How do you follow Chanel's fictional Parthenon, recreated inside the Grand Palais? Dior's desert extravaganza complete with branded hot air balloons, sweeping vistas and Rihanna? Or Louis Vuitton's elaborate celebration of Japan set in the dramatic mountains of Kyoto? If you're Alessandro Michele and Gucci, you set your collection inside Florence's Pitti Palace, against one of the world's most iconic art collections including more than 500 priceless works spanning Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Correggio, and more. As the last show in a cruise season of big, bold and expensive runway statements, Michele provided one of the most visually lush experiences of all.
It takes a lot of dress to hold its own against a Caravaggio.
And Michele's distinctly maximalist aesthetic — rich jewel tones, opulent brocades, decadent crystals, supple furs, densely layered pearls and loud and proud prints — was up to the task. His clothes looked right at home among the Medici family's sprawling collection of gilded framed paintings.
Remember, this is a man who has ushered in a modern renaissance for the Florentine luxury brand on the back of his love of history and consistent references to the spirit of the Old Masters. Under Michele's vision, Gucci has not only beat sales expectations with a 48% year on year increase, but has pushed its parent company Kering's shares to a new high.
So his choice of show venue, the historic Palatine Gallery, an art world mecca of sorts inside Florence's Palazzo Pitti, seemed loaded with significance.
'Following the presentation of the last two Cruise collections, in the art district of New York in 2015 and in the cloisters at London's Westminster Abbey in 2016, staging the next Cruise collection show in the heart of Florence has special meaning, particularly as Alessandro is constantly inspired by the city's renaissance masterpieces,' Marco Bizzarri, President and CEO of Gucci said in a statement.
As we joined famous guests including Elton John, Childish Gambino, Dakota Johnson, Dev Hynes and Kirsten Dunst on stools embroidered with lines from the poem, Canzona Di Bacco, written by Lorenzo di Medici, Michele revealed a new set of tweaks on his more-is-more aesthetic.
Though, interestingly, the newness this season was a slightly less-is-more approach. (Slightly I say!) And the clothes looked all the more wearable for it.
Sure, there were embroidered cats and florals aplenty, as well as an otherworldly pearl-encrusted headpiece (pearls are trending in fashion by the way, take note) and a fantastically flamboyant patchwork coat covered from hood to ankle in white fur.
But overall, the decoration was a little less dense, the prints and textiles a little less piled on and the shapes weren't quite as exaggerated as in previous seasons.
And while there were plenty of sweeping gowns and rock star velvet suiting for the Beyoncés and Jared Letos of the world (both loyal fans, with the latter sitting front row at the show), there was also the faintest hint of practicality mixed in with the fantasy: relatively quieter looks such as a tailored suit in grey, a suede and shearling worker's jacket and a series of classic boyfriend jeans. These were clothes for everyday life off the red carpet and away from the fashion week circuit.
His standout moments, though, were those when he owned the bling and bombast: a Medieval dress, emblazoned with 'Guccy' (his latest spin on knockoff culture), bags and t-shirts emblazoned with the word 'Guccification,' a 'banjee girl' look with exaggerated logoed sleeves (a controversial riff off of an Eighties look designed by legendary Harlem figure, Dapper Dan), and socks and tights tricked out in bejewelled, interlocking Gs.
And surrounding it all, gilded walls rammed full with many of the world's most iconic paintings. It was the first time the Palace has ever hosted a runway show, and in part the event served as promotion for Gucci's new partnership with the Uffizi Gallery to restore its Boboli Gardens. Fashion literally meeting art.