When a collection is showcased against a backdrop of some of the most famous paintings in the world, from Rubens, Titian and Velázquez to Raphael, Botticelli and Caravaggio, it takes the boldest, richest clothes to distract from those Renaissance masterpieces. But Alessandro Michele, Gucci's creative director, lauded for his flamboyant, maximalist, eccentric designs, was easily able to retain the attention of the international editors flown into Florence – more specifically, the gilded, sumptuous rooms of the Palatine Gallery in the Palazzo Pitti – for the 2018 Cruise show.
Cruise collections are undoubtedly the most lavish and spectacular shows in the fashion calendar (remember Dior's, held earlier this month in the middle of the Californian wilderness?), inviting the leading fashion press to far-flung destinations for unforgettable presentations. So why did Michele choose Florence, following last year's Cruise show held in the magnificent Westminster Abbey? "Florence is still one of the most fascinating metropolises of the past. I adore the classical pieces of our culture, the Greek and Roman are still inside and everywhere, it’s impossible to disconnect. I feel very comfortable here," Michele explained to WWD backstage. "The very beginning of European aesthetics started from Florence. Everything here was beauty, money and creativity, the power of the good money."
Heavily inspired by the historical Florentine setting, Michele's collection was an ode to the Renaissance but with a contemporary rock 'n' roll twist. With 115 looks shown in quick succession, drawing on disparate trends from the 16th century right up to the present day, there really was something for everyone. The opening look – a vivid green qipao-esque dress worn over blue patterned trousers, finished off with a pink bow – was followed by quilted coats, mink furs, cricket jumpers, colourful lace, sporty zip-ups, rugby-striped tops, puffer jackets, silk bombers, rich embroidery, paisley print, embellished lumberjack shirts, brocade and even a metallic purple flared-leg suit, worn by musician (and former Klaxon) James Righton. Numerous looks were completed with gold laurel crowns as a nod to the ancient world, and the fauna and flora prints with which we've grown so familiar since Michele took the creative helm in 2015, were as prevalent as the Gucci logo.
This season, the words 'Guccy', 'Guccification', and 'Guccify Yourself' were emblazoned across garments, perfect for the droves of loyal fans eagerly waiting to clothe themselves in the latest Gucci wares and accessories as soon as they drop. Celebrity fans Jared Leto, Elton John, Beth Ditto (who performed at the afterparty), Dakota Johnson, Saoirse Ronan and Dev Hynes sat keenly in the front row – all in full-look Gucci, of course.
As Michele's Gucci empire only continues to grow and he keeps hold of his title as the current king of fashion, this collection – similar in style to all those that preceded it (though perhaps with even more print, pattern and layered references) – ought to have been as well received as ever. However, as the show concluded last night, eagle-eyed fashion enthusiasts noticed that one particular look, a fur zip-up jacket with balloon monogrammed sleeves, was remarkably similar to a creation by '80s Harlem designer, Dapper Dan, made for Olympic medallist Diane Dixon. Whether this was meant as a tribute to the shop-owner who outfitted countless hip hop stars in the '80s and '90s is unclear. But this is not the first time Michele has been criticised for apparently copying someone else's ideas. Last month the designer came under fire for the alien characters in the Gucci AW17 campaign, which were noticeably similar to the work of Central Saint Martins womenswear student Pierre-Louis Auvray. Michele swiftly refuted all claims of plagiarism so we'll have to wait and see if he responds regarding Dapper Dan.