Gucci is slowly moving into one-trick-many-dresses pony territory. Even in Paris
You know what they say about familiarity. Yet, Gucci fears not the familiar. Nor, the similar. How does contempt—or boredom—not breed in such same-same-ness? The genius of Gucci is not in generating new designs (although, to be fair, there are new ideas, a live bird among them), but to put those styles already deeply adored by fans in a new setting, better still a different city: Paris, where the fashion world is centred and obsessively watched. And in a nightclub of the past housed in a theatre of the past: Le Palace, where the Parisienne fashion set of the late ’70s, including Karl Lagerfeld; his rival, the late Yves Saint Laurent; as well as Kenzo, partied like their New York counterparts did in Studio 54.
Of course, Alessandro Michele is the master conjurer of the past. You think only Marc Jacobs brings back Yves Saint Laurent? Think again. Mr Michele does it better, and more crazily, more irreverently, as if a hobo has found a discarded trove of YSLs and decided to wear the finds to party at the most decadent club in town because tomorrow is the end of the world. And, true to form, Mr Michele let the geeks and the nerds of every era get their moment too, revenge being the best fashion statement because tomorrow is the end of Instagram. And wasn’t there also a riff on Issey Miyake? Or Chanel, as envisioned by Franco Moschino?
Mr Michele is also the master impresario of the theatre of fashion. Clothes these days are nothing if there’s no setting, no context, or as they say, story line. Inside a former dance club reputed to be a temple of debauchery, it wasn’t enough to offer the ghosts of the past, an obscure indie film was projected on the walls. Show notes, as reported, included the bio of as-little-known Italian experimental theatre practitioners (the late) Leo de Berardinis and Perla Peragallo, referred to as the Dioscuri (twin brothers of Greek mythology) of Italian “theatre of contradiction”. For seekers of meaning, this veneer of intellectual depth not only explained the opposing forces of the clothes (such as men wearing knickers), but also supported the image of Alessandro Michele as thinker, one who can put Jane Birkin and Dolly Parton on the same stage.
This is not all fluff, in other words, never mind if majority of the women who buy the handbags or shoes probably do not care about the references; this is what makes Gucci refreshing. It is the invisible sidebars that give reason to its singular visual language. When that lingo sounds repetitive or trite, there’s always the far more interesting slang of artifice. When an outfit looks like it has appeared before, add a cockatoo. When Sikh turbans have served their useful controversy, return to the banality of beauty-queen tiaras or the play version. If you like heads, and (3-D printed?) human likeness is no longer shocking, go for Mickey’s—cuteness unusually immune to backlash. If only Mr Michele had lived in Bangkok, he would have known that Thai brands such as Kloset and Senada have resorted to such devices for years!
To appreciate Gucci, we were repeatedly told, is to not nitpick about this and that, but to let these and those be. It appeared to us that Mr Michele designs with one endgame in mind: the show, which, in part, borrowed from Cirque du Soleil. The clothes by themselves wouldn’t be enough because, sans wacky pairings and the nerdy models who wear them, they were just vintage-looking garments fashioned to be lurid, and just not disco-era-lurid, but a gaudiness that maybe only Lynn Yaeger can pull off. Oftentimes, they are quite basic garments on their own, in nicer fabrics and rather enchanting prints. This is beyond Warholian. Mr Michele and his team are more adept at twisting what is standalone ordinariness into something extraordinary by the use of colour—for example, that garish green often seen in silk satin, or by additions such as codpieces to the otherwise unspectacular pants for men. The point is, those trousers will make the sale, but you need an external genital pouch to make the news.
Mr Michele is also a proponent of the anti-fit. This is not the oversized look that has dominate catwalks for quite a few years now. Take look 2, for example, the sailor-dress, which really looked too big because, we guess, it’s meant to be vintage-y, so it won’t flatter the body—you’d have to look like you just left the Salvation Army without trying on your purchases, overwhelmed by the low prices of the finds. Or the shirt of look 25 (worn with pencil skirt—a combo already proposed this past season by Balenciaga and executed with far more refinement), which looked like you wore not your father’s, but your grandfather’s shirt during moments of desperation, like when you’re stuck in a farmhouse after coming in from really bad weather and there’s a slasher out there. Yes, we, too, see the stories, even if inelegantly told.