“What are we going to do with all this future?”
So reads the invite to Gucci’s autumn/winter show of Milan’s 2017 fashion week. The fashion house’s Creative Director, Alessandro Michele, seems to have entrenched his most recent collection – which unites menswear and womenswear as one for the first time in Gucci history – in this very question. ‘The Alchemist’s Garden’ – or as Michele dubs it, the ‘anti-modern laboratory’ – showcases the confusion facing fashion in a time characterised by its rapid acceleration towards the evermore advanced.
Fashion has seldom been shy about recycling trends. If anything, one could argue that fashion lives off of its very ability to defamiliarise the familiar in new and exciting ways. That is, of course, if the familiarity of said trend hasn’t already got such a cultural heritage attached that it doesn’t need a ‘reimagining’ – think the classic Burberry mac, the boyfriend fit, or your Converse. What faces fashion today, high-end and high street alike, is the idea that one cannot truly be original, groundbreaking, or revolutionary in their fashion choices. Anything you have worn has been worn before. Perhaps not so literally, but definitely in the stylistic sense.
I only need to think of every single time I wear something new in front of my mum or aunts. Predictably, I get the “Ooh, you look just like me when I was your age!” or the “Wow, that’s come back around?”. If this is the case, are we, as a new generation of artists, starved of originality? The question can be asked of fashion, art, music, film, and writing alike. Countless times I’ve heard those fatalistic words, “Everything has already been done.”
But, in his most recent collection, Alessandro Michele bids us to fear not. He unashamedly remixes the ‘old’ with an alien new in a sea of technicolour. Gucci, particularly with its revival of its classic vintage shirts that have been donned by every blogger under the sun, embraces the recycling of trends. Before models even began to line the runway of the futuristic catwalk, the invite already harked to this very sense of collaging new and old in eccentric harmony.
A vinyl record, featuring A$AP Rocky reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Florence Welch reading Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience (you can listen to this on the Gucci app), is encased in a sleeve that merges a still life painting of flower vases with the looming presence of an iPhone charger. In this, art typical of the past is ever so slightly changed by the present but to produce a profoundly different meaning. By enforcing our own modern experience on the past, we change a product’s context completely. The record disc itself depicts a snake eating its own tail, a symbol that Veronique Hyland denotes as applying to this very notion of recycling artistry, and in turn, fashion: “Everything old is new again. Fashion furiously digests and regurgitates, and why bother to pretend otherwise?”
The #GucciFW17 invite: on side A of the vinyl Florence Welch (@florence) reads from “Songs of Innocence and Experience" by William Blake and, on side B, A$AP Rocky (@asaprocky) reads “A love letter from Frederic Wentworth to Anne Elliot” from Persuasion by Jane Austen. Listen to the audio tracks exclusively on the Gucci App after the show today only. Watch the show live at 3PM CET through link in bio.
So, if the mere invite presents such a discourse between the past and future, what did the actual show look like? Extravagant, absurd, theatrical, and abundantly detailed. Set in a purple fantasia eerily crosshatching that of an airport terminal with a nightclub, Hyland writes that Gucci presented a “collection that felt like a postapocalyptic dress-up party where everyone was decked out in the detritus of past fashion moments,” and honestly, I couldn’t put it better myself.
The clothes – modelled predominantly by diverse and fresh faces as a result of Gucci’s relationship with Parks Liberi e Uguali – were vibrant and eccentric. Japanese parasols were worn with 1930s style women’s suits, glittered mesh bodysuits with ball gowns, and chain linked chokers with dresses reminiscent of the Victorian maid. There were Virginia Woolf hats and Miss Havisham dresses and Jane Austen books secured to the hands and in the bags of the models. Each look was intrinsically individual and meticulously intricate. But while cultural details were explicit, differentiation between menswear and womanswear was sometimes impossible and boundaries were often blurred.
Such amalgamations ended in a uniquely futuristic depiction of fashions already passed. The show, soundtracked by atmospheric and continually morphing music, featured The Rocket Builder by Johann Johannsson from the Netflix series The OA – a show about a blind woman who regains her sight and thinks she might be a dimension-hopping angel. And certainly, Gucci appears no less than dimension-hopping in AW17. Alessandro Michele manages to stick to his vision for his Gucci: he presents a Gucci aware of its past, but shaped by its present. By facing us with a whole load of the past, the collection begs us to consider how we should shape our future. By endlessly reimagining its heritage, Gucci solidifies its everlasting stake in the ‘fashionable’.