It’s all change at Gucci. In what must be one of the most dramatic brand resets fashion has seen in the last decade, the new creative director, Alessandro Michele, pulled away in a completely fresh direction.
Gone were the steely sexual predators that have stalked the Gucci runways since as long as we can remember. In their place were boy-girls and girl-boys, their genders practically indistinguishable. Forget the power looks of before, the steel-toe-capped stilettos, the über-rich ostentation. Everything was reversed, from the seating that had been rearranged into a square set-up with most of the audience piled into the middle, to the feeling that we were in a subway station with the roar of rattling trains. And it percolated right down to the casting of the models: no supermodels pounding the catwalk here, just young, barely recognisable androgynous beauties, be they male or female. No bouncy, glossy hair or starlet make-up, just pale faces, sometimes framed with intellectual specs and equally undone hair, covered with a bobble hat or two.
As for the clothes, girls in boys’ trouser suits and boys in boys trouser suits – similar, though not the same ones Michele showed on the autumn/winter 2015 menswear runway in January, his debut for the house. They came piped in a contrast colour or covered in florals with in-built creases, as if recently unpacked from a suitcase. Long skirts and shifts in wrinkled leather also had a just-thrown-it-on-from-said-suitcase look, as did the prettiest of floral dresses, ruffled and bowed at the neck, that looked like vintage treasures. Two long fur coats might have been borrowed from a grandmother. There were touches of military – a long army green coat and a navy jacket with golden stitching on the cuffs – that could have been resurrected from a war museum. Nude lace and barely there organza dresses had a fragile sensitivity hitherto never seen on a Gucci catwalk. And on their feet, clogs and wafer-flat slippers sprouting fur. One pair of flat mules resembled a pair of long-haired Chihuahuas. That we’ve seen fur-soled flats before at Céline and Rochas didn’t seem to matter here – the shoes summed up everything about Michele’s volte-face and Gucci’s new softer, romantic/intellectual vibe and vision.
The designer quoted philosophy in the programme notes – Roland Barthes, to be precise – titling his show 'The Contemporary Is The Untimely’ and quoting Barthes thus: ‘Those who are truly contemporary are those who neither perfectly coincide with their time nor adapt to its demands.’ Everything about this collection and the way it was presented, right down to the printed word, said ‘rule breaker’.
As exciting as all that sounds, Gucci is a huge business – the largest brand in the Kering group – with profits to make and shareholders to keep happy. Not to mention its customers. It is unlikely that Gucci’s former female maneater would be seen dead in any of these clothes, which means a whole new clientele must be enticed. When asked what the key items his new customers might covet, Michele simply said: ‘Beautiful things sell.’
So, are you the new Gucci girl?