Sex and Gucci go hand in hand. Remember Carmen Kass with the graphic G shaved into her nether regions? Of course you do. But those were the heady Tom Ford days. Since taking the helm in 2006 Frida Giannini has promoted a more muted, quiet brand of sensuality. It’s never won her the same zealous praise that surrounded Ford’s tenure, but it has ensured her the commitment of the Gucci glamazon shopper who loves nothing more than a sky-scrapper heel, a jewel toned cocktail frock and an inky slashed evening gown.
It's notable that as Ford made his return to the runway in London with a comic, whimsical approach to sensuality realised through cartoonish cross-cultural looks, Giannini went more literal, offering up a collection that focused on fetish and femme fatales (sculptor Allen Jones was the given inspiration). Maybe this was her competitive edge coming through. Indeed, these were clothes for women to do battle in. Who was it that said that sex and love are a battlefield? Well they could have been talking about Gucci Autumn/Winter 2013. Indeed, Giannini’s show notes even explained how ‘the Gucci woman seduces with her dangerous femininity.’
This collection had none of the carnal, heady sensuality of Tom Ford’s days. There was none of the insolence and humour. No, these girls were objects. Polished, prickly females who were trussed up like prized fillies – apt given Gucci’s equestrian heritage. It’s telling that the show notes explained that the silhouettes were inspired by couture – indeed, these looks had a luxurious stiffness to them. Cuts were heavily constructed. Pencil skirts clung to the body, while jackets came sculptured with those retro Balenciaga rounded sleeves we’ve seen across this season’s runways. Python, leather, pony and goat hair continued the precious, luxurious vibe.
Eveningwear transformed the girls into vicious birds of prey. Supers like Karlie Kloss and Joan Smalls stalked the runway in gowns and separates embellished with feathers, studs and sequins, the otherworldly nature of their shape and stature enhanced by the cinematic clothing.
These weren’t clothes to make women feel empowered, but rather outfits to impress men with. They nodded to the brand’s recent history – there were whiffs of Ford’s stellar Autumn/Winter 2003 showing – but offered a specific brand of sexuality where clothes are intended to be worn rather than taken off. This season’s Gucci girl would be great on your arm but disappointing in the bedroom. She was simply too polished and poised to feel truly fanciable.
One could question if this traditional, man-pleasing brand of sexuality is even still relevant to women’s wardrobes. As minimalism, androgyny and ease spread across Europe’s runways, are the days of women wanting to dress as a prized preened peacock finally over? Gucci will never be a revolutionary brand that pushes fashion forward, but this season the tone – dubbed ‘self-indulgently feminine’ – felt just that little bit too regressive.