This wasn’t what was planned. No one really saw it coming, not even those on the inside. Yet, it had to happen and now that it has the next big task is figuring out if we like this new Gucci or if this is yet another short-lived attempt by parent company Kering to bring the brand back to the glory days of Tom Ford.
One could feel the tension this morning, like walking on egg shells, as the room filled for the show. When we covered the brand’s spring/summer show last September, there was no hint that creative director Frida Giannini would be leaving, despite the fact that sales had been continuing to decline for the past four years. Then, in December, her husband, and Gucci’s CEO, Patrizio di Marco, was unceremoniously fired. There were hard feelings, to say the least. Ms. Giannini was originally supposed to stay through this season, showing her last collection today. But late December it was obvious that plan wouldn’t work and she was fired as well. Boom. Happy holidays.
When such a high profile position in a high profile brand becomes available, most of us just assume the vacancy is going to be filled by a high profile designer who can bring some fresh blood and new followers to the brand. So, when Kering announced that Ms. Giannini’s assistant and long-time Gucci accessories designer Alessandro Michele was the new creative director, there was an audible sound of jaws dropping around the globe. He didn’t have much time to work, either. He had to put an entire collection together by today, less than two months into the position.
Given all that drama, one has to wonder if what we saw today was really the best effort Michele has to offer, in which case there’s going to be a lot of disappointment, or if this was a desperate attempt to simply present something different, a sketch rather than a finished picture of where the designer wants to go. My preference is to believe that this was more of a sketch and that coming seasons will see Michele bloom, or not. Therefore, judgement of this collection should be gentle.
Reds are the dominant hue throughout the surprisingly large set, and there are still some hints of the 70s aesthetic that was Ms. Giannini’s trademark, and perhaps a part of her downfall. Michele offered his own twist even there, though, by putting princess bows on sheer tops, and 70s florals on men’s suits. There was a sense of the intellectual, occasional glances toward the casual, and in the case of those fuzzy Chewbacca-style slippers, indulgence in the bizarre.
In his notes, Michele states that, “There is no room for consolatory nostalgia. Rather the need to affirm freedom. The freedom to revive stored-up possibilities. The freedom to construct new meanings at the intersection of diverging temporalities.” In other words, there’s no looking back. Michele has been storing ideas and now we’re going to see them. Every last one of them.
So, bring on all the pleats, the berets, and the hipster glasses. Assume that future collections will be equally forward-looking, as full of androgyny and exploration as we saw today. Critics, of course, have been quick to pan the collection, but I am still of the opinion that what came down the runway was but a sketch from a creative mind that can go much deeper. At the very least, this is the start of something very interesting.