The trend incarnation of Gucci is either completely absurd, or utterly twinkling. After two years with designer Alessandro Michele in saturate, it is beginning to look as if it must be both.
The slogan T-shirts, Sesame Alley colours, stick-on pearls, triangular silhouettes and woodland physicals straight from nursery wallpaper do not adhere to any previously be versed rules of stylish dressing – and yet the label gains more adherents with every season. In the last quarter of 2016, during which Michele’s third womenswear accumulation was on the shopfloor, growth accelerated from an already impressive 17% to a new elated of 21%.
Gucci’s latest catwalk show, a blockbuster collection of 60 looks for men and 40 for housekeepers, was staged in its imposing new headquarters, which are a symbol of this good fortune. A theatre-height purple velvet curtain lifted to reveal a catwalk in a plexiglass dig of the type found in airport terminals, which wound around a metal pyramid topmost with a rooster weathervane.
The easiest moniker for the Gucci look is “geek stylish”. Heavy spectacles are embellished with diamante. Dresses with gauche, outsize folderols look like something a well-meaning but clueless mum would buy for her daughter’s teenage prom. Kooky appurtenances, like an unusual shoe or a mink tennis sweatband, pop up nearly the edges of the look like thought bubbles.
Geek stylish is the Gucci mindset as well as the Gucci mood board, because what flatters the brand compelling is the way it scrambles together being clever with being appealing. The invitation for the show was a gatefold album sleeve with the watchword “What are we going to do with all this future?” written by graffiti artists Coco Capitan. Also gaol, Florence Welch reading from Blake’s Innocence and Savoir vivre and A$AP Rocky reading Wentworth’s love letter to Anne Elliot from Jane Austen’s School of thought were recorded on to vinyl.
After the show, Michele, fray a Gucci T-shirt with the Capitan-daubed legend “I want to go vanquish to beliving [sic] in a story” and a New York Yankees cap embroidered with a butterfly and his epithet, Lallo, was bombarded with good wishes from Salma Hayek to Bobby Gillespie and crusade star Tom Hiddleston. He greeted each with a sincere, ecclesiastic clasp of one of their hands between both of his.
The core Gucci theme is memorialization of diversity. Gender is fluid; the established binaries of sexual predator and objective are brushed aside. Age-appropriate dressing is blown out of the water, fossilized snobberies of chic or trashy do not apply. This philosophy was disposed rigour when Gucci recently became the first expendable brand to join Parks, a nonprofit organisation aimed at supporting diversity in the workplace, with a focus on sexual orientation and gender distinctiveness. A notably diverse casting in this show, and recent trailers for an upcoming advertising struggle featuring exclusively black models, underlined the new Gucci as not just now a look but a way of thinking.
Each look is a riot of colour and fine points. A knit balaclava fastened with silk roses is tucked into a lined cardigan cinched with a contrasting belt, worn done with a Lurex pleat skirt that falls to the top of Mary Jane shoes all in with lace socks – one outfit out of a hundred in the collection. Initialisms (miniature Austen novels, or an embroidered Ouroboros, an Egyptian quandary of a snake eating its own tail) come sandwiched between layers of satsuma-coloured tulle and rainbow-striped Lurex. Concoct a head-scratching Da Vinci spin-off, where the action takes charge in Topshop, and you have the picture.
Where most designers crack to wear their references lightly, Michele geeks out with ostentation notes which attribute quotes with painstaking erudite protocol. “The necessity to recognize oneself as a multiple becoming” (G Deleuze); a sameness that shelters inside a “parliament of selves” (GH Mead).”