With a rave among the relics, Alessandro Michele demonstrates he has no intention of changing tact
Great designers create more than clothes, they create a universe; a world so complete that going to one of their shows feels like falling through the looking glass into an alternate dimension. Since taking over the house in January 2015, Alessandro Michele has succeeded in doing just that. Instantly recognisable and all-encompassing, his world is one that is nostalgic yet contemporary, creative and bohemian, young and androgynous. It’s reflected in everything from the invitations to his shows (yesterday a tin box covered in occultic writing and filled with small, scented black candles) to his sets. His universe is so complete that it feels like it has its own mythology, which seemed to be the premise of his S/S18 show, staged yesterday at Milan Fashion Week.
Greek and Roman statues, and effigies of Egyptian gods lined the runway, as well as a portion of an Aztec temple, encouraging this idea of a Michelian mythology. And the collection wasn’t an homage to antiquity, but – true to the designer’s signature – a collision of multiple time periods from past to present. There were poppy 1990s cartoon graphics (most notably in the sequinned Bugs Buggy cardi); puffy 1980s power shoulders and plenty of 1970s Elton John glitz.
The collection was a cultural melting pot too, with Michele’s takes on rice hats, Japanese silhouettes and English tweed. Then there was the instantly viral “Don’t Marry a Mitford” knit – a witty appropriation of a jumper created by the 11th Duke of Devonshire (and currently on display at an exhibition at Chatsworth House). Gym shorts followed suits; Olympic tracksuits followed 20s furs; and playful florals followed stiff Prince of Charles check.
Ultimately, Michele’s approach to fashion – to which this collection attests – reflects a totally post-punk ethic. It is, to borrow Ted Polhemus’ term, a “supermarket of style”, where a multitude of time periods, cultures and subcultures come together under one eclectic umbrella. Two and a half years into his tenure at Gucci and Michele shows no signs of changing tact. In fact, yesterday’s show seemed almost like a statement of intent; that the designer is sticking resolutely to his vision. What’s more, with the house’s revenue up 21 per cent this year (almost twice as fast as analysts expected), it’s clear that the cult of Michele is only growing in strength.