Alessandro Michele’s romantic, quirky, maximalistic vision for Gucci has allowed for the whimsy of the past to come bounding into our nostalgic present, and been at once both an oasis of loveliness and invigorating vision. There has been no shortage of praise for Gucci’s new look, and I just can’t help but add to the chorus. From their vintage geek chic clothing and beguiling visual campaigns (shot by Glen Luchford), to their digital metamorphosis and (literally) mythic films; Michele has drawn upon the entirety of human history as his muse and as such, created a world with the familiarity of the past that comes blazing into the present, (and hopefully far into the future).
At the genesis of this new realm, Michele has seamlessly combined two of my most favorite things: Chinoiserie florals and a 70’s aesthetic. Each piece could easily have stepped right out of, or right into, a Wes Anderson film (in which I desperately want to be an extra, lounging in the back of a perfectly disheveled salon, swathed perhaps in a terrific cape, nonchalantly reading Dostoyevsky as a snake slowly coils around a curtain pole above my head). But I digress…
One of the greatest things about Michele’s 70’s vibe is that it isn’t overly referential. These aren’t just your traditional paisley prints or the multi-toned mustard-yellow rainbow shoulders of 90’s youth. Micheles 70’s silhouettes and geek chic bowl haircuts are fused with top to toe floral tapestries, vibrant colors, fluttering silk chiffon and all manner of bird and beast. What was old is made new again, to the point where I almost rethink my moms college bob… almost.
A clear Asian influence can be seen with his use of the Chinoiserie “Tian” pattern, which serves as the focal point of several pieces in the SS 2016 runway show and a range of accessories, as well as becoming the cornerstone of the newest iteration of the #Guccigram – Tian. #Guccigram Tian highlights various artists interpretations of the pattern and “urge[s] us to look closer, to engage with the imagination and enter surreal worlds that evoke a daydream or distant memory.” Something that could also be said about every piece in Michele’s collections.
Gucci Tian Pattern on Spring/Summer 2016 Accessories
But it doesn’t stop there. The Resort 2016 gold lace embroidered gown, inspired by Imperial China and France’s Ancien Regime, the AW 2016 coromandel screen gown, the presence of frog clasps in the Pre-Fall 2016 collection and various Chinoiserie florals continue to creep their way across Michele’s collections, not to mention the landscape wallpaper that has served as the backdrop for several of the campaigns Cruise 2016 images, bringing an increased depth to this historical mash up.
Images via Gucci Story of a Dress
From Left: Gucci Fall 2016; Coromandel Screen with peacocks
From Left: Gucci Spring 2016, Gucci Fall 2016, Gucci Spring 2016
Gucci Pre-Fall 2016
But pointing to a single inspiration for Michele is to discount the world. For anyone who loves to dig into what influences an artist, this is the mother-load. Inspiration and symbolic references abound in his clothing, with each piece holding a myriad of treasures to explore; and several have already begun the quest – Vogue has delved into The Anatomy of a Gucci Look and Susie Lau has explored the Layers of Gucci. Michele seems to draw on a broad historical and literary repertoire, referencing literature and film from Jane Austen to Fellini, taking inspiration from street art and antique maps, 18th century paintings and fashion trends from the court of Louis XIV, “when high heels, bows and wigs were regular elements of a man’s wardrobe,“ allowing some insight into the inspiration behind many of his androgynous styles.
Maybe it’s the overwhelming juxtaposition that makes such an amalgam that could go so wrong seem so right. The Business of Fashion termed the Spring 2016 collection “gorgeous chaos of old and young, old and new, done and unfinished, shiny and dull, prim and louche, magical and terrifying – making the past look like something the future might crave.”
Every time I look through his collections I see something new, realize each piece has further depths to explore and pick a new favorite. It becomes clear to me that this is one of those times in fashion history when a designer comes along whose pieces will be cherished for decades to come… and I fall deeper into the rabbit hole. His aren’t just collections that draw on one beautiful reference, they are an entire world of potential and promise in which time crashes together and stands still. A world that is fantastical and yet wearable. A party being held through the looking glass or behind the wardrobe to which, for the first time, we are invited.
Gucci Pre-Fall 2016 Campaign; Photographed by Glen Luchford
Gucci Spring/Summer 2016 Campaign; photographed by Glen Luchford
Gucci Cruise 2016 Campaign; photographed by Glen Luchford
Gucci Winter 2016 Campaign; photographed by Glen Luchford