The Gucci man has regressed even further. When Alessandro Michele took over from Frida Giannini the formally slick, even macho, Gucci shopper became a teen - androgynous, free, eclectic. For A/W 16 he became a boy - uninhibited, in a state of identity flux, alive. He was clad in Snoopy t-shirts, a teddy-bear cardigan and little caps and hats with animal details and tassels dangling by the ears. There's something charming about youth, even youthful pain and angst - Michele captures the passion and obsessive aspects of being young just as much as he does the freedom. When viewing his work, one thinks of first kisses, feral summers spent exploring and rummaging through friends’ wardrobes for new clothes to fall in love with. The way those bejewelled embellishments and sparkling rings were paired with cartoon-embellished vests, or the way plain white t-shirts peeked out under heavily worked garments, or the way a decorated blazer was worn with denim, reminded me of the way one dresses as a child - with no regard for the thought or expectations of others, just instinct, desire and whim. A princess tiara to school. A pirate hat with your pyjamas and wellies. What heaven. It’s such an antidote to the perfect, crisp garments that have been synonymous with luxury for years. Freedom and choice is true luxury. There is so much passion and earnestness to what Michele does - cynicism, aloofness and minimalism couldn’t seem more unappealing after watching one of his shows.
Gucci are staking their claim as the champions of gender fluidity, but really it’s their approach to age that seems the most intriguing. One can imagine these clothes on a grandma as much as a teen boy, a young girl as much as a grown man. Age is the ultimate taboo in fashion - Michele is pioneering by playing with it. That sense of generation tourism fits with the given theme and title of the collection - Poetic Reactivation. This was about discovering items from the past, and exploring how they feel contemporary or relevant to now, and in turn how a new generation or fresh eye can see new meaning in them. It’s a notion Miuccia Prada toyed with the day before at her A/W 16 show, and something Raf Simons came to obsess over during his time at Dior. Fashion today is an orgy of references and borrowed ideas, but Michele’s passion for grappling, cheerfully, through history and his seemingly impulsive, magpie-like tendencies when it comes to inspiration feel personal and rich. Not only did he resurrect elements of high culture, but low culture too - you’ll see historical embroidery next to a cult fifties cartoon. The best designers look up as well and down, back as well as forward - Karl Lagerfeld, Hedi Slimane, Marc Jacobs. And now, Michele. So rich were his references that multiple stories and interests were explored, not just in the same look, but the same garment. One particularly popular piece, a hit on Instagram, paid tribute to fashion’s ultimate icon David Bowie, whose name appeared above a charming, intricate decoration of birds and flowers. But look again, and Bowie was referenced via a recreation of the typography on Christiane F’s Bowie jacket. Layers upon layers - more to discover with every wear.
The sense of diversity was represented in the people Michele championed as well as the references behind each piece. All thin, yes. But all different. Some of the female models appeared in saccharine pastels, offset by semi-fetishistic ultra-high pumps, another girl, trans model Hari Nef, appeared all in red, hat high, shoes flat.
Despite the glances backwards, this was an example of intelligent nostalgia. There was an understanding that the past is over, that times are changing. One noticed that more in silhouette and shapes rather than surfaces - just as much as the suit was championed, so too was the tracksuit, an item now just as relevant, if not more relevant, to men’s wardrobes than traditional tailoring. Michele understands the new. He looks to the future. But his encyclopaedic knowledge of the past is what makes this vision so potent. He is changing both fashion and luxury. Oh - and the answer to that perennial question, what to get the man who has everything, is finally solved; a fuzzy, fluffy bejewelled comedy cat hat, by Gucci.