The Alessandro Michele story at Gucci has been one of the fashion success stories of the age. Plucked from nowhere (well, plucked from an extremely powerful but surprisingly anonymous position running Gucci’s accessories), he’s remade Gucci since January 2015 and put a big smile on the face of owner Kering by driving up sales and profits.How? With his eclectic mix of retro, modern, fashion collages, embellishment, quirkiness, colour, pattern and luxe granny’s closet looks.
He’s been doing it for a while now though and opinion is ever-so-subtly starting to divide. On the one hand there are the majority Michele-istas for whom he can do no wrong and every collection is “sublime”. On the other, a few people are starting to ask whether he can – or ever will – give us an alternative vision.
That question probably won’t be answered for some time because for now, Gucci Michele-style is a hot seller and neither the Kering execs nor Michele and his team are likely to want to tamper with a winning formula.
So yesterday’s phantasmagoria (his word) for SS17 gave us what we’ve come to expect: gorgeous clothes. To be honest, I don’t think we should be calling ‘time’ on the Michele signature look just yet (but ask me again in a year’s time) and my biggest question/criticism is why so many designers these days choose runway models who are so very bad at walking the runway. They look so uncomfortable to someone old enough to remember the Pat Clevelands, Jerry Halls, Linda Evangelistas and Naomi Campbells who could glide, sashay or stomp their way down a catwalk looking completely at ease (even managing to fall over with style).
But back to the here and now. So we got what we’ve come to expect from Gucci. A mainly beautiful mix of pieces for daytime, after-dark or red carpet with a few not-so-greats (that red and white cardigan suit with bands of black lace was frankly hideous). But its memory was wiped out by some sublime (yes, sublime) pieces: embellished eveningwear featuring sun rays on tiers of silk, snake embellishment, dragons, quirky patterning courtesy of artist Jayde Fish, surprising details like tiny repeat toadstools on a knitted tank, embellished monogram bags, acid washed studded denim, surprising ‘slogans’ cropping up anywhere from belts to trousers hems, and more.
There was an obvious 70s vibe in there via skinny, angular suits or pant-jacket combos with wide lapels and even wider pants, most striking in studded denim. But we also saw some ‘new’ retro influences. Think 1980s Nancy Reagan or Princess Diana for one-shoulder cocktail/evening gowns or day dresses where the detail (frilled sleeves puff sleeves, exaggerated curved panels) focuses the attention squarely on the shoulder.
There was a truly retro edge with some dresses that could have been Victorian or maybe earlier for a sort of Pride & Prejudice-meets-Great Expectations look that we also saw in London (at its best at Erdem).
And was that a hint of athleisure too? Michele layered dresses over skinny sidestripe running pants that also came embellished with flowers or tiny bows and also offered up a luxe baseball kit in embellished silk.
But does all this matter? After all, Gucci is above all an accessories label. While the Gucci look in its Michele incarnation is a huge influencer for the industry at large, for the Gucci customer, it’s really all about the bags, belts, sunglasses and – increasingly – the shoes. Recent Gucci earnings reports show shoes sales are soaring.
And the shoes themselves are soaring too as Michele joined most other influencer labels with his backing of ultra platforms or flatforms.
What was most interesting here was that he gave us footwear in two parts. A sock bootie and a separate floral print sandal that can come together as one and is a surefire high street inspiration (although at lower price levels it’ll likely come in one piece only).
The platforms were chunky and came dripping with studs or pearls while the flatforms were like ballet slippers held on to the giant sole by delicate straps. Meanwhile stilettos came covered in sequins or trimmed with pearl bows.
Sunglasses continued Michele’s maximalist themes with giant gem- or mother-of-pearl-studded frames that continued into deep arms, although simple frameless lenses in pink with a hint of cat’s eye shaping offered an alternative. And we even got textured hosiery trimmed with tiny bows.
The bags largely stuck to their classic shapes (no giant squashy totes here) and also stuck to the Michele formula. Monogram materials dressed with with slogans, embellishment and bows, or exotic silks and leathers garnished with animalia hardware. They’ll sell… and sell. But then so will the rest of this collection.