gucci open milan fashion week with a display of modern fashion alchemy
With an epic co-ed collection on the first day of autumn/winter 17 shows in Milan, Alessandro Michele completed the hyper-referential transformation he started at Gucci two years ago.
Gucci fall/winter 17
Fashion often likes to talk about itself as a fantasy, and yet it's never more compelling than when its dreams actually come true. At the prosperous powerhouse of Gucci, Alessandro Michele has had the opportunity to bring his imagination to fruition. Watching his transformation over the past two years, you can't help but be transported to John Galliano's reign at Dior where the designer king in many ways managed to build his dream castles and live in them, too.
Much like Galliano's friend Michael Jackson did in the ideal world he called Neverland, no doubt inspired by Ludwig II and Louis XIV, who actually erected palaces in which to live out their fantasy views of what the world should be, centuries before. In Milan on Wednesday afternoon, Michele completed the imperial construction work he initiated at Gucci two years ago, unifying his men's and women's shows into one triumphal parade of 119 looks, like something out of Cleopatra's march into Rome.
A large silver pyramid in the middle of the show space - Gucci's newly built headquarters - served to cement that analogy, but it was also a historical reference to Michele's premise for the collection: alchemy, as in the ancient art of transforming base materials into gold, equal parts science and magic. In his dissertation-like show notes, Michele defined his alchemy as "a transformative whirl that reassembles fragments, codes and stories projected on a fresh horizon of sense".
Deciphered, you could read it as a statement that anything can be processed through Gucci's magical machine and come out as part of Michele's all-encompassing world. He is allowed to pick up any reference he wants and turn it into Gucci. For his co-ed autumn/winter 17 collection, he chose motifs not only from the gardens that supplied the ancient alchemists - flora and fauna - but elements from the fashion cultures that surround him, too, both old and new.
Like Madonna, who so often wears his clothes, he plucked his favourite things from fashion history and subcultures, and took ownership of it on his very own appropriative Re-Invention Tour. And like the Queen of Pop, he was also whisked away after a few greetings post-show before the interviewers could ask him about his collection. He retired - according to pictures on Instagram - to a room decked out in the Persian rugs and Renaissance floral tapestries, which constitute that ideal fantasy world he's now realised for himself at Gucci.
Dressed down in a yellow t-shirt, ripped jeans and a green NY cap - his long locks now chopped to a medieval Florentine bob - Michele looked less like an Italian warlord than in seasons past. But with his empire now accomplished, and his transformation from civilian design team member to industry superstar complete, he wouldn't be the first pop idol to acquire an elusive approach to life.
In the evening, Gucci flew in fifty club kids from London - along with Tori Amos - to entertain guests at a swanky party held in the baroque halls of a Milanese school. They were some of the people Michele takes inspiration from in what he calls his 'Renaissance street style', and when you saw them in said opulent context, it all made sense.
Prancing around in drag and elaborate costumes amongst the suits, they were like rare tropical birds imported to enchant those at court. Wearing an iridescent disco ball jacket, Michele popped in and out of his VIP room, delighting the masses. In another century, you could have moved the whole orchestration to a masked carnival in Venice where rich merchants could gaup at rare finds from around the world, taken to Venice as presents for the doge.
Alberta Ferretti had lost herself in that magical world, and presented an all-Venetian collection on Wednesday evening, modelled by currents greats from Gigi Hadid to Yasmin Wijnaldum, who couldn't help but smile as they passed each other on the runway, their gold-encrusted ball gowns billowing with every step. It was totally over the top, and really fabulous for it—a reminder that fashion doesn't have to be complicated to thrill, much in the vein of the simplified fantasies Maria Grazia Chiuri has been exercising at Dior in her first season there.
Alessandro dell'Acqua rung out the first day of shows in Milan with an equally adorned collection, fusing regal embellishment with an urban sense of cool. It wasn't Michele's Renaissance street style, but there's no denying the opulent influence the 'Italian stallion' - as Jared Leto called him at the British Fashion Awards in December - has had on his industry over the past two years.
Text Anders Christian Madsen