Even the most jaded of fashion flock get their hearts-a pumpin’ for the Gucci runway show ever since Alessandro Michele arrived five years ago. A step and repeat image of two early Seventies-era kids blowing out birthday candles on cake hinted at a sense of joy despite the black lair of the show entrance. It figured as the backside of the invitation read “I invite you to my 5th birthday rave” in Italian to convey that ‘go ape-shit nuts’ enthusiasm of 5-year-old birthday kids in relation to Michele’s fifth-year anniversary at Gucci.
A dark curtain revealed an oval amphitheater with a massive orb and needle pendulum swinging back and forth over a pit of black powder that wafted up into the air and noses of the guests (similar to colored powder parades in India and suburban charity ‘color runs’). Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” seemed to be the reference especially aided by the foreboding music reverberating throughout inducing a sense of anxiety. The ample wooden seat benches appeared to be modeled after those used in a tribunal courtroom. The audience voyeuristically participated in this reference to torture but wasn’t this a celebration?
Actually, it was anything but according to show notes. Michele was making a statement against toxic masculinity formed by the suppression by society of any feminine leanings a young boy has. He challenges the social implications of this which “nourishes abuse, violence and sexism.” Valid points indeed. Messages on clothes – Fake; Impotent; Think/Thank – drove home the point.
Michele looked at a nostalgic view but this time leaving its constraints behind. His youthful archetypes whether Smiths-loving goth and Nirvana grunge kids who thrifted in search of grandpa sweaters, flannels, overcoats, and other vintage scores or the pretty glam rocker or classic schoolboys (and girls as he showed a selection of women’s looks) who fell in line and marched to obedience in little school shorts and jacket uniforms. He allowed each to express feminine traits such as a bouffant or pompadour hairstyles; carrying a classic Gucci purse or wearing a sweet boater hat. And of course, any jewelry or make-up they desired.
Once the show started the pendulum was there to chip away or destroy this old idea as the release quoted “It’s time to celebrate a man who is free to practice self-determination without social constraints…without suffocating stereotypes.”
He partnered with the infamous sweet floral print company Liberty of London for a puffer coat and large tote that bore the Liberty label for instance, for a literal connection of liberating the programmed male. The sweetness factor on traditional female styles – no matter worn by whom – went beyond girlish to toddler-ish with pinafore plaid dresses as well as bloomer and dress combos. A men’s gingham coat had faux grass stains like the kind found on a child’s clothes after a successful day of outdoor play. A bag featured colored wooden block shapes.
He managed to convey a new proposition of manliness though one that’s been coming round his and other’s runways for quite some time. Maybe this was his most political take on the “feminine-sation” of men and he did so without having to add shock value; kind of like a 5-year-old kid who learns to manage the temper tantrums of his 2-3-4’s.
Marco de Vincenzo prefers to let the clothes do the talking. Pre-show Backstage at his second men’s collection and first in Milan, he told The Impression, “You don’t have enough time in ten minutes to talk about your collection [in depth] to everyone.” This reasoning drove him to call this collection Ciao because “it is a nice international Italian word that is never misunderstood. You can say to everyone and they will understand. I think fashion rushes at the same speed of Ciao!”
The liner notes backed it up explaining “Not even a designer who is eternally balancing need for renewal always knows where his ideas will take him” He’s definitely feeling challenges of the pace but did his best to explain it in ten minutes to the gaggle of Italian tv reporters also interviewing him.
The clothes did speak for themselves and have a faint feminine voice; recognizable but with a pleasant, unexpected surprise. A trench with pleats for volume or blouson sleeves; a new ‘Vivaldi-style” bow at the backs of traditional men’s suit jackets; a heavy plaid bouclé almost fur-like to the touch became a cargo pant and jacket ensemble that was reminiscent of a certain famous French-style jacket. Pants had an ombre treatment; surreal and graphic prints donned dress shirts and a rainbow lamé became a tailored suit that would rock a Red Carpet.
He did hint at one inspiration when pressed, an obsession of his, Man Ray. The famous eye image appeared on a handbag. “He is one of my favorite artists. If I can’t own or buy a real photograph, I don’t like the idea of having a copy on paper. But what I can is do is embroider it, bead after bead with strong workmanship and preserve the authenticity of the idea,” adding “It’s a nice idea to use what is iconic in your life in a different way, not to copy but work on an idea and to go to the future.”