Inside Gucci’s AW17 Anti-Modern Laboratory

Artwork by Anna Jay.
London Fashion Week drew to a close with the Marques’ Almeida show yesterday afternoon but it was straight aboard a flight to Italy for Milan Fashion Week, opening with the show from one of the most coveted fashion houses in the world – Gucci, of course. Today was particularly momentous as it marked Creative Director, Alessandro Michele’s first proper unified menswear and womenswear show since he joined the brand in late 2014.
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This morning, just hours before the show, Gucci’s CEO, Marco Bizzarri, revealed to WWD that it would be a “stronger and more powerful presentation” – a bold statement considering the colossal impact Alessandro Michele has already made on the house with his singular vision. In just a couple of years, Michele has drastically transformed not only the image of the house but more importantly, sales, with a 23.6% rise in revenues for 2016, compared to 2015.
Taking place in a former airplane hangar, Bizzarri described the AW17 venue as “a white box that Alessandro can decorate as he wishes.” And that he did, transforming the space into a purple fantasia, described in the show notes as “an anti-modern laboratory”, perfectly suited for a collection entitled ‘The Alchemist’s Garden’.
The invite to today’s show was a vinyl record featuring a reading by Florence Welch of William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience" on the A-side, while the B-side featured “A love letter from Frederick Wentworth to Anne Elliot” from Jane Austen’s Persuasion – a fitting teaser for the brand’s first show combining men’s and women’s full collections. Another indication of what was to come was the invite envelope reading ‘What are we going to do with all this future?’ in the familiar scrawl of rising artist Coco Capitán.
Photo: Pietro D'aprano/Getty Images.
Photo: Pietro D'aprano/Getty Images.
After a 45-minute delay (once Tom Hiddleston, Florence Welch, Hari Nef, Salma Hayek, Jared Leto, Alexa Chung and A$AP Rocky had taken their seats in the front row), a huge purple curtain parted to reveal a plexiglass tunnelled catwalk – reminiscent of the glass artificial intelligence incubator in 2015 film Ex Machina – with a huge mirrored pyramid rising from the centre of the window-panelled catwalk space.
A procession of 120 male and female models came out in quick succession, marching through Michele’s anti-modern lab. This was a notably more diverse cast (affirming Gucci’s recent decision for a more inclusive, representative vision for the fashion house), unified by their vibrant, ornately decorated Gucci geek chic attire, spectacles and silver septum piercings.
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Photo: Pietro D'aprano/Getty Images.
Photo: Pietro D'aprano/Getty Images.
We know from Michele’s previous collections, since his first in January 2015, that the designer delights in clashing prints, colourful jewel tones, ‘70s and vintage-inspired pieces but for AW17 he really revelled in his eclectic taste, combining all manner of eras and influences, from Victoriana to ‘80s, from the Orient to the US. There were Geisha-esque oil-paper umbrellas, retro tennis headbands and furs to make the Tenenbaums proud, glittering capes, intricately embroidered coats, lace blouses, flared suits with untucked shirts, patent trousers, fortune-teller frilled dresses, metallic gowns, shimmering brocade, Genghis Khan robes and an abundance of scarab beetles, owls, raccoons, snakes and tigers. Writing by Capitán appeared on T-shirts that will undoubtedly be next season's standout buy.
This was an explosion of print, pattern, intricate detailing and expert craftsmanship in a collection that offered something for everyone. An AC/DC band T-shirt, featuring GUCCI in bold letters on the back, will suit the more minimal, logo-loving dresser while embroidered and embellished coats and capes were fit for fashion’s most ostentatious peacocks. For the true maximalist, a Gucci bride closed the show, in a magnificent floral white gown that was part-Miss Havisham, part-punk bride.
While Michele has spent the past two years cementing his idiosyncratic vision for Gucci, this AW17 was also about newness, signified by the introduction of the Ouroboros – Gucci's new logo symbol of a snake devouring its own tail, representing "a process of self-renewal". Michele’s reinvigoration of the diminishing fashion house has been truly remarkable, and his confident AW17 collection is set to be just as successful, if not more so, than those that preceded it.
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