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As diversity and gender issues continue to rock the cultural firmament, fashion designers are ruminating on their role in dictating social order and selling status quo. To wit, Gucci designer Alessandro Michele opened Milan Fashion Week on Wednesday with a men’s and women’s runway show that was one part philosophical treatise, one part West Hollywood Halloween parade.
By now, we’ve come to expect the unexpected from Michele, who has managed to introduce a new cast of Gucci-clad freaks and geeks every season, mixing elements from near and far (check that pagoda hat and those religious vestments!) and turning signifiers of bad taste — from fuzzy bedroom slippers to fake Gucci logo T-shirts — into retail gold.
This season, he also made a subtle political statement about the concept of belonging, using sports and corporate logos (including the NY Yankees of his personal favorite baseball cap and the distinct Paramount Studios snowcapped peaks) and elements of multicultural dress, as well as playful hairstyles and faun horns. His muse of the season was the shape-shifting cyborg, according to show notes, which inspired the clinical white set with operating tables.
It was a fantastic parade of Michele misfits, united in their own distinct weirdness and Gucci logos (and those plastic “Gucci” name tags — wonder how much those will go for?). Masks were a strong theme, of the balaclava nature as well as the face jewels of a maharaja. Rustic handwoven knits like your Russian nanna would wear didn’t scream Italian luxury so much as thrift-store score. And Gucci’s distinct checked outerwear, suiting and capes had a lot of charm, though by some could be considered ill-fitting. Add in floral dresses, scarves and bedazzled evening looks that had a distinct costume quality, and it really was a “pluriverse,” as Michele called it, reflecting how he’s been inspired in equal measure by counterfeit king Dapper Dan, Star Trek aliens, fashion chameleon Jared Leto and more. The message? “Free to be you and me, baby.”
Reaction on social media wasn’t all good: “Did anyone else think this was a desperate call for help?” said one observer on Twitter. Indeed, a model carrying a dummy of his own head in hand did veer toward the absurd, as did another model with a third eye that looked to be the work of a Hollywood special effects artist. But the point is that Michele seems to see himself less as a designer-dictator than a casting director, constantly challenging us to leave our judgment at the door. It’s style over fashion.
Michele wrote in the notes of a post-human existence where people could be under constant transformation, and it’s certainly not hard to see a digital future where Second Life is the only life, and we are all liberated from a single identity and any fixed social limitations. But for now, at least we have Gucci to help us.
It was interesting to watch the Gucci show on the same day as Jennifer Lawrence took on critics who suggested she didn’t have agency in her choice to wear a revealing Versace dress at a London photocall in winter. “Everything you see me wear is my choice. And if I want to be cold, THAT’S MY CHOICE TOO!” she wrote on Facebook. One has a feeling that Michele would approve.
There was another timely message on the runway at Moschino, this one about immigration: ‘It takes all colors’ was what Jeremy Scott seemed to be saying with his collection of 1960s-perfect air-hostess-style lady suits and prim boucle dresses in every color of the rainbow, modeled by sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid and Kaia Gerber, who were styled in cute pillbox hats.
All seemed to be fairly straightforward at first, then out came models in alien-looking body paint — orange, then pink, blue, green and purple, all while a Trumpian voice on the soundtrack spoke ominously about “building a wall.” The pop-art inspired handbags that accessorized many looks were designed to look like sweets boxes emblazoned with a phrase that pretty much sums up the state of things now, for better and worse: “Crazy Fruits.”
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