Alessandro Michele has been fascinated by twins for years. That’s something that seems evident, in retrospect, and with the hindsight of his latest Gucci Twinsburg show. There was that appearance with Jared Leto at this year’s Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute Gala, attired exactly alike, long hair flowing. His ode to Stanley Kubrick for the latest Gucci campaign included the phantasmagoric and timelessly creepy Grady sisters, twins in matching baby-blue flounced dresses eerily eager to play. And his Autumn/Winter 2018 collection had models clutching heads of their own apparent doppelgänger. There are subtler bits too: Michele’s reissues of past Gucci pieces could be seen as twins too – especially when he exactly reproduces an Autumn/Winter 1996 Tom Ford Gucci look of red velvet suit and blue shirt opened to the navel, twinning now with then.
But it all stems from something innately, incredibly personal – Michele’s mother Eralda was a twin, and he called his aunt Giuliana his second mother. He was fascinated by their secret intimacies – “the grace of their duplicated and expanded love gave rise to my eternal fascination for the double, for things that seem to reflect themselves.”
Michele’s fixation isn’t with the exactly identical, of course. Because twins aren’t exactly identical – although, if you watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (or similar police procedural programming, but that’s my one of choice) you’ll know they do share DNA. Yet somehow, the mirror is cracked – the illusion is of verisimilitude, but in actual fact, the differences between each are, somehow, magnified, glorified even. The sense of the individual shines through.
Michele’s latest show – as its name suggests – was an ode to twins. Far more than the audience realised: truth be told, we should have put two and two together sooner (no pun). As the models filed out, against a backdrop of black-and-white photographs of twins by Mark Peckmezian, Marianne Faithfull read a song written by John Forster, named Identical Twins. Never heard of it, or indeed him? Forster is a Grammy-nominated mass-market humorist and lyricist who writes “bright, sassy music for children”. Ironically, this piece was written for the now austerely ascetic aesthetes Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in 1992, when they were six and performing variety on television and in film. Faithfull’s rendition, however, made it seem like a piece of beat poetry. And as she solely intoned such odd lines as declaring herself “a second scoop … on the ice cream cone,” Gucci raised that wall of photographs and revealed to bemused audiences either side that an utterly identical show had been taking place for each of them. Then in a tender finale, each of the 68 pairs of twins that modelled the show came out for a second run, holding hands this time.
The show, of course, presented Michele’s other obsessions, his magpie eye roaming through popular culture, science texts, philosophy and political activism, and Gucci’s own archives. He reissued a Gucci equestrian bag from 1981, he printed the Warner Brothers film characters the Gremlins across a pair of duchesse satin evening dresses, he used the phrase ‘Fuori!!!’, an acronym for Fronte Unitario Omosessuale Rivoluzionario Italiano (Revolutionary Homosexual Unitary Front) and also Italian for ‘out’. Ironically, no two outfits were alike – except every two that were, of course.
As a piece of catwalk theatre, Michele’s Twinsburg will go down in fashion history – for some reason, in these complicated and fraught times, the simple gesture of families holding hands held a potent, immutable power. It was a message of brotherhood, of sisterhood, of unbreakable bonds and the humble power of human connection. For sure, there has been nothing else in fashion quite like it before.