MILAN, JANUARY 18, 2016
by ALEXANDER FURY
We talk endlessly about fashion philosophies, about a wish to embed clothes in a wider, more intense intellectual foundation. Yeah, yeah, right, it’s a jacket. But what does it mean?
Gucci’s fashion philosophy—as with most everything in the Gucci universe—has been upheaved in the past 12 months, since the appointment of creative director Alessandro Michele. Basta to sexy, to the slick hangover of the Tom Ford glory years. Gucci’s clothes look different, so the thinking behind them must be different too. Gucci today earnestly references philosophers like the Marxist theorist Walter Benjamin, cross-referenced like a well-pulled-together essay. Backstage, Alessandro Michele tugged at an Aertex vest, bearing a portrait of Snoopy. “You know,” he mused, “Snoopy is like a philosopher.” He was smiling.
Gucci’s philosophy today sits somewhere between Walter Benjamin and Snoopy, between highbrow and low culture. That you’re thinking with your head and not with your groin is enough of a shift from the Gucci of yore, which was sexy and ’70s, and seldom anything else. Benjamin hypothesized to the conclusion that history is written by the victors—which is key, I think, to understanding what Gucci is going through at the moment. For a time, we saw only Ford’s victorious Gucci; then Frida Giannini’s. Now, Michele. History is being repeated, but also a little rewritten.
What the Fall 2016 men’s Gucci collection did was retread ground Michele’s been covering for the past year. It evolved it, a little, but it was about reaffirming the new creative direction of the house. Which, if we’re honest, isn’t that new. It’s just a new edit of an existing script. It’s new in the sense that fashion frequently is—reviving a moment that contrasts with that which immediately preceded it. Baudrillard once cited it as a dynamism of amalgamation and recycling. He hasn’t been quoted by Gucci, yet.
What has been quoted is the ’70s. “The ’70s is the most powerful image, for me, for the brand,” stated Michele. “The brand has a soul—and its soul is really that kind of ’70s moment.” Oddly, he then called it “jet-set,” which is the last thing you think of when you see Michele’s bedraggled silks and brocades, although the purposefully creased suits do look a little like someone slept in them on the red-eye.
They are, of course, only one fragment of these complex, complicated Gucci collections—shown alongside Lurex knits, snakeskin suits, heels embedded with pearls, and sunglasses encrusted with crystal. An overload of decoration that sends you scribbling to record it all. No one will wear it—at least, not in that overwhelming entirety. But everyone can engage and relate with it. These collections are designed to be pulled apart by consumers, fashion shows as an engaging proposition of pieces rather than dictatorial, identikit aesthetic. There’s nothing wrong with the latter, of course. But then, there’s also nothing wrong with Gucci’s approach. It’s simply different. A different philosophy, a new way of looking at things.
It is, however, terribly Gucci, and remarkably Italian. “A little Schiaparelli,” murmured Michele, fingering an embroidered crystal eye on one piece. “I was thinking of Walter Albini,” he said of another. Neither are the Italian designers that immediately leap to mind. “There is a stereotype of Italian fashion, of houses like Gucci,” said Michele thoughtfully. “We have more than people think. I have a lot of things in my mind from the archive, but I don’t want to be a prisoner of the archive. It’s always the ‘idea’ that I have of the archive . . .” The idea of memory, rather than the actuality of history. And Gucci these days has no walls—genderless, seasonless, formal and casual mixed. It’s about a freedom. And that is, I think, why so many people find it invigorating, and ignore perhaps the fact that, as individual garments, Michele is offering not invention but reinvention, revival, and rehash.
“Take it, make it yours,” said Michele. He was talking to me, about the clothes. He could have been talking to himself, about Gucci.
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