#SuzyCruise: Gucci – Striding Through Sexuality And Sensitivity
“The uterus is a wonderful part of the body and its femininity,” said Gucci’s Creative Director, Alessandro Michele, after he had taken off his huge black hat and sat down to explain his 2020 Cruise collection.
He had a lot to discuss, including his choice of Rome’s trio of Capitoline Museums as a set, where the sculptures provided a dominating backdrop.
Past the heroic masculine statuary, with men’s rippling muscles shaped in marble, walked the male and female models. They moved in dim light, spot-lit by flashing torches handed out to the audience and their own iPhones.
The designer spoke openly of his struggle with his own sexuality and his urge to offer, in his own words, “a message of freedom”.
It seemed a baffling choice to bring magazine editors, journalists and clients from across the world into mysterious semi-darkness. But Michele had a reason.
“My work is like being an archaeologist; I discover things I cannot see by using a torch in the dark,” he said.
The overall effect of the show was both maddening and fascinating. There was the background of one of the world’s most beautiful historical settings; and intriguing clothes that the designer had done his very best to conceal.
They literally flashed by, the torch beams picking up vivid colour, tailored suits and the occasional draped garment inspired by the days of the Holy Roman Empire.
Then there was a slithery green dress with its flower embroidery over the uterus area, although would anyone have seen the connection if the designer had not discussed it? He added a story about his childhood in the Seventies, and his mother wearing trousers “as part of a process of being completely free”.
A designer who can romanticise not only a woman’s private parts but also her pale green, tailored trouser suit or her bare legs decorated with love drawings, has a powerful vision of fashion.
Michele also has a passion for the past. Even the Gucci invitations had to be collected from a very special place – the Antica Libreria Cascianelli – a historic bookshop hidden away near Rome’s Piazza Navona.
The designer was thinking even further back. “Only pagan antiquity could arouse my desire, because it was a world of the past that no longer exists,” Michele said.
And the collection? For Michele, decoration is in the detail. All his shows are much the same: the nerdy student with funky eyeglasses; Seventies looks in bright but “off” colours; the music-instrument case to suggest a quirky romantic.
This time, the 47-year-old designer’s life and home in Rome, with its overwhelming Catholicism, pushed the boundaries for clerical vestments, with a velvet hat and a velvet chasuble?
A lot has happened since this time last year. Gucci has been accused of disrespect to African people – even racism – for its red-lipped balaclava-sweater. CEO Marco Bizzarri has been at pains to make the brand inclusive and his Creative Director insisted at the show that, “Women have to be respected – they must be free to choose what they want.”
Does decorating their clothes with images of Mickey Mouse equal reproductive rights? Ultimately the Gucci Cruise show, whatever its ardent and powerful messages, is about selling desirable stuff. And there was heaps a’plenty of that.