It's a time of change for Gucci. In December, the Kering group announced that Frida Giannini, the house's creative director since 2006, and her husband Patrizio di Marco, the label's chief executive, would leave the house after the presentation of both the A/W 15 menswear and A/W 15 womenswear collections. Then, just last week, it was revealed - shocking everyone - that Giannini had been dismissed early. No replacement has been announced, leaving the studio in charge of finishing off and presenting the A/W 15 collections.
Naturally, rumours of drama abound. Today at the show there were whispers that the design studio - led by Alessandro Michele, Giannini’s former deputy and Gucci's head accessories designer - had decided to abandon Giannini's collection entirely and start afresh, pulling together a whole collection in just a matter of days. Who knows what went on behind closed doors but there was certainly change afoot, evident immediately in the way the show seating and catwalk format had been switched up and later in the new casting and, most importantly, the strikingly different collection. Gone were many of the traditional Gucci shapes and motifs, replaced instead with new cuts and styles, many of which were strikingly feminine - see the shrunken jumpers, romantic pussybow blouses, cropped historical jackets and princess coats.
The greatest strengths of this collection were also it greatest weaknesses. It was daring and confident, full of ideas. Perspective and new thought is something that should be greatly admired in fashion. But in all those ideas came confusion and fuss. Some of that mess was deliberate - the team dubbed the collection 'Urban Romanticism', and revelled in promoting wayward, whimsical elements, from stacked signet rings to bobble hats and pinned corsages. This wasn't entirely a radical new start but nor was it a dull, commercial attempt to tread water, as so often happens when a house is between designers and relying on the studio. No, it was a showcase of joy and freedom - a sign of a team letting loose, throwing out established ideas and trying everything new all at once. It was truly cheerful to see. There seemed to be such spirit and excitement behind every piece. Sure, there were whiffs of other people's work - Prada and J.W. Anderson to name the obvious ones - and in some ways too many experiments, too much enthusiasm. But who can fault that?
At the end, the design team all appeared on the runway to take a bow - a event that caused press and buyers to break into an standing ovation. A rare thing at a fashion show. Why such praise and support? No one seemed quite sure. It certainly wasn't the strongest collection of Milan Fashion Week or the most concise and well-crafted, but there was an urgency to it that demanded a visceral response. So the ovation wasn't so much applause for this collection, but for the future and for change (and potentially also for Michele himself who, if the rumours are true, is to be heading up the house). They were claps of encouragement and support, a sign of admiration for both those that toil and those that dare to try something new. The doors have been flung open and there's fresh air at Gucci; it feels rousing.