Alessandro Michele’s Autumn/Winter 2019 show was a Gucci-fied masquerade ball. Here’s what you need to know
1. The invite was an Ancient Greek mask
Befitting Alessandro Michele’s showman-like flourish, guests received invitations for this afternoon’s show in the form of a mask of the head of Hermaphroditus delivered to them in a museological crate. Hemaphroditus, the child of mythical Ancient Greek gods Hermes and Aphrodite, is said to have become a single androgynous form when united with water nymph Salmacis (since beginning his tenure at the house, Michele himself has been similarly interested into doing away with traditional gender distinctions in his collections). In an accompanying blurb, the designer said the mask represents “exhibition and concealment, manifestation and protection, vanity and modesty”. “If we’re getting philosophical,” wrote Alexander Fury when we exclusively revealed invitation this morning, “then clothes are another mask. They mask the body, at their most basic. But they also ally to those above ideas, and to the idea that a mask represents different impulses and urges.”
2. There were masks in the collection, too
A multitude of them: crystal-fringed, wrestler-style, protruding with spikes, or akin to a 1980s visor, and covering the entire face. Others were even more offbeat: covering a single eye, or even encasing models’ ears – the latter were inspired by work entitled Fashion Fiction #1 by artist Eduardo Costa, published in Vogue in 1968. The show notes – titled The Mask as a Cut Between Visible and Invisible – explained Michele’s motivation. “The mask, in fact, lets us show ourselves as we please and play our acting role as we think best,” they read. “It’s the possibility to choose how to exercise our freedom.”
3. The set was a giant flashing screen
Under Michele, Gucci’s show sets have been particularly dramatic, numbering a sterile operating theatre, a vast pink boudoir (replete with 25,000 sequins) and a “map” with various simulacrum of ancient landmarks – as well as various real-life locations, including the Pitti Palace in Florence and a Roman burial ground in Arles, France. You might deceived into thinking, then, that the the floor-to-ceiling flashing screens which provided the backdrop for this afternoon’s show marked Michele stripping things back. Not so: the vast, entirely mirrored space was lit with 120,000 LED bulbs across an elliptical wall, designed to “endlessly reflect and refract lights and movements”.
4. It was punk meets femme
“I always say that I love things that are not clear, things that are in between,” Michele told Susannah Frankel in the Spring/Summer 2018 issue of AnOther. His collections pull from myriad worlds – past, future and present – clashing opposing elements with disorientating effect. This afternoon’s collection was no different: spiked dog collars, braces and masks – alongside leather trousers, jackets and berets – recalled punk insurgency, while frilled ruff-neck blouses and sugary pastel-coloured quilted trousers and knitwear (for men and women) suggested the opposite. It lent the collection an undercurrent of perversity – so too the nipped-at-the-waist corporate tailoring, worn with a leather harness atop, or lacy tights beneath.
5. The collection encompassed a rainbow of colour
Michele has long-proved deft when it comes to the use of colour in his collections for the house, but this afternoon’s show felt particularly rich: luminous yellow, jarring shades of red, pink and orange (sometimes in a single look), searing shades of electric blue and royal purple. The palette was intensified by a similarly all-encompassing swathe of fabrications: glittering pleated lamé, moire silk, lace and brighty-coloured furs – the latter of which was faux: Michele pledged the house would be going fur-free from its Spring 2018 collection onwards.