Presenting looks from the Gucci Fall Winter 2018 fashion show by Alessandro Michele. Inspired by ‘Cyborg Manifesto’ by D.J. Haraway, the collection featured gowns draped with crystals, initials of Major League baseball teams on tailored pieces and roaring tiger head brooches and accessory hardware inspired by a vintage jewelry piece by Hattie Carnegie. Visual and special effects creative factory Makinarium created replica heads of the models who carried them, and a lifelike baby dragon and chameleon.
As a reflection of fashion’s shifting aspirations, the remarkable overhaul of Italian mega-brand Gucci is quite the case study.
Just four years ago, Gucci traded on luxury, sex, glamour and bling. Now, it is enjoying spectacular commercial success with an ethos so different, and so highfalutin, that creative director Alessandro Michele’s post-show press conference feels like an advanced seminar in philosophy.
This season – reclining on a blush pink velvet sofa set against a backdrop of panelled screens covered with delicate paintings of Herons – Michele referred to “post-humanism”, “the ultra-natural” and “hybridisation” while explaining his collection.
His primary source, he said, was Donna Haraway’s 1984 A Cyborg Manifesto, an essay questioning the boundaries between humans, animals and machines.
“It talks about the relationship between being and becoming; about what we are and what we want to become,” he said, adding: “We are the Doctor Frankenstein of our lives.” Foucauldian theories about the dangers of categorisation, and about identity “as a device of bio-political control” were quoted in notes distributed at the show.
On the catwalk, these ideas coalesced into the wonkiest Gucci show yet. The set was designed to look like an operating theatre, its PVC-coated floors and walls painted municipal blue and waiting room green. There were real surgical beds, with circular operating lights hanging over them ominously.
The most memorable accessories were not the handbags. Rather, two models carried life-sized replicas of their own heads down the catwalk. One model grew a pair of horns; another had sprouted a third eye on her forehead. Another held a replica of a red and black striped snake, of the kind Michele has had great recent success embroidering onto bags and trainers; others had baby dragons curled up in their arms.
The clothes were an eccentric jumble of fantasy dressing-up box finds. Matchy-matchy it was not. A shredded metallic Barbie pink tweed skirt suit, for example, was paired with a black and white checkerboard print midi skirt, with a brown floral pyjama top, black lace tights, blue trainers, a chunky three-strand cream necklace and a knitted balaclava. Repeated motifs included transparent dry cleaner bag-style garments, spongy-soled trainers of the ‘ugly chic’ variety currently taking fashion by storm, and the New York Yankees logo used in weird and wonderful ways: on a large floral bumbag or a silken, tasseled pillar hat.
Gender cliches were challenged: the most stereotypically masculine looks – suiting, bulky leather jackets – were worn with eyeliner or large gold hoop earrings or tiny silk shorts, while sensible patterned jumpers were decorated with strips of diamante and appliqued crystals.
Of 90 looks, 50 featured head coverings of some kind, from knitted wool and lace balaclavas to turbans, jewelled headdresses and fringed caps that seemed to refer to the Middle East. There were hoods, caps and hats, and scarves worn a variety of ways: tucked into a headband like a nun’s habit; wrapped around the head and affixed with a brooch; tied in a knot like the Queen at Balmoral.
Michele said he was exploring a “set of codes” from ideas around “the bourgeoisie thinking what to wear to go to bank” to “the suits my father used to wear when he worked at Alitalia” to “tribal head-dresses” to “the Sikh turbans of a New York taxi driver”. These codes, he said, “can constrain us, but they are mixed together to create something new.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010