gucci's alessandro michele talks gender bending beauty
In his second menswear show at Gucci, Alessandro Michele dreamed up a sensory overload he said was simply “full of beauty”.
Photography Jason Lloyd Evans
Above all things, Alessandro Michele believes in beauty. It may sound like a given for a designer, but much like religion there are degrees of a person's devotion to these things. With his second and defining Gucci men's show - the first one last January was reportedly put together in five days - he was finally able to portray his vision of masculinity and all the elements that make up his ideal world. Speaking to editors backstage, he simply smiled and said, "It's full of beauty." An answer that would normally be met with scrutinizing questions and requests for further definition, it made for a rare moment of total acceptance: we got it. Perhaps it was Michele's score of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina's angelic Renaissance polyphony, Osculetur Me, that had pierced those impenetrable show-goer hearts, or maybe we were still left dizzy and high from what could only be described as the total exquisiteness that had just walked down that catwalk.
Wrapped in ruffles, bows, embroidery, appliqué, lace, and jacquards, Michele's beautiful opulence came in a tight 70s silhouette, sexy bell-bottoms and princely collars and cuffs on parade in a nonstop, addictive procession of looks, each one more ravishing than the other. "I have to work with the past because the story of the brand is so old," he said of his aesthetic, which seemed to span from the Renaissance to the punk era, no rock left unturned. "But I don't want to be a prisoner inside the brand, I want to breathe, you know? I try to put that breath [of fresh air] in the show, because when you see something beautiful you breathe and you are breathless." Had he lived in the 19th century, he'd been one of those hopeless, hopeful romantics, getting lost in poetry and art and waxing lyrical about beauty and love. (Had he lived in the 18th century, he'd have been Lord Byron.)
Asked about the shoes in the show, Michele's answer summed up his receptive mind in one sweeping hyper-referential train of thought: "A ballroom quirky, crazy thing. Something that makes you feel like a gentleman in a contemporary world. You know, in a Dutch painting. A little bit punk." And yet for all his superlative-inducing talk of beauty, the Gucci collection didn't feel overtly romantic. Rather, it was ceremonious in a sexy rock 'n' roll way that managed to speak to both the dreamers and realists in the new and very large warehouse show space, which marked a departure from Gucci's old location and new era for the brand. Michele said it all began with youth. "I'm trying to translate some kind of beauty that a young generation shows in the street, through the eyes of a big brand that talks the language of beauty. For me it makes sense because my first inspiration is the power of the young generation. They are the future. When someone asks me, 'What's the future?' The future is now."
Ever since his first menswear show last season, followed by the women's and resort shows, Michele's work has been branded androgynous—and with good reason. But there was a new, somewhat indefinable element to his spring/summer 16 men's show, which seemed to break away from androgyny and move closer to a kind of punkish masculinity that was rawer and less dainty at its core. "I really don't want to describe it," he said. "A lot of people talk about genderless and different kinds of masculinity. I am not clear in my ideas of sexual orientation. I try to play with something that exists. My idea of masculinity is beauty, and if you want to be beautiful you can be beautiful the way you want. It doesn't mean you're not a man or a woman." In Alessandro Michele and the new Gucci, we just might have a voice of a generation on our hands.
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Jason Lloyd Evans