When Alessandro Michele took the lead of Gucci in the dramatic days of January 2014 an unexpected radical change was in sight for the Italian luxury fashion brand.
Within less than three years Gucci would have become one of the leading and most talked-about fashion brands around and Michele the most influential Italian person in the world according to Time.
Creativity and innovation reached through a conscious knowledge of the past. This could seem a quite common approach within the fashion industry – sometimes resulting in dull, unremarkable collections – but this time Alessandro Michele understood the key concept of (retro) pop culture and how its inspiration is leading to new milestones in Gucci history.
Fashion ahead of accessories which had become Gucci staple in the pre-Michele days and androgyny for men’s collections.
Androgyny is one of the key concepts borrowed from the past, directly looking to 19th century dandies and their late 60s British revival. Silk shirts with sewn-in scarves on long-haired shaved models who look as high society 1968 Soho dandies.
2015, 2016 and 2017 collections have been characterised by suede coats, rounded pointy collars reminiscent of the 70s and even elements like knitted berets for men and oversized square glasses frames. Berets hadn’t been seen on men since Black Panthers or 1950s jazzmen. All style elements coming straight from pop culture which would have been seen as a masquerade by the luxury fashion world until Michele turned them into staples of new Gucci collections.
This concept reached a new high with pre-fall ’17 video advert. Shot at London Mildway Club – un-refurbished since the 70s – with dancers showcasing their best northern soul moves and Frankie Valli “The Night” providing the score and setting the dreamy glorious sweaty atmosphere.
In the semi-darkness of the club, the glittery shades, clobber and patches stand out like stars in a clear summer night sky.
Northern Soul, fascinating yes, but unfashionable as krautrock in the luxury fashion world until Gucci dusted it off.
Think of the way Gucci is influencing the whole budget fashion world with patches and embroidery, once again elements which have been borrowed from pop and subcultural scenes like British soul boys or late 60s American West Coast bikers embodied on screen by Peter Fonda.
Then the partnership with Italian Pulp-like indie/alternative rock outfit Baustelle. A collaborations started with the band changing face to Billy Idol Eyes Without a Face for the spring-summer 16 sunglasses collection and then culminated with Baustelle frontman Francesco Bianconi modelling on catwalk at Gucci Cruise along with singer-songwriter Lucio Corsi (who recently supported the band in their Italian tour). Not to mention, then, the nostalgic 70s Gucci-like style made of pastel colours and neon lights used for the band’s latest videos directed by Tommaso Ottomano with the Italian trio sporting pieces from Gucci.
With the fall-winter ’17 campaign Alessandro Michele played another triumphant ace-in-the-sleeve of pop culture. This time the sci-fi and space-age B-movie era, with a video advert fully borrowing elements from the likes of Star Trek, Space 1999 (whose main theme is used to deafen the clip) Creature of The Black Lagoon, U.F.O. and similar other productions.
Not only the collections, but the whole idea behind them is drenched in retro pop culture reinterpreted with a modern twist required to a brand which is trying, successfully, to re-establish itself as one of the leaders of Italian and worldwide fashion.
Gucci is proving how the past should always be studied carefully to shape the future at best, without overlooking even niche pop and subcultural phenomena.
For the first time in ages also soul boys, B-movies geeks and indie rock-loving teens can feel involved into fashion, and this sense of inclusivity is the best medicine for a fashion industry which has been isolated from mass public for too long.