Since taking on the role of Creative Director of Gucci in 2015, Rome-born fashion designer Alessandro Michele has brought to life his art in the form of colourful clothes, wide sunglasses and subtle references to the ancient Roman world. Having already been appointed by Gucci’s then leader Tom Ford in 2002, as well as working for Silvia Venturini and Karl Lagerfeld in Fendi in the 90s, Michele faced his new role boldly.
One of their latest collections shown last May, Resort 2020, got the attention of the industry thanks to creativity as an expression of freedom and social revindication.
The show was held on a spring evening in the captivating Musei Capitolini in Rome. It is considered one of the first museums of the world, opened in the 18th century as a space where art could be enjoyed by the public instead of being exclusive to the wealthy. The location choice may already be a statement. The atmosphere seemed to follow on the Baroque-like aesthetic of previous collections. The models walked among millenary statues with no other light guiding them other than flashlights used by the attendees and torches placed next to their seats. For Michele, a keen collector, “to work in fashion is like being an archaeologist and discovering things, the flashlight helps find things that you can’t see and with it you decide what to see and where to point the light.” The front row was a range of well-dressed celebrities, including singer Elton John – a good friend of Michele’s, A$AP Rocky, Naomi Campbell, and actresses Salma Hayek and Zoe Saldana. Videos on social media show some of them singing along to 70s rock star Stevie Nicks and her duets with her confessed fan Harry Styles.
Led by a large black and silver round headpiece, many looks featured references to the ancient Roman world such as draping tunics and gold leaves, as well as current trends like tartan, flares and padded shoulders reviving the Seventies style. Some pieces that stood out not just for design reasons were a purple blazer which read “My body, my choice” on its back and a jacket with the date “22.5.1978”: the day when what is known as the statute 194 was stablished in Italy “for the social protection of motherhood and the voluntary interruption of pregnancy.” These bold statements came as a clear support for the protests against the plans for the Human Life Protection Act in Alabama, US, signed into law on May 15, 2019. (When effective, it would sentence most cases of abortion as taking the life of a person, with consequences similar to those for rape and murder). While some mostly pro-life users commented their discontent with Gucci’s political statement on social media, many congratulated the brand for being vocal on social matters.
This would not be the first time that Michele incorporates activism in the business; another slogan seen in the collection is “Chime for Change”, the name of Gucci’s organisation promoting gender equality around the world, which has also donated to the March for our Lives campaign. Moreover, their new fragrance “Memoire d’Une Odeur” is the brand’s first universal perfume, featuring a TV campaign starring gender-fluidity advocates such as Central St Martins student and designer Harris Reed, Gucci muse and singer Zumi Rosow, and singer and actor Harry Styles playing around in the countryside.
It looks like for fashion brands nowadays, pretty designs are not enough to impress the public.