Fashion is art, of this there is no doubt. Like a painter, a fashion designer’s creative abilities come to life on the canvas on which he/she works, a living, breathing canvas made to be worn: consider the product a form of kinetic art. When a designer unveils his/her newest collection, as happened recently at Fashion Weeks around the world, it’s a mix of expectation, intrigue, creativity and nerves, leaving the audience wondering whether this collection will be the designer’s next great success or final curtain call. The stakes are very high.
So as guests filed into Gucci’s Fall 2015 Fashion Week offerings in Milan, they waited with baited breath to see what newly installed Creative Director Alessandro Michele had in store, both for himself and for the entire Gucci brand.
Would he continue this tradition of sexy elegance left over from the days of Tom Ford? Or would he blaze a new trail to introduce a new type of Gucci woman into the fold? Would it be a sartorial success or a bump in the Gucci road?
As the lights went down and the first model walked down the subway-themed runway, the answer was clear. A new Gucci woman had arrived and she is here to stay. She was still sexy, but in a much less obvious way. Think more naive ingénue with her nose stuck in a book rather than a stylish woman on the go. And with this new take on sexy, came a more airy, romantic feeling that Michele made a conscious effort to incorporate.
Of the collection, the designer said, “What I am trying to do is to put something poetic into a powerful, iconic brand. I am really inspired by different time periods, and that’s something we are missing in fashion.” (Vogue.UK)
The nod to different time periods that Michele mentions was prevalent in the androgynous suits and blazers worn on the catwalk. They were a cross between the Victorian era and the 1970s with loose, large bows and fur-trimmed cuffs. When Victoriana comes to mind, we usually think ‘corset’, something tight and restricting and very, very covered up, bonding women into the roles they were scripted to play. But Michele did not show that side of Victorian England, instead choosing to show the male equivalent of the era: think Charles Dickens in a dandy suit.
Michele seems to have been influenced, too, by the clothes and looks created by Yves St. Laurent. After introducing the Le Smoking jacket in 1966, Saint Laurent went on to create countless looks in the 1970s based on a new, more menswear design focus for women. Thus by tying in these two androgynous periods of fashion, the new Gucci Creative Director blurred the lines between male and female in his suit designs, seemingly closing the gap even further between the genders.
Strategically placed folds and pleats on several dresses is another ingenious design aspect Michele included, giving the wearer the feeling that these pieces have been a part of their wardrobe for years, like a treasured piece long stored away and ready to be brought out again, but as a freshened and reappropriated look.
Of course Alessandro did stay true to the brand by incorporating tried-and-true Gucci standards but added his own twist. The color palette especially was strong, incorporating wine reds, olive greens, and dusty florals. Color is something Gucci does very well and, while Fall 2015’s palette was certainly on-point, it echoed the rest of the collection in being romantically subtle. It’s as if he was saying that one doesn’t have to scream red, sometimes a beautiful bordeaux will work just fine.
The new Gucci woman retained her love of accessories, the heart and soul of the brand and the place where Michele began his tenure. Knuckles filled with rings, heads topped with berets and headbands, and his take on the classic Gucci loafer (fur-lined with the double G) all complemented the clothing beautifully. Each and every piece was just as wistful and romantic as the clothing itself.
The most important aspect of this showing was the care that Alessandro Michele took in determining for whom he is designing. This detailed consideration of who will be his customer helps prove why he’s such a successful choice to take over the Gucci brand from Frida Giannini.
The new Gucci woman Michele displays in his clothes and accessories is sexy in less obvious ways than in recent decades, in a less in your face way, manifesting a new maturity in women overall, in all aspects of culture, which is where fashion design may lead the way in other art forms. Striving to be the most perfect, sexiest version of yourself feels like a young women’s game and at some point that game gives way to a sense of who you are and what makes you feel sexy.
There’s a level of comfort in the clothes Alessandro designed that translates to the comfort felt of the women wearing it. So, although the muse for the new Gucci woman may be young in age, she is old in wisdom. She doesn’t need to try to be sexy, she just is.
As fashion is often a social commentary on what is happening in the world, this change will hopefully become more evident in the women coming of age today. That in your face sensuality is not nearly as interesting as the sexuality that hides beneath.
This does not mean, however, that Gucci is putting women’s liberation on the back burner. On the contrary, it’s taking it a step further. Women don’t have to choose between sexy or not, between Marilyn or Jackie. They merely have to find the comfort within themselves to be who they are, embrace it, and let the rest fall into place. That is the new sexy.
Creative in his own right and thoughtful of the legacy he must fulfill, fashion designer Alessandro Michele has embarked Gucci on a new path. He is breathing new life into it and taking it to places never before thought possible.
Jenny Perusek is a freelance Brand Manager, specializing in fashion and the creative arts