• Text Alex James Taylor
  • 23rd February 2017

Alchemist’s garden

Setting his FW17 invite to wax, Gucci’s Alessandro Michele sent each attendee a gatefold 12-inch vinyl: on Side A, Florence Welch reads from Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake and, on side B, A$AP Rocky reads A love letter from Frederic Wentworth to Anne Elliot from Persuasion by Jane Austen (both are now available to listen to on Scrawled across the cover was a question posed by photographer Coco Capitan: “What are we going to do with all this future?” And future was key throughout, only this was Michele’s future: a remix of eras, genres and cultures.

A theatrical curtain greeted guests pre-show, shrouded in purple and blue light – the kind of opulent shades The Joker would appreciate, and he did, as Jared Leto smiled from the front row. Lights flickered. The curtain raised. The grand reveal: neon-lit plexiglass corridors snaked around a large pyramid topped with a golden rooster weathervane.

Welcome to Michele’s “alchemist’s garden, an anti-modern laboratory,” the show notes read. Here was Michele the alchemist, the fanatic creator pouring his mind into his creations. “It’s a creative process with the beat of a slow incubation and sudden epiphanies. A process in which the power of imagination forces the inertia of reality.” In his time at the helm of Gucci, we’ve come to associate Michele with his playful interpretations and the manner in which he cuts across time, genre and cultures with fantastic Willy Wonka abandon. On the show notes appeared the Ouroboros, the ancient Egyptian symbol of a snake eating its own tail: Everything old is new again.

Gucci recently became the first luxury fashion house to join Parks, a nonprofit organisation aimed at promoting diversity in the workplace, with a focus on sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s an ethos at the core of Michele’s output, removing gender binaries to create fluid definitions. Therefore, uniting their women’s and men’s collections for the first time here made absolute sense.

Here, Michele’s ‘more is more’ amalgamation was realised quite literally, via 119 looks. Yes, that’s 1, 1, 9. Ruffled and embroidered gowns, floral-printed suits, weighty statement jewellery and masses of embellishment that’d send a magpie weak at the knees. Michele’s signature tropes were evident from the get-go, however here was a Petri dish with ambiguous results. Sinister sci-fi undertones were realised via incredible second-skin embroidered singlets, slogan t-shirts graffitied with phrases such as, “Common sense is not that common” and “I want to go back to beliving [sic] in a story” (as worn by Michele himself) and an eerie soundtrack featuring Jóhann Jóhannsson’s The Rocket Builder  – taken straight from Netflix’s hit sci-fi show The OA.

Toying with appropriation and contradictions, Eastern influences such as delicate parasols and references to chinoiserie design interspersed with Western influences, from AC/DC t-shirts to snakeskin cowboy boots. Whilst time travelling tropes took us from 80s (killer Ziggy Stardust mullets) to ye olde England (Victorian ruffles) via 70s, 90s, 00s… we could go on. Whilst one tailored look reinvented an iconic Gucci floral print (having worked behind the scenes at the house for twelve years, Michele knows the archive front to back).

Taking his bow, Michele – in Gucci slogan t-shirt, baggy and ripped jeans, NYC cap and a pair of the brand’s signature slippers – could well have been a model late to the show. And that’s the clincher, Michele lives and breathes his creations; a trait mirrored by his fans.