Gucci on the Catwalk and Sidewalk at Milan Fashion Week
Photos by Indigital Images
Alessandro Michele has always challenged conventional ideas of beauty. He casts models that look more like misfits; they appear on the runway gangly and un-made-up, with awkward hairstyles and angry expressions. Gucci Fall 2018 was an exception only in that some had extreme body modifications—an extra eye or a spare head.
The show was set in an operating theater, which the brand stated “reflects the work of a designer—the act of cutting, splicing and reconstructing materials and fabrics to create a new personality and identity with them.” Recasting unlikely references is Michele’s specialty. His inspirations are broad, ranging from the ancient to science fiction, the glamorous to the grotesque. His collections could struggle to hang together, except that each is sprinkled with the excess sparkle of a fairy tale, macabre and transcendent. Instead of performing surgery on specific bodies or creating from cut cloth, Michele more so operates on the social fabric of Western Civilization, our cultural stories, identities and memories. It’s peak postmodernism, so it’s no surprise that the designer referenced Michel Foucault’s identity theories in his show notes.
“Everyone has their own way of changing, or, what amounts to the same thing, of perceiving that everything changes. In this matter, nothing is more arrogant than trying to dictate to others. My way of no longer being the same is, by definition, the most unique part of what I am.” — Michel Foucault
Diaphanous body bags engulfed several models/patients. Flapper caps inspired by Egyptian wigs bore Yoruba-like beading, dramatically nodding to our cultural appropriations, and Michele’s. This was emphasized by heavy kohl liner under the glass fringe. There were vintage New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants logos on blazers. Sometimes Gucci models look like poorly disguised Soviet-era spies wearing overly Americanized costumes—the specimens sporting baseball attire were unlikely bleacher creatures.
Furthering this theme of America’s global influence were shirts with the Paramount logo and a sweatshirt emblazoned with the the cult film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, which appeared on a balaclava-cloaked model, evoking Russia’s own punk girl-band exports. There were many models with various face coverings, mostly knit or lace balaclavas. What lies beneath? Is it a conventional, beautiful model face or a transhumanist mash-up? Does this identitylessness disturb?
More fantastical elements—like fall’s It accessory, a baby dragon—were created by Roman visual effects group Makinarium. The extra eyes and heads gesture forward to our eventual cyborg natures, while this mythical beast recalls the stories we create about the past.
On Instagram, Gucci mentioned “the legend of the baby dragon in the jar,” otherwise known as the “pickled dragon.” In 2003, David Hart presented a dragon in a jar to the British press, claiming it was preserved by his grandfather when the Natural History Museum sought to destroy it as a hoax. Of course, the whole thing was a publicity hoax, a successful one that gained Hart a book deal. Aren’t our identities a bit like preserved dragons, both mythic and self-constructed? Like a fake face we carry? And don’t we all already have this accessory?
As for how women might interpret the styles, the streets were full of Gucci devotees draped in the house’s signature print. Even with such outrageous displays, Michele’s collections reassuringly remain wearable.