by SARAH MOWER
Alessandro Michele was quite honest: He wanted the Parthenon in Athens for his Gucci Cruise show. That’s how high and free the ambitions of this brand soar these days. “At the beginning, everything started in the Mediterranean, the Greek and Roman cultures,” he said. “But we couldn’t have Athens, so I went to the next big step in civilization, the Renaissance, so we came here to Florence, the fascinating metropolis of the past, the place which had the power of big money. Like,” he smiled, “Napa Valley now.” (A slip of the tongue: Silicon, we assume.)
The slight location glitch had been that the Athenian cradle of democracy has a permanent preservation order which proved impermeable even to the blandishments of one of the world’s mega fashion brands in search of an ultra-exclusive Resort destination. (PS: Reasonably, how much further can these competitive Cruise trips go?) So there was Michele, stuck with plan B: the Palatine gallery of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. Hardly so shabby, really, when he could have his audience walk through the Uffizi, past all the Botticellis, Uccellos, and Piero della Francescas that matter, across the Ponte Vecchio via the secret corridor built by the Medicis, and thus present his collection in front of the likes of Elton John, David Furnish, Jared Leto, Beth Ditto, Kirsten Dunst, and Dakota Johnson.
The vestiges of the ancient Classical theme were apparent—gilded wreaths, tiaras implanted with silver lyres—but then again, they were only a part of the extraordinary things Michele does to frame and individualize his cast of characters. There were leopard-spot turbans, head scarves, woolly bandeaux, nerdy tinted spectacles, glittery-framed sunglasses, piled-up almost-medieval hairpieces. Pearls were woven into flowing tresses or, in one case, fashioned into an all-over helmet with stuck-on beads encroaching onto the face.
Michele’s Italianate magpie eye for excess and extravagance roams unfettered across centuries, taking everything from ’60s psychedelic print palazzo pantsuits to ’70s-accented Renaissance revival gowns to substantial capes, windowpane checked tweed tailoring, and sensible quilted outdoor coats. He knows how strong the following is for anything that’s embroidered or sparkles. This season he had glittery GG logo-printed tights and socks, wolf-head prints and patches, and slogans reading Guccy, Guccification, and Guccify Yourself.
There is playfulness and conscious self-parody going on now. What stops it from falling off the edge into first-degree literalness is the underlying oddness: There’s something unsettling, almost undead, about his strange breed of wan eyebrow-less girls and geeky boys. Take all the assemblages apart, and there are stores-ful of separates and accessories to continue the forward-rolling of this brand; tons for women and men, boys and girls to buy into. Perhaps there are no great political depths going on here, but there was one subtext the audience didn’t glean—because they were literally sitting on it. Michele had the lines of “A Song For Bacchus,” a poem written in the 15th century by Lorenzo de’ Medici, embroidered onto the stools upon which they were seated. “How beautiful our Youth is/That’s always flying by us/Who’d be happy let him be so:/Nothing’s sure about tomorrow.” Carpe diem. That’s a modern-enough sounding moral for most of us today.