Gucci is alive again. After a sleepy few years on the Milan schedule, with journalists attending by default because Gucci advertise big, it’s emerged as a fashion player again - a house with relevance and perspective. That’s what it should be, given that it makes up around two thirds of the turnover of Kering Group, its parent company. It wasn’t just in aesthetic terms that Gucci had sunk into a tired malaise, shoppers haven’t been shopping and share prices have slipped. So what’s new creative director Alessandro Michele’s solution? Shock therapy. It seems the only way to take over a house these days is with revolution in mind. Hedi Slimane did it at Saint Laurent and while the fashion pack moaned and groaned, the consumer responded. Last year, just 2 years into his tenure, Saint Laurent’s sales were up an impressive 27%. Gucci are surely hoping for similar effects by letting Michele run riot. For S/S 16 he continued to throw out the old, and replace it with the, well, old. Gone were the dated blazers, city slicker coats and yacht-life details, replaced with a selection of vintage-look pieces that could have been purchased from some eclectic, obsessive old collector. One got the sense that that fashion-loving hoarder would have been female - these were granny’s clothes not grandpa’s. See the silky pussy-bow blouses in blush and beige, the floral dressing gowns, the sweet pastel pyjamas with ditsy buds, the lace, the wholesome crochet knits and the strange doily-cum-collar in a dated shade of pink that decorated one model’s neck.
Michele described his ethos as Détournement - a term used by the Letterist International and later the Situationists to describe the process of taking something old, rehashing it for the now and using its codes and meanings to shock or antagonise. Indeed, despite all the granny details, there was a punchy spirit to this collection, that same Slimane irreverence, that same Slimane obsession with youth. You saw it in the studs that decorated the backs of shoes - sparkling ghillies, a long way removed from a horsebit loafer - the disregard for gender traditions and the total confidence with which those heady, opulent decorations snaked over jackets, down the backs of shirts and over suits. It’s worth noting that some define Détournement as the process of turning the capitalist movement against itself. In that sense, it’s a bold word for Michele to adopt for a house that’s all about hard-sell. He had toyed with many of Gucci’s codes and emblems. The opening coat came rendered in full Gucci logo fabric and was accompanied with a red bag with bold Gucci lettering. But they were styled with puddling flares and a silky floral scarf and worn by a model called Love. The contrast of all that bohemia with something so obvious and polished as a Gucci label did seem amusing - ironic even. And while it’s easy to look at all those florals and think of Michele like some kind of sensitive poet, there’s a confidence to him that shouldn’t be underestimated - you could read into that growling, menacing animal in a cowboy hat that decorated the back of some jackets. You could also read into the fact the for the first time in nearly 20 years, Gucci showed in a new venue, Scalo Farini, a former railway station.
There’s a constant irony that this generation - those who spend their spare time Instagramming past imagery and dancing to vinyl - find modernity in things that are old. In that sense this collection was convincing - it felt fresh, despite its focus on the vintage shapes and styles. But it’s a shame that a designer so forwarding-thinking as Michele when it comes to fashion and gender couldn’t put together a more relevant, reflective casting. All the models that walked in the show were Caucasian. Such a backward detail let down a collection that should have felt like it had its arms open to youth, change and the future.
Still, the clothes themselves were remarkable - remarkable in the sense that they were truly designed to be remarked upon and to allow the wearer the luxury of others commenting on the detail and decoration of his garments. Despite the surface hand-work there was a focus on ease. Sleep and lounging seemed to be a big theme - one pictured the models reclining with cigarettes, lazing around in silky layers or a bold red embellished tracksuit. That’s what truly made this collection feel luxurious, and it’s what will pull in the old Gucci shopper. In this hectic modern world what feels more desirable, more precious that leisure? The ultimate luxury is the luxury of time.