by Jess Cartner-Morley in Milan, The Guardian, February 24, 2015
Gucci designer Alessandro Michele makes clothes you lay eyes on for the first time and instantly feel you have always wanted. He starts trends that have a mass appeal quite disproportionate to their off-the-wall aesthetic. You may have never heard of Michele, but if your eye has been caught by a pleated skirt or a pussybow blouse in the past few months, I must tell you that you are in fact under his power.
These are talents which come in pretty handy in the luxury industry. Last week, Gucci posted a full-year net profit rise of 32%, confirming what a cursory glance around any fashion industry gathering – taking in the numerous fringed metallic Gucci loafers being worn, and the serene smiles on the faces of executives of the brand’s owner, Kering – has been suggesting for months, that the rebooted Gucci is not just a critical hit, but a commercial one.
A model sports retro shades with embellished Mary Janes. Photograph: WWD/Rex/Shutterstock
The buzz around Gucci has been present for a year, since Michele took over. The significance of this, Michele’s third womenswear show for the label, was that it showed Gucci’s to be a revival with staying power. Michele’s glamorously nerdish aesthetic was an instant hit when it appeared on the catwalks early in 2015, and still felt fresh when reprised at September’s fashion week. But Wednesday’s Milan fashion week show was the first to prove that Michele’s Gucci is about more than one look.
The venue was the same disused train depot that served as the setting for last season’s show, yet transformed. In September, the space beneath pillars overgrown with vines had been laid with colourful carpet, and furnished with ornate chairs, so that the mood evoked an eccentric, aristocratic garden party.
For this show, the same space was boxed in matt black with sleek cube seating. The start of proceedings were announced with a crackle of static interference and flashing lights which morphed into footage of a waterfall flowing upwards, and an avalanche un-happening. Show notes on lurid yellow card made no mention of clothes at all, but rather explained the show as a celebration of “rhizomatic thought”: disorderly thought, that is, with neither centre nor orientation.
Pussybow blouses and rainbow colours. Photograph: WWD/Rex/Shutterstock
The show began with a white leather trench coat with ruched and puffed sleeves, worn with red tights, towering Mary Jane shoes, and a perky little hat. The mood was more assertive, and more assuredly womanly, than the “androgynous adolescent prodigy comes down from the library for cocktails” aesthetic which denotes Gucci today. Throughout the show, the now-familiar new-Gucci memes - the barrette-clipped hair, the spectacles, the rainbow shades and the loafers and grand-wizard-meets-librarian long skirts - were ideas which took Gucci somewhere new, with Anne Boleyn dress shapes, towering heels, 1940s netted hats, fur coats with 1980s-style spray-paint graffiti.
Grand wizard-meets-librarian. Photograph: WWD/Rex/Shutterstock
On the morning of the show, Michele posted an image on his Instagram account of a glossy black snake on a blood red background. “I love ambiguity, and the snake is the most ambiguous animal,” he said backstage after the show. “It represents fear, but it is also so beautiful. When you look at a snake, your heart is pulsing.” Tigers and panthers also featured in the collection along with symbols of beauty and power of a different type: the Gucci logos and monograms and signature stripes.
Miuccia Prada has had Milan to herself for years. It will be interesting to see how she responds to this Gucci land grab, with her show tomorrow. On the first day of Milan fashion week, Gucci have laid down the gauntlet.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
This article was written by Jess Cartner-Morley in Milan from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.