“We called it vault because a vault is a storage place, for beautiful things,” says Alessandro Michele of the new retail venture
Something old, something new. Modern fashion has always been enamoured with the past – resurrecting ideas from history to rediscover newness in their forms, whether that be retrospection of recent decades or the digging up of renaissance costume or medieval garb for out-there statements. Gucci’s Alessandro Michele has roamed further than most – he loves the 70s, sure, but he’s referenced everything and indeed everyone from Lucrezia Borgia to Liberace in his richly-decorated styles. “The past is a bridge to the future. It’s the only passageway, somehow,” Michele said, this past week in Milan. “The past is very present in fashion. It’s difficult to defeat the past.”
If you can’t defeat them, join them. Alessandro Michele’s Milanese speech chimed not with a Gucci show at Milan’s Spring/Summer 2022 fashion week – the next by Gucci is slated for this autumn, to be shown in California – but with a new retail venture they’re calling Gucci Vault. “We called it Vault because a vault is a storage place for beautiful things,” Michele said. Vault is an online concept store, mixing together old and new: old Gucci, and a tranche of new designers, all specially curated by Michele and his magpie eye. “It’s related to my passion for vintage. It is clear I love vintage,” Michele said, laughing, dressed in clothes that were new but looked old (including a dancing pair of earrings that could’ve been snatched from the lobes of the 19th-century Empress Eugenie. “I love old things, they are present in my life with contemporary things.”
The vintage pieces in Vault have been selected from suppliers and auction houses across the world, reconditioned and in some cases customised by Michele and his team. They’re an esoteric clutch: clothes, of course (including a leather-trimmed Gucci monogram dress that’s a dead-ringer for one sported by Lady Gaga in the forthcoming Gucci biopic) but also a set of china in the house’s Flora print, and a clutch of weird cups with handles in the shape of animal heads (very Michele). “These things are from the past, we are in the present but this may be an introduction to the future,” he said.
The pieces are joined by the work of new designers; some originally highlighted in the altruistic GucciFest videos of November 2020, when the label offered its online platform to emerging talent. “This is a free space, a democratic space,” Michele said, and the clothes sold as Vault opened its (digital) doors include those by designers Ahluwalia, Shanel Campbell, Stefan Cooke, Cormio, Charles de Vilmorin, Jordanluca, Yueqi Qi, Rave Review, Gui Rosa, Bianca Saunders, Collina Strada, Boramy Viguier, and Rui Zhou. “There’s no rule to this selection,” Michele said. “It’s about their beauty and power.” Each piece – old or new – comes in special Gucci packaging tailor-made for the item.
The reference point, according to Michele, were concept stores of the 1990s and early 2000s – mostly long gone, and including Maria Luisa and Colette in Paris, and the Pineal Eye in London. “They were shrines of research rather than shopping,” Michele said. He sees his Gucci Vault as something deeper and more meaningful than mere retail. That said, it’s filled with pieces people will want to buy – not least Michele himself. There’s a 1972 ‘Jackie’ bag that, he said, was difficult to part with. “Now the bag is available, but I may go and buy it,” he confessed.
Visit Gucci Vault here.