Gucci’s Theatre of Contradiction fashion
Almost as much as he is a designer Alessandro Michele is a cultural phenomenon.
Michele’s fashion shows for Gucci, where he is creative director, are more artistic happenings than mere displays of clothes. Take his latest display, where he presented Gucci’s spring/summer 2019 collections for both men and women, exceptionally, in Paris, inviting guests into the city’s most iconic club Le Palace, the Studio 54 of Europe.
On entering, everyone was given opera glasses and a four-paragraph program note of dense, yet impassioned, intellectual prose, explaining that his initial inspiration for this season came from Leo De Berardinis and Perla Peragallo, one of the most memorable of Italian libertarian theatrical duos.
Referencing the “irregular dioscuri” of Italian avant garde theatre, Leo de Berardinis and Perla Peragallo, Michele began the proceedings with a projection of an obscure work by this pair; almost demonic murky purple images of anti-conformism and even anarchy, where the actors writhed and groaned and screamed in pain at the absurdity of the human predicament.
The Palace has been through many iterations. Tonight Gucci had it packed with velvet seats, and the cast of 84 models toured the aisles before all ending up on stage in massed ranks.
Superficially these were highly similar characters to those we've encountered before at Michele's Gucci; nomadic contessas, Brooklyn dandies, Grand Guignol groovers, poetic rockers and self-indulgent fashionistas. But each time, Michele's clever attention to detail, and cascade of pop culture references kept everything fresh. From the Mickey Mouse handbags or the bomber jacket featuring Dolly Parton on its back to the remarkable gray silver sequined G-logo suit for men or the marvelous brown lizard cocktail dress that somehow miraculously morphed into a logo print.
Michele even had Jane Birkin sing Serge Gainsbourg's poignant song Baby alone in Babylone, based on Brahms' 3rd Symphony, winning a huge burst of applause and the odd tear halfway through the show. At the finale, the bearded designer took his bow, embracing Birkin warmly, and trotted out of the theatre.
In a downstairs backstage, a clearly emotional Alessandro quietly took compliments from fans and colleagues.
"To be honest I am just glad it's over. This was really a lot... Now I need a break," smiled Michele, dressed in a black houndstooth redingote, as his millennial models mobbed him.
Each of them carefully putting each of their precious looks back on a clothes rack. Gently placing their new faux worn sneakers in their box. Alessandro is such an inventive designer he has even invented another new fashion category, the fashionable box. Every one of his shows features a new style placed at the changing station of each model, this season a red hibiscus floral idea. They are already doing a roaring trade in the boxes in the Museo Gucci in Florence.
Which brings us back to our first point, Michele is really a cultural phenomena, the creator of a cool, anti-conformist cult. But where most cult leaders end up as lost souls leading a sorry band; Michele has built Gucci into the hottest brand on the planet.
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