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Gucci AW21 Aria Balenciaga
Gucci Autumn/Winter 2021Photography by Kevin Tachman

Alessandro Michele and Demna Gvasalia on Gucci’s Hacking of Balenciaga

In a conversation conducted over DM, the two designers come together for a discussion about the magic of fashion and last week’s viral Gucci show

Lead ImageGucci Autumn/Winter 2021Photography by Kevin Tachman

Unprecedented. A word that, however ubiquitous now, has come to define the past year. It also feels like an appropriate way to describe Gucci’s latest collection, revealed last week. Marking its 100th birthday, the collection, titled Aria, represented a fusion of the Italian fashion house’s codes and one of its French counterparts’, Balenciaga. Not a collaboration, as the brand has been keen to clarify, the collection was the first expression of creative director Alessandro Michele’s so-called “hacking lab” – an extension of his alchemic approach to fashion, whereby he will draw on not only different continents, cultures and centuries, as he has done throughout his tenure at Gucci, but different designers, too – in this instance Demna Gvasalia, Balenciaga’s creative director, and Tom Ford, one of his predecessors at the brand. Plundering the “nonconformist rigour” of Gvasalia and the “sexual tension” of Ford, along with the silhouette of Marilyn Monroe and the glamour of old Hollywood, Aria felt new, exciting and, to use that word again, unprecedented. Unsurprisingly, the collection went viral.

In the wake of the show, Gucci released a conversation between Michele and Gvasalia, conducted over DM, which can be read below and gives an insight into the thinking behind the collection.

Alessandro Michele: Ciao Demna!

Demna Gvasalia: Hey Alessandro! How are you?

AM: I’m very well! Relaxing at home! After such a huge work …

What about you?

Where are you?

DG: Oh I can imagine, exhaustion and excitement always mixed when preparing the collection! I’m on an exceptionally fast train on my way to Paris to work on my next show styling, so I’m super excited :-)

AM: You are so totally right! It’s always crazy and hard but as you said the most exciting moment! It’s like giving birth!

And this time I had so much fun in working on that crazy show!

DG: I know, for me it’s the reason I love doing fashion. Every time like the first time. Haha

AM: For me to! It’s the only reason why I’m still here!

DG: I can imagine, such an important show too. I can’t wait to see it.

AM: I tried to do something [a] little different and unexpected … So curious to see what kind of reaction will happen …

As you know this year is the 100th birthday of my little baby Gucci! 👶🏼 

What a perfect occasion to play with your creativity for Balenciaga in the show!

DG: Wow, one whole century, it’s such a huge chapter for fashion history!

And a reason to celebrate fashion once again.

AM: That’s what I exactly tried to do! Celebrating fashion and this strange but fascinating work!

DG: I remember at the end of the 90s when I bought my first perfume (it was a sample perfume, the only thing you could get in post-USSR Georgia) and it was a tiny Gucci Envy perfume that I actually still have at home :-)

AM: So amazing 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

I can imagine! I loved that perfume!

And the name too!

DG: Yes, so very fashion and fierce!

AM: I was crazy in the same era for a super beautiful pair of flare pants! But too expensive!

I didn’t have the money!

I’m still so in love with the 90s!

Tom is a genius!

I thought a lot about his work in this show …

DG: Yes, it really defined the decade in fashion I think. But I love how today everything mixes in together, 70s, 90s, 00s, etc … Anything is really possible and fashion is such a melting pot of the past, present and future. That’s what makes it so special and intriguing I guess.

AM: I have always loved to get things from everywhere and from every historical moment in order to give them new life. I’m obsessed, as you may know, with bringing the past back and transform it into a living and vibrant present.

DG: Totally! For me this is pretty much the magic of fashion – out of nowhere something no longer relevant or forgotten becomes super relevant and “new”, it’s giving a new life and transforming one idea into another that is so exciting and creatively motivating!

I’m shy as a character, but I’m a social voyeur. I love observing things and putting them through my creative filter giving them a complexity, different or new context, it’s like a game play to me. Maybe the result of my childhood upbringing lol!

Do you miss doing live shows?

AM: I’m starting now to feel the urgency to be again in presence with other people, bodies, feelings, faces, energies. All at the same time. What about you?

DG: You know I’m not the most social person outside of my work, but I must say even I feel the need to go out, see people’s faces, have basic human interactions that have become such an unimaginable luxury. I actually miss seeing the faces of my cast and my team and I miss the energy of a show, that feeling of anxiety every time before a show, the magic of the old school fashion …

AM: Maybe you are not social but your shows [have always been] very powerful social generator[s]!!!! I remember your first show! I was there and it’s still in my mind!

DG: It was so nice that you came to support me with that first show, I was so nervous and it was amazing to have someone like you there to see my beginning at Balenciaga. 😍

AM: The three-dimensional experiences are still my favourite. They can [be] full of anxiety but pregnant with life. I’m really understanding they cannot be replaced by any other virtual platform. Even if this forced time of isolation pushed me to creatively experiment with new languages, narratives and visions, I think it’s time to go back to real life. So, after a year, my dear friend this would be the occasion to attend another fabulous show of yours! And you can come to mine, with your positive energy ❤️

DG: Oh yes I would love that, I believe soon we will be able to start enjoying some simple pleasures of real life again! And I can’t wait to experience another of your live shows, like diving into your world for 15 minutes.

AM: Did you have the time to see the looks I’ve been working on?

DG: I’ve seen some of the renderings and it looked really cool how you translated those pieces into your universe.

AM: How long does it still take to reach Paris?

DG: One more hour and my reception is so bad here, that’s why sometimes it takes me longer to send a message lol.

AM: Yeahhh!!!! I’m so excited and extremely curious [about] what you’re planning [for] your show!

DG: Because of this forced digitalised year I’m also trying our different concepts for each collection and it’s really a good exercise I must say, pushing my creative boundaries further every time, but I must say I can’t wait to show my first couture in real life this summer, fingers crossed 🤞

AM: It was fun chatting with you my friend, as always! I’m sending you all my positive vibes for your work! 💘

DG: Yes, really lovely chatting Alessandro! Good luck with the show next week and enjoy this very special moment ❤️

Big hug 🤗

AM: Big hug to you, speak soon 😘😘

This conversation originally appeared on the Gucci Official Instagram.