Gucci’s Alessandro Michele elected to show his latest collection – Gucci Cosmogonie – in the Castel del Monte, a somewhat mysterious 13th-century Italian fortress whose exact original function remains shrouded in mystery. Too small to be a true castle, perhaps a hunting lodge, for Michele it was a “star gate – between the Earth and the sky.” He showed on the day of the full moon, which hung blood-red over the finale. It wasn’t planned, Michele said – but I guess you could say it was fate. “Nothing happens just by accident.”
Cosmogonie means the study of the origin and development of the universe – and, in a sense, this show proved a study of the distinct and diverse universe of Michele’s Gucci. That has always been about a celebration and embracing of the eclectic, of seemingly random associations that have some kind of twisted, well-hidden inner logic to the designer himself. Kind of like the mysteries of the universe – and of the Castel de Monte – no one can really unravel them, why they work, where they come from. How to connect a billowing tulle gown, to a chain-mail cape, to a psychedelic-swirled black-and-white dress? Only Michele can say – and he may be stumped, too. The feel is spontaneous and intuitive, impulsive and instinctive. “Fashion is something that is magical,” Michele said. “And being a fashion designer is something very mysterious. It’s like being a kind of wizard.” The alchemy of his Gucci is that, somehow, all of these outfits are anchored to one another, making some semblance of sense even in their contradictions. As is often the case with his shows, there was a sense of restlessness, of travel – reflective of modernity, springing between different ideas, aesthetics, perspectives, like flicking through television channels. Or, perhaps more accurately for 2022, clicking through so many internet browser windows.
Michele has embraced the opportunity to show across the world – and, in doing so, has created collections obliquely lassoed to their locales. This time, there was a connection not so much to Italy today, but to the storied histories of its provinces – models walking in trailing, Renaissance gowns of velvet, ruffs around their necks and wrists, perhaps embroidered with stars. Those were mysterious times, when the rules of the universe were little understood – and Michele seems to be resurrecting that curiosity, that uncertainty, with these clothes. You were never sure what was around the bend. That said, Michele isn’t interested in living in history, but in bringing history alive again – connecting with the wanderlust mood of modernity that informs his vision. “People think about me as that guy that loves the past. I do, but I’m not living in the past,” he said. “It’s the dialogue that’s interesting to me.” And that extended, of course, to the show itself, not just the clothes – Michele is a consummate orchestrator of fashion as spectacular, with a thumping soundtrack (directed live by Michele himself, and his long-term musical collaborator Steve Mackey of Pulp) and choreographed lighting that, eventually, extended to an entire constellation being projected across ancient walls. “It’s a place that is full of meaning,” Michele said. “I’m not going there just to evoke the past. I’m using the past to glorify the present.”
And it’s a strange present at the moment, still – especially in Italy, which only eased its restrictions around the Covid-19 pandemic two weeks ago. It’s strange to consider the fact that we have lived through a momentous historical event on a par with the storming of medieval citadels conjured up by Michele’s location. “In a moment like this, we need to glorify life,” Michele said. “And fashion is about glorifying life.”