Alessandro Michele plays with the woman/man you want to be.
First there were the operating tables slap in the middle of the Gucci runway, which was low and claustrophobic, with harsh hospital lights.
Then there were the heads: dead heads, duplicates of the women and men who carried them like babes in arms. For variety, hands were filled with hybrid griffins and curling snakes that have become a Gucci symbol.
And the clothes? I was so stunned at this parade of human and animal accessories that all I could take in about the fashion at first were the long, covered-up clothes, heads in the swathing scarves you see in church. “Mourning becomes you” seemed to be the message.
Although both men’s and women’s clothes were recognisably Gucci, not to say familiar in their pile-ups of garments and accessories, there was a feeling of sadness and strangeness in the prolific outpouring of the prosaic and the inventive.
The message that stuck with me, even before Michele gave an unprecedented address to the press, was the sentence: “We can decide to become who we are.”
Identity – the subject of this millennium – was at the core of what the designer was saying in words and clothes.
I understood a lot of Michele’s discussion as a processing of words from the original Cyborg Manifesto by the American feminist scholar Donna Haraway, in 1984. The designer explained that he wanted to break down the binary, fixed categories and to challenge descriptions such as “normal/abnormal”. He also wanted to reject rigid descriptions, notably those separating “human” and “animal” – the latter a category of creatures that he loves so much.
Identity, he insisted, was “not immutable and fixed fact”, rather a social and cultural construction.
These deep thoughts formed an interesting subject, even if it might seem strange in relation to a company that exists on creating a desire for shopping. Gucci’s current booming success comes from Michele’s intense fascination with objects and accessories.
At this Fall 2018 show, a single model might step out with dotted jacket, soft red dress over checked trousers, a two-tone neckless hiding a brooch – and carrying a striped, coiled snake. And there was more! More! More! Flowers rambling on a head scarf and running across a dress; a classic Indian turban; an oversize sweater with elephant stitching and layers of sparkly necklaces. The latter was all for an everyday male.
Making a list of clothes seem pointless, even if it might include balaclavas clinging to the face like a mask, or the time-honoured Gucci signature: decorative red and green stripes.
But why not be the woman/man you want to be? It is the mantra of the moment and Michele’s passionate belief in creating a personal identity seems sound, whether it is a new hybrid reality, or a choice of clothes.
Related Read: Thanks to Gucci, headscarves are now a mainstream trend