2015 the year of... alessandro michele’s gucci
Here's how Gucci’s unknown new designer remade the house in his own charming image.
No other designer quite dominated the fashion headlines this year like Alessandro Michele, the creative designer of Gucci. It seemed you couldn't open any magazine without reading a salivating piece extolling his new vision for femininity, the counterpoint to the Kardashian-saturated glam seen on many other runways. And all in only two seasons (well, three if you count the brilliant resort show in New York), starting with his fall/winter 15 offering and culminating in him winning International Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards.
It's not hard to see why. Gucci had been stuck in a creative rut for quite some time under previous head Frida Giannini, who pushed a retro sexiness not a million miles away from Tom Ford's era defining designs of the nineties. But while Ford trod a clever and delicate line between chic and excess, it was harder to know what Giannini's vision was apart from decidedly Rock Chick - more about smoky eyeliner than actual clothing. Her sudden expulsion along with husband and CEO Patrizio di Marco brought an end to this, and into the vacuum stepped the previously anonymous Michele, who had worked for the house since 2002.
According to Michele, his first show was created in only five days. Men's fall/winter 15 was perhaps the most anticipated men's show since Hedi Slimane's re-emergence at Saint Laurent, and so much more of a shock. Bespectacled boys and a few girls slouched out in pussy bow blouses and berets, hands dripping in rings brushing wide legged trousers. No sex please, we're poets, it seemed to say, a volte-face from the previous two decades of unabashed sexuality. Compounding this was the casting - not only did they look incredibly young, but there was a genderless, gawky air to the models. All of these boys wore blouses like it was nobody's business. Because, really, it isn't. It was a brilliant start to the new Gucci.
The women's show only a month later furthered this new post gender manifesto and sent the press completely wild. It was more than just the high concept show notes that they loved however. Michele's designs look new because they're so unapologetically pretty and feminine; floral prints, lace, embroidery and fur, sometimes all on one riot of a garment. In a season full of really dire financial predictions for the fashion industry, clothes women might actually want to buy look like money in the bank. It's not hard to buy into his dream. It also doesn't hurt that every look is so meticulously and excessively accessorized - there's just so much to buy, a retailer's dream. Michele's ideas for bags, the Gucci staple, align closely with his clothing - sweet blossoms scroll across the iconic interlocked G monogram, embroidered butterflies wing their way over a tote, and shoes mince by in an array of metallic hues.
As part of the image overhaul, Michele's campaigns, with photographer Glen Luchford, are drastically different to the glossy Mert and Marcus pictures of the past. Luchford's perhaps most famous for his lo fi work in the nineties - Amber Valetta slouches in a row boat for Prada, Angela Lindvall looks virginal in white Miu Miu, Kate Moss boxes on the streets of New York. It's the epitome of the British grunge moment, and channeled into the campaigns is a brilliant counterpoint to Michele's high shine fabrics and lurid colors. For fall/winter 15, a cast of young unknowns lounge on the subway - it's dubious as to whether the Gucci woman's ever taken public transport before.
All of this came together, perfect storm like, to create the year of Gucci. Everything he created was picked up upon and duplicated, from the delicate prints to the ungainly models. At the spring/summer 16 shows, the front row, every row in fact, was Gucci-fied, especially the fur lined loafers that had caused such a fuss at the men's show. You couldn't move without tripping over another wide trouser leg ending in a shoe that looked like it swallowed one of the Muppets.
Michele describes his runway show as being like a beautiful garden - all sorts of awkward elements coming together to create a gorgeous whole. To this end, the spring show was even shown in an industrial space crammed with tropical plants and florid carpets. The people he populates his world with are just as exotic. Gone is the Gucci sex bomb, and in her place is a rarer bird. Chloe Sevigny and Elle Fanning have both sported his work on multiple occasions, as has transgender muse and actress Hari Nef, even wearing a floral suit to the White House. These delicate, weirdly luminous creatures suit his vision perfectly. On the men's side, Jared Leto has been enlisted to lend his androgynous charm, pink hair topping off a variety of suits.
With his British Fashion Award and Gucci's outfitting of a thousand stars at LACMA's Art + Film gala in November, Michele's ended the year on a high note. His reinvention of Gucci isn't just a triumph for the house, but for fashion in general - people actually want to buy clothes! Fashion sells! Exciting fashion, not just haute sportswear. Whether Michele can continue to interest with his vintage inspired designs remains to be seen, but at the least he's got a good couple of seasons in him before anyone gets bored. I mean the man is the antithesis of boring. Here's to 2016 being another riot at the House of Gucci.
Text Jack Sunnucks
Photography Jason Lloyd-Evans