Milan Gets its Freak On as Alessandro Michele Stages an Open House in Gucci’s Laboratory for Mad Scientists
Milan Fashion Week, home of blue-chip luxury labels and the heart of Italian elegance for more than half a century, started out on Wednesday with cyborgs and baby dragons, Las Vegas landmarks rendered in sequins, and a few models whose bodies had been dip-dyed like Easter eggs – blue, yellow, green, purple, and orange.
It wasn’t an auspicious beginning, if good taste is your concern, but then the designers of Gucci, No. 21, and Moschino are hardly worried about that old chestnut. Italian fashion today is focused on image, provocation, and long-winded, florid manifestoes that disguise a deep-rooted obsession of the superficial with a patina of quasi-intellectual gobbledygook (don’t scratch too deep, please). “The subjectivities embodying Gucci’s pluriverse move in this field,” for example, is a verse that’s moving nowhere fast, though it comes from an Alessandro Michele treatise that accompanied his latest collection, called “Cyborg.”
VIDEO: Milan Fashion Week - Gucci Presents Fall/Winter Collection
That Michele has reshaped the industry with his highly-decorative and establishment-rejecting designs is without question. Gucci is once again on top, and Michele’s collections – quirky, referential, thrifty, surreal, and poetic – are elaborately staged spectacles of the superficial, both wonderfully engaging and frustrating to dissect. I suspect hardly anyone present at Michele’s show on Wednesday knew what to make of the setting and sci-fi theatrics, beyond a perfectly admirable fan-boy moment the designer might have been expressing toward the magic of Hollywood special effects. (Not for nothing, the Paramount logo featured prominently in his fall designs.)
In some ways, this was Michele’s most elaborate production to date. The invitations, which guests were strictly instructed to carry with them while being reminded to arrive punctually, were small orange boxes (bombs?) that bore a digital countdown clock, timed to the start of the show. And the entirely fabricated set was a cross between a surgical theater with operating tables and the sterile waiting room of an airline terminal, with row upon row of molded chairs. There was a real sense of anticipation in the room as the minutes and seconds passed, the clocks ticking down to zero, at which point they…. beeped.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
With that little disappointment out of the way, the show began. The conceit was of a laboratory where creativity produces all sorts of Dr. Moreau monstrosities, starting with a blonde model carrying a bust of her own decapitated head. Later on, there were appearances by models carrying plastic renditions of a baby dragon, a lizard, and a snake, and one final model who appeared with a third eye applied to her forehead. While amusing, these makeup effects were so minuscule amid the grandeur of Michele’s stage that they lacked the punch of a Jurassic Park dinosaur, or a Khalesi-worthy level of astonishment. The clothes, meanwhile, appropriated cultures with such abandon and excess that hardly anyone could have been offended, other than perhaps National Geographic. There were turbans, a pagoda hat, Mongolian coats, and baseball logos, (a reminder, once again, how far Miguel Adrover was ahead of his time), and, of course, plenty more great dresses and kooky knits from the fertile factory of Michele.
Alessandro Dell’Acqua’s latest show for No. 21 was tightly structured around the brassy march of a majorette, which gave him ample excuses to trim just about everything in silver beads and sequins. How the mind leapt to the neon strip of Las Vegas for flashy cardigans and dresses is perhaps a question best left unanswered, but the results were perfectly timely in this notice-me moment.
Strange to say that Jeremy Scott, of all people, seemed a bit restrained in his latest Moschino collection, which featured a lot of models in prim Jackie O suits and pillbox hats. Some had their entire bodies dyed to match in the pastel colors of Easter Eggs, which reminded me of the sort of female-dominant alien races that once appeared on episodes of Star Trek, where the main differences between planetary inhabitants was the color of their skin. Scott also reprised his candy-wrapper, medical packaging, and cereal-box prints for more comical dresses and accessories, now with a Pop Art collage vibe. There’s plenty a scholar could say here on the subject of commercialism and packaging, but I’m afraid it would be for the wrong audience.