Much is made of Alessandro Michele’s approach to gender - the fluidity and androgyny he champions. But it’s his approach to generations and age that is most intriguing. It’s an interest in marrying the wisdom and beauty of age with the freedom and naivety of youth that has informed his recent work. At a glance his models could be kids, dressed up in their Sunday best in shorts, long socks and crisp collars. But look again and it’s a beloved grandma or grandpa in the finery and jewels they’ve collected over years - each garment rich with stories.
Michele’s Gucci collections serve more as chapters in a book than new stories. He’s building a project, one with principals that remain unchanged from season to season; narrative, eclecticism, warmth, individuality. The latter is having a particular push for S/S 17 thanks to Gucci’s new customisation service, which allows shoppers to plaster their already richly decorated pieces with unique emblems and initials - look closely on the runway and you’ll see hints of some of the models names. So what additional yarns was Michele spinning this season? Travel - the constant given inspiration at so many luxury shows - was a starting point. But Michele’s take focused less on modern commuting around a global world, and more on fables and fairytales - the mental treasures one picks up on journeys. A suggestion of physical treasures also came through in the clothing - the exotic sandals, the kimonos, the medallions and sparkles. The bric-a-brac of holiday life also featured - jelly-style shoes, rain macs, sun hats.
Sure, there were souvenirs, but really, on reflection, this seemed to be about mental travel rather than physical journeys - about those imaginary voyages one takes in daydreams. One thought of small boys and girls inventing battles in far-flung realms, parties in exotic lands, expeditions across seas. Italian thinking Claudio Magris had informed Michele’s philosophy this season. The collections navigation of age and youth, vintage and modern, instinct and knowledge, decadence and humbleness come together in his words; ‘The sense of home that everybody, in nostalgia, believes to see in childhood, is instead at the end of the journey.’
Cycles. That’s what underpins Michele’s work. The way the forgotten can become relevant again, the way the old-fashioned can suddenly look so fresh. The way the things that we come to love or obsess over as children or young adults can inform our whole lives. This was a show about imagination and stories and characters. The things we all invent and partake in. A world everyone can make their own. That’s the new Gucci - something for all of us.