When Alessandro Michele presented that first menswear collection under what were tension-filled and uncertain circumstances back in January last year, reportedly it was the British press who were cheering the hardest when it came to the finale. They were natural cheerleaders for the rejection of Gucci’s conventional gloss and the two fingers up at what was the Gucci status quo. It’s somehow wired into (let’s say most…) British fashion industry folk to root for the subversive, the ironic and the unabashedly OTT. Therefore, a year and a half later, after the complete and utter transformation of Gucci, to be able to witness a ninety-four looks stuffed show dedicated to Michele’s spiritual happy place of England, or more specifically London – in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey no less – didn’t feel like a strategically devised market-driven ‘destination’ cruise show. It felt more like a genuine gesture of gratitude on Michele’s part, as backstage after the show, he paid tribute to British sub cultures or in his words “You can be a punk and drink tea.”
When you travel around the world, almost a representative of your country’s style, you often get asked to trot out with defined nutshells describing a country’s style. However eye-wincing it is to fall into generalising guff, there are a few things that you can’t run away from and Michele hit them on the head in this show, by honing in on stereotypes and maximising them until there is no more maximising to be done. Punk, as gestated on King’s Road by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, and later repeatedly refracted and filtered down in wider culture. Check. Almost jingoistic signifiers of royalty – the pearls of Elizabeth I (who Michele cited as the “original rockstar” of her day) to headscarves and appliquéd corgis of the present day Queen. Check. Eclecticism as displayed in the clashes between Oxford boaters, glam rock metallics, Buffalo-esque rainbow platforms and debutante gowns. Check. LOLz irony in the form of real/fake Gucci hoodies and t-shirts that reclaims ownership of the much counterfeited logo. Check. The loudness. The naffness. The poshness. The madness. All there pulled together into an astonishingly long show that pushed every button of polite taste.
In the styling, there was something deliberately brasher about the collection. The Siouxsie Soux lace leggings. The turbans shiner. The earrings larger and more gem-tastic. The sunnies zanier with their flip-up double shades. All the better to contrast with staunchly traditional garments like kilts, trench coats, collegiate-nodding cardigans and Victoriana blouses.
The setting may have been elevated with the tombstones and memorials of Chaucer, Shakespeare and countless English monarchs nearby but the point was to bring Michele’s natural vintage-scouring, magpie maving and history-revering sensibilities to the city, where they were nurtured. Is there a danger in an intrinsically Italian house like Gucci waving the flag so enthusiastically for the UK (literally the flag was flown in the form of a Union Jack jumper and metallic brothel creeper shoes)? Those aforementioned Brit-style attributes of course aren’t exclusive to this country alone. They’ve had a century plus to spread their wings around the globe through various machinations. Like English punk that has found itself a third life in Japan, thrashed out in an altogether different sub-cultural genre. Or the Scottish kilt that is less a code of national dress but more a signifier of rebellion-laced preppiness. The English eccentric has crossed the borders and exported itself as a genre for any would-be fashion mavens to adopt, which is precisely why Michele has unlocked a goldmine for Gucci. Anything, something, one thing will take your fancy as everything you see below will be produced, made and hang on the racks.
The afterparty at 106 Piccadilly similarly had 1950s rock ‘n’ roll playing on one floor and Italo disco on another with the modern day equivalent of club kids and posh girls in frocks mixing it up. No wonder the British press contingent were such early fan girl/boy adoptors of Michele. They could already see the good times that lay ahead.
Wearing Gucci dress, Miu Miu shoes and J.W. Anderson bag