From the street to the catwalk, collaboration is now a mainstay of fashion. But Gucci’s show on Thursday afternoon, one that celebrated the brand’s centennial, sped up the idea.
Creative director Alessandro Michele worked with the designs of one of his biggest rivals of influence: Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia. The resulting items featured the Balenciaga logo and Gucci monogram and looked like very expensive pirates. They had exactly the kind of postmodern vision of the brand that is played out a lot in the age of Instagram.
The remainder of the show, a film directed by Michele with director Floria Sigismondi, did too. It featured models in harnesses with whips, feather pants, men in blouses, and live rabbits carried down a catwalk. Gucci fans would recognize designs that were originally created by Michele’s most notable predecessor Tom Ford, including the red velvet suit worn by Gwyneth Paltrow in 1996, a version of which opened this show.
There were also trucker hats that said ‘100’, riding boots, and lots of glitter. Some models wore gemstone nose rings that could potentially be accused of cultural appropriation; they remembered the nathori used by Bengali women to denote marital status.
There was a loose narrative. The models walked into a club called Savoy (a reference to the hotel, where founder Guccio Gucci worked when he was young) at first, walked down a catwalk with flashes, and ended up in a secret garden, joining in with more rabbits, plus peacocks and horses. The 15-minute film showed clothes, but also another opportunity to spend time inside Michele’s imagination.
After the film aired for journalists, there was a digital press conference. Michele explained that working with Balenciaga, a brand that is also part of the Kering group, was a logical conclusion from her time at Gucci until now. He said that “establishing a dialogue with otherness” was fundamental, adding: “I have been an excellent thief, a thief.”
Gvasalia approved of the idea of lending her designs to Michele: “Demna really enjoyed the idea of me using her patterns, her styles to do something else,” said Michele. Gvasalia’s Balenciaga designs, typically more architectural and artistic, were Guccified. “I added a little bit of light, a little bit of sparkle,” Michele said.
Michele, like that thief or thief, is eager to embrace other people’s interpretations of Gucci, the show’s soundtrack included songs that reference the brand in the lyrics, and make a new Guccis by breaking the rules of luxury. This could be read as an art project, but there is also a strategy there. “I think this rejuvenation is the only way to make fashion come alive,” he said.
A show in April places Gucci firmly off the industry’s fashion calendar. When the pandemic hit in May last year, the brand, long a fixture on the Milan calendar, announced that it would now have no season and would go from showing five collections a year to two. According to Michele, this was adapted to the different climates of Gucci’s global audience and addressed the environmental impact of producing multiple collections.
Since then, Gucci has presented a collection in July worn by designers in the studio and broadcast live for 12 hours, and GucciFest in November, a series of films co-directed by Gus Van Sant.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism