On the name of the collection Gucci Epilogue, Alessandro Michele said: “For me Epilogue is a symbolic word appropriate for the end of a system—we are looking at a different way of doing things.” This is Gucci Menswear Resort 2021 in Milan.
As two weeks of digital fashion “shows” roll to credits, it’s the videos that capture the elusive quality of authenticity that stay with us. Some best practices: gritty can trump glam, process is everything, and designers often make for better content than models. We can all agree, I think, that the days of filming pretty people dancing in front of a camera and calling it a wrap are over.
Gucci’s Alessandro Michele has never been an up-and-down the runway kind of designer. At his first resort show for the brand, held in New York back in 2015, models walked across a West Chelsea street before stepping inside the art gallery venue; it was a public-facing show before that was a thing.
Last February, days before the coronavirus crisis broke out near Milan, he staged a show in the round that was spectacular and intimate at once. In retrospect, it looks rather prescient: In inviting the audience behind the scenes and exposing the backstage goings-on of the hair and makeup crews and model dressers Michele was celebrating the very things that we’re all missing so badly in COVID-19-time: human interaction, collaboration, being part of a receptive audience.
“Fashion is not just what we decide to show,” Michele said on a WhatsApp video call earlier this week.
“The idea that a campaign is just a piece of paper? No, there is another show in the show.” The concept for the 12-hour livestream the brand produced for resort, which he’s dubbed “Epilogue,” and staged at the glorious Renaissance-era Palazzo Sacchetti in Rome with a natural soundtrack of cicadas, is to document the advertising campaign, to capture that “show within the show.” Only this time, Michele explained, “it’s less theater. This one will be more dirty. It’s a few cameras in a very Andy Warhol way, maybe they’re looking at nothing interesting. The experiment doesn’t work if I plan too much.” Indeed, not a lot happened in the lead-up to the narrative part of the livestream that functioned as the collection reveal, but a lot got done.
What Michele did plan on is that the designers in his studio would model the resort looks they worked on, putting the “we” in Gucci, in essence. On the WhatsApp call, he remembered a time as a young designer when a piece he was making was pulled for a show or a shoot and he didn’t see it again. “It was like someone tried to take from you your son.” Spotlighting his colleagues was “something beautiful,” he said, “they were so happy.”
As for the clothes themselves, Michele called them “a celebration of my point of view, things that I did in the past, pieces that belong to my aesthetic.” That aesthetic is as singular and idiosyncratic as ever, but it contains multitudes. Min Yu Park, a men’s ready-to-wear designer wears a beaded floral jacket, a floral lace dress, and a turquoise necklace that matches her Jackie bag. Alexandra Muller, an embroidery designer, models a long filmy floral-print ruffled dress with clear sequins that pick up the light. David Ring, a celebrities designer, sports an embroidered velvet blazer, a striped tee, logo flares, and sneakers. Alec Soth, the photographer of the Epilogue campaign summed up Michele’s unique gift quite succinctly in the livestream: “putting contradictory elements together to bring new life to something.”
Ruminating on the pandemic that brought Gucci to this novel way of doing things, Michele said, “It’s a disaster. But it’s not only a disaster. It’s a huge sign of something not going the right way, a moment to be reborn.” A wild pig spotted on the streets of Rome became a lockdown totem for him, its presence there suggesting a much needed realignment. If nature can do it, maybe fashion can, too?
Back in May Michele announced Gucci’s reduced show schedule, effectively canceling the far-flung destination shows of its past. This may be the brand’s last resort collection, but the name “Epilogue” might be a misnomer. The learnings of lockdown—the importance of his team, the value of feeling—will stick with him, he thinks. “It’s not just a way to close, but to say what we’ve done and put seeds of what will be in the next chapter. Yes, it could also be a beginning.”