric way.”
Eccentric indeed. It looked genuinely so, difficult to achieve at a time when it often seems that marketing resides two doors down from the design studio, with open access. As for the vintage aura, Michele was drawn to Granny’s attic, and as he progresses at Gucci, it will be his challenge to know when to close the trunks and move on. But he’s just getting started. This collection charmed with geek chic – the nerd glasses, the pom-pom hats, the prim bow-and-nosegay collars. It also radiated experimentation, whimsy and countless expressions of the decorative impulse of which Michele spoke. So much so that one exiting guest found it “incoherent,” an understandable characterization in this age of the one-note show. Yet one person’s incoherence is another’s diversity.
Though Michele’s ebullience resulted in some awkward moments, these were but ripples in a pool of engaging well-executed fashion — frilled-placket shirtdresses, suits from sensible to racy, chic librarian pleated skirts, glorious ruffled and embroidered gowns — which, girlish style extracted, should resonate well with women who can afford the clothes. It all came with an explosion of color, patterns both pretty (florals) and hard (geometrics), and decorative flourishes from strips of black lace on a purple dress to giant crystal dragonflies bedazzling a red, blue and green striped mink coat. As for the house codes, there were the prints (though not archival) and flamboyant tiger imagery. But mostly, there was bravado, both the designer’s and his bosses’. Michele’s work couldn’t be further from that of Frida Giannini. It will be fascinating to see how his Gucci tenure takes shape.