As usual, Gucci takes us on a dizzying twirl
Gucci has earlier announced that, with the COVID-19 outbreak still a global health threat, few, if any, Chinese/Asian buyers/editors/influencers would be in town for its autumn/winter 2020 presentation. But the show must go on. And a show it is, a rotating fish tank of a show. Given what’s happening in our part of the world, forgive us for seeing the revolving, glassed-up presentation as evocation of a quarantine facility, with the models-as-potentially-infectious-individuals peering out, longing to be freed, but could not be until, the rotation (metaphor for the passing of time?) stops. Meanwhile, lab-coated dressers, the equivalent of medical staff in attendance, watched coldly. They might as well be in hazmat suits. In the middle, a fluorescent metronome ticks away, seen but not heard (save the brief intro) as Maurice Ravel’s Bolero played on: hastening the end of the confinement? When the time is right, fashion is finally freed. It’s a release passengers of the Diamond Princess, docked in Yokohama, know, and have experienced and tasted.
Before they stepped out, you’d have been introduced to the Gucci cast of characters, standing as stationary as those in an identification line-up: the fashionista, the IG star, the movie star, the starlet, the showgirl, the schoolgirl, her school teacher, the principal, the housewife, the mistress, the matron, the auditor, the geek, the punk, the hippie (of course), the ah lian, her BFFs, the war veteran, the war-time nurse, the housekeeper, the chambermaid, the novice nun, the harlot, the budget tourist, the wealthy traveller, the fashion swapper, the Salvation Army habitué, the ghost of Scarlet O’Hara. Surprisingly, the pop wunderkind is missing. There are, of course, the less straightforward: those that people such a diorama, those that stand indescribable, the motley brood that lends Gucci its zaniness and irreverence, and predictability.
Some of the clothes look like they are pieces from previous shows, restyled, or from other eras, liberated from their owners’ wardrobes, pulled together to seduce those who are not sensitive enough to imagine that the separates can come together in such a seemingly haphazard way and still direct attention to a point in the past. There are those gowns that would not look out of place if you were to to time-travel back to the American Civil War, dresses that looked like what evil Anabelle might not want, suits revived from ’70s Burda, bondage gear and add-ons that could have come out of The Happy Hooker, and assorted outers that can be imagined as Empress Michiko’s cast-offs. It’s really a wonder that no one has yet thought to get Alessandro Michele to costume a period film.
For sure, there is yet a shift in Mr Michele’s maximalist playfulness. While he seemed to have toned down, even a smidgen, the men’s show, he has maintained the amplification for the women’s. This time, you could discern design, that elusive line between styling and creation. At first, a pair of intriguing sleeves is spotted—they look like deformed spools. Then, a pleats-meet-gathers bodice-to-waist, Balmain-esque flounces, and a negligee-dress that is, strangely, abbreviated at the waist into a bow. If only some of these ideas were expanded (another pair of those sleeves for men hardly count), there could have been more of what the eye has not yet gotten used to. As we know, the correlative of familiarity is boredom.
Whether we are bored or not, no one expects less from Alessandro Michele. So he gives you the full monty. He has successfully pitched himself to be so adept at assembling clothes to yield a certain visual kookiness and, of course, excess, built upon obscure historicism that one notch down the scale of superfluity may, for fans and the converted, spell impoverishment for fashion. The more you see the more you’re going to be convinced that even five years after Mr Michele showed his vision for Gucci, you are not yet satiated.
That’s the amazing power of Mr Michele, an illusionist who can create desire by constantly turning up the volume of more is better. And that no one should settle for less. Even a fashion show has to offer extra by opening up the backstage in full, behind-the-scene mode. Seeing models get dressed, layer by layer, heightens the desirability of the clothes, perhaps? It was Tom Ford, the first to revive the Florentine house, who showed that, at Gucci, the cup has to runneth over. Mr Michele, although aesthetically different from Mr Ford, is just as good at keeping it just overflowing. It is true that in this social-media age, “nothing succeeds like excess”, as Oscar Wilde said. “Moderation,” he was convinced, “is a fatal thing”. Alessandro Michele shows he knows that well, too.