Milan Fashion Week: Inside Gucci's Glass Menagerie

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Gucci Fall 2017

Tom Hiddleston, Jared Leto sit front row for an eclectic, romantic collection from Alessandro Michele to kick off Milan Fashion Week.

Gucci kicked off Milan fashion week with an eclectic collection, further solidifying designer Alessandro Michele's bold branding position.

Sure, some looks elicited hushed giggles from the audience, as they should – you simply can’t take a man in a sparkly green bodysuit seriously, unless he’s a superhero. But maybe Michele is looking for someone to save the world? After all, the show invitation was an album titled “What Are We Going to do with All This Future?”

The answer, perhaps, lies in the romance of the past; Michele's show notes called the fall 2017 combined men's and women's collection “anti-modern.”

The invitation's vinyl album included Florence Welch reading from William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience,” and A$AP Rocky reading “A Love Letter from Frederick Wentworth to Anne Elliot” from Jane Austen’s "Persuasion" in which the great captain says, “I am half agony, half hope.”

And while the collection appeared to be all ebullience, its dominating symbol was the Egyptian Ouroboros — a snake eating its own tail.  

Welch and Rocky were just two of the fans of the brand who sat front row this season. A very undercover Jared Leto was flanked by French singer-actress Soko, Salma Hayek sat with husband and Gucci parent company head Francois-Henri Pinault, alongside Italian actress Valeria Golino and actor Tom Hiddleston.

Hayek and Galino had been separated in the monstrous traffic getting to the brand’s headquarters on the outskirts of town. Golino rushed in just as Hayek was starting to worry, hoping that she wasn't holding up the show, she said, joking that running on Italian time made her late. But local laxity couldn’t be blamed — the very British Hiddleston rushed in just seconds before the curtains went up.

Guests entered into darkness with the room split in the middle by curtains, centered with a black glass pyramid topped with a weathervane. When the show started, the curtains gave way to a glass-enclosed runway, and the looks came fast and furious.

Afterward, Hiddleston said he would consider breaking out of his sartorial comfort zone for some of the more daring looks from the runway. Sparkles and sequins? “Absolutely,” he joked. “There were a couple of beautiful things, there was a brown suit I particularly liked, and brown is very in this season I think, isn’t it?” Hiddleston should know; he sported several in his Gucci campaign shot at L.A.'s Dawnridge Estate.

For his part, hidden under a hoodie, headband, baggy jacket and beard, Leto declared that Michele “has good taste.”

That his taste is over-the-top and then some is part of the appeal. What shouldn’t work does; the more disparate the elements, the more cohesive the collection seems. The house's first combined show featured men in women’s looks and vice versa. The gender fluidity was on trend.  

The collection had romantic elements in Mr. Darcy-styled ruffled collars and breeches for men, then went geisha to geek to grunge and back, with a mullet here and crystal face covering there. A punk princess went straight into 1940s femme fatale before 1970s prom gowns hit the catwalk.  

Some looks, ranging from a nerd chic man carrying a book to a model with a basket full of lavender, were decidedly down-to-earth, but all were untouchable, like precious creatures in Gucci’s menagerie.