What praise can I award Alessandro Michele, Creative Director of Gucci, that has not already already been given?
The label’s FW 2017 collection, The Alchemist Garden, features a medley of characteristically flamboyant pieces for both women and men (Michele would probably scoff if he read this; gender-based clothing is so Tom Ford-era). But this time around, something new arose among the feathers and florals: Gucci found its political voice in the argument that our world is reverting to its occasionally romantic, though generally problematic, roots.
From the minute this season’s invitations leaked, it was evident that Gucci had something especially intense up its sleeve. Guests were summoned via fully-functioning vinyl records whose covers read, “What are we going to do with all this future?” in the trademark trembly lettering of artist Coco Capitán. Should they find the nerve to place it on a turntable, those lucky few would hear musician Florence Welch reciting the works of William Blake, followed by an excerpt of Jane Austen’s Persuasion read by rapper A$AP Rocky. The invites’ juxtaposition of the old-fashioned with the contemporary functioned as a preliminary warning to showgoers, reminding them that no matter how far we advance, history is bound to repeat itself.
I cannot forget myself: A fashion show, particularly a Gucci fashion show, is about the clothes. This time around, models paraded through a glass tube donning the typical pattern clashes along with a spray of logo-heavy accessories (Gucci sweatband, anyone?). Futuristic mesh masks, ’80s pop star sunnies and nostalgic knit earflap hats reinforced the collision of the past and future. All appeared well and good and apolitical until model number 69 strode down the runway, sporting a cut-up vintage tee featuring some incoherent combination of words written Capitán's shaky script. A similar shirt reappeared several looks later, this time clearly donning the phrase: “Common sense is not that common.” The remainder of the collection went about business as usual, but one could not view it without wondering about that second tee.
Of the 120 luxurious looks Michele sent down the runway, what will be remembered most are the invitation and one tattered, defaced scrap of cotton, an artifact inscribed with modern wisdom. This season, Gucci pleased its regulars, while unabashedly diving into new, yet necessary, territory.
“Can’t repeat the past?” Alessandro chuckles from the indoor greenhouse of his Milan penthouse, “Why of course you can!”