Alessandro Michele Declares Trends Dead
Long live the individual! Alessandro Michele continues to posit the power of trend-transcending uniqueness and vintage-kitsch.
Does anyone else have trouble telling the Gucci seasons apart? I, for one, have to guess by the set of the show and the embroidery motif of the season (if it’s a bee or snake, for example). Since Alessandro Michele took the helm at the Italian house, there’s been an industry-shaking revitalisation of fashion and, indeed, a new creative powerhouse in Milan. At the start of Michele’s Gucci, things were so intoxicatingly fun one didn’t bother taking the time to dissect the meaning of the clothes. Sequins, bees, velvet, fur, lamé – not a second’s hesitation, I had to have all of it!
Three seasons in, though, and it’s about time we think a little about what makes the Italian wunderkind’s magpie, art-sieving and vintage-adoring aesthetic work. Michele pulls a great number of references: Pucci, Saint Laurent, Valentino, Prada, Zegna, Tom Ford, Cavalli, Ralph Lauren, among many others. In some frothy dresses, too, one senses a bit of Valli and Elie Saab. What makes them stand leagues apart, though, is the quasi bad taste approach he’s taken to things. As if a cupcake of a multicoloured tiered dress isn’t enough, here’s an off-shoulder sleeve with an exaggerated puff and fur trimming. Not content with this humongous yellow fur jacket? Have some yellow-tinted sunglasses, bags, shoes and leggings to really look like an expensive version of a Sesame Street character. It’s that daring to go just over the edge of conventional taste that makes his designs so exciting.
To really appreciate this Gucci, though, one must go into the stores and look at the clothes up close and personal. While most fashion houses produce editorially-minded runway shows and end up stocking commercial pieces in stores that weren’t shown, Michele’s Gucci gives you everything you see on the runway. It’s when they’re taken apart that you realize, in a tizzy, that you want a bit of everything. A racing-striped skirt, for example, is less intimidating to approach when you take away the matching bag, socks, and bejewelled cable knit sweater. A bomber jacket with a pink fur collar, too, becomes easier to appropriate without its contrasting floral blouse and abundance of appliquéd ribbons.
For the more traditionally minded, the tailoring retains that Gucci edge of slender sexiness. A full black pantsuit is straightforward. Take it up a notch, and you can try the peak-lapelled cream suit. One more step forward, and perhaps a Prince of Wales checked suit with hanging tassels and jewellery. For the bravest, the option of either a top-to-toe hot pink ensemble, or a fur-cuffed and fully-sequinned disco number.
What the man is saying with his clothes has quietly taken a hold of the industry’s psyche towards churning out marketable trends – shallow, mass-produced kitsch-chic and clashing versions that imply bad (or indeed, no) taste. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll see that the Alessandro Michele is really about clothes for every individual, for every taste, and for ever.