Alessandro Michele has established a clear signature at Gucci, much faster than most designers who have taken over a major design house. Nostalgic, romantic, slightly off-kilter, and in some cases gender ambiguous, his designs are engineered to make a very clear statement: Gucci is his house, now.
His first women’s wear collection, shown in Milan in February, was well-received, but also polarizing in that the vintage-inspired clothes, designed to suggest they had been unearthed from a trunk tucked away in some attic, did not fit the established norms of luxury. They certainly did not reflect the general runway look of the moment. And it was for this reason that Michele became instantly interesting.
His resort show this morning (pictured, above), held in a New York art gallery and with dozens of international editors flown in for the occasion and the cement floor covered with a patchwork of antique-looking rugs, carried forward many of the motifs from fall – pant suits creased several inches above the hems, bee embroidery as passementerie on military jackets, a knit beret, grandma’s old glasses. These are Michele’s signatures. He had a lot of other ideas to add to this collection, including a brighter palette, bombers embroidered with Asian animal patches (graphic roaring tigers, dragonflies, curlicues of snakes), and, perversely, a very sexy, see-through lace mini-dress.
The variety was so great that this collection seemed a rebuff to those who remarked that his fall debut was too far outside the comfort zone of Gucci, the antithesis of the hyper-sexualized look established by Tom Ford in the 1990s. Michele’s resort collection, in fact, was in many ways quite shoppable. There were quirkier arts-and-crafts looks, to be sure, like a model wearing a pink quilted silk coat and a scarf tied around her head, that called to mind a brighter version of the Beales of Grey Gardens, but also many stellar dresses of delicately pleated silks, similar to the Gucci dress Lupita Nyong’o wore at Cannes, embellished with sweet silk flowers, like icing on a cake.
Michele also played up the Gucci logo and name to a greater degree in this show, but added his take. Leather tote bags were embossed with the Gucci name in big letters, and a version of its signature red-and-green stripes appeared as well, in a lurex version as banding on a toile print sweatshirt, worn over a pleated skirt of gold.