A#20 curator Pierpaolo Piccioli incited a monumental artistic dialogue for the Valentino Haute Couture AW2021-22 collection, inviting 15 artists to create garments directly linked with works of contemporary art.
Alessandro Michele’s Mosaic of a Century
Words by Jordan Anderson
An entire century has passed since Italian businessman and fashion designer Guccio Gucci opened his first leather goods shop in Florence, and the name Gucci was introduced to the world. Throughout the decades, this seed of humble artisanship has blossomed into a luxury name synonymous with a myriad of things ranging from an interpretation of equestrian clothing to an intrepid sensuality by way of Tom Ford; to a popular staple and adjective within the hip hop and pop cultural world; in the present day, a variation of post-gender geek chic led by Alessandro Michele.
Entitled Gucci Aria, the house’s latest collection was presented through a fashion film directed by Alessandro Michele and the Italian director and artist Floria Sigismondi, best known for her music videos for artists from David Bowie to Yves Tumor and Sigur Ros. The 15-minute film was an eccentric walk down memory lane, as it presented a collection that Michele created through fragments of the brand’s DNA, with each garment and even each song in the soundtrack throughout the presentation a signpost for a different era of the brand’s history, and how it was and is currently perceived by the public. With an abstract eye, Michele entered into a creative space which he defined as a ‘hacking lab’, where he crafted a mosaic vision with traces of the past and present scattered with possibilities of what may lie ahead for the brand’s future.
“In my work, I caress the roots of the past to create unexpected inflorescences, carving the matter through grafting and pruning. I appeal to such ability to re-inhabit what has already been given. And to the bleeding, the transitions, the fractures, the concatenations. To escape the reactionary cages of purity, I pursue a poetics of the illegitimate,” Michele explained in the show notes.
“Nature is a haunted house, but Art is a house that tries to be haunted” – Emily Dickinson (1876)
These references manifested in unique ways, with pieces of the brand’s origin story represented by hats and helmets embellished with the words ‘Savoy Club’ in tribute to the Savoy Hotel in London where Guccio Gucci once worked, and accessories or actual stylized horse riding gear that interpreted the brand’s equestrian heritage and given a fetish spin. Incongruous aesthetics played a major role in the collection, as Michele reminisced on Tom Ford’s time at the brand with classic velvet tuxedos and sensual silks, and a guest appearance by Demna Gvasalia, who gave Michele permission to reinterpret hallmark silhouettes from his first Balenciaga collections including padded hip jackets, spandex boot leggings and an abundance of hybrid Balenciaga-meets-Gucci logos. They blended smoothly with some of Michele’s fun classic symbols including an abundance of glitter, a gender-fluid approach to tailoring and the totemic accessory of an anatomical heart minaudière encrusted in rhinestones.
It was one of those very few collections that leaves a trace in the minds of everyone who experienced it, not only due to the weight of cross-pollination of the two houses, but because it was loud and direct in its approach to branding and glamour while somehow managing to be conceptual and elegant at the same time. It was an abstruse construction of gratifying chaos and a body of silhouettes that one could either completely love or completely hate — one that sparked emotions of excitement, aversion, curiosity and perhaps most importantly was equipped with the ability to spark conversation.
The timing of the presentation also plays a major role in the conversation it sparks, as the film itself was not only an interpretation of the brand’s storyline but was also commentary on the current day reality.
Gucci Aria opened with a besuited blonde man approaching the doors of what seems like a gritty NYC nightclub with a Savoy Club neon tacked above its door — a contrasting visual from the chic hotel in London. Upon entering, he is then met with a sleek, clinical corridor flooded with flashing lights and cameras, and an upbeat soundtrack of contemporary R&B and rap songs that allude to Gucci in their lyrics. After taking a strut down this runway, the models pause in a dark anteroom, after which, decked in full glamour, they then enter into an imaginary animal-filled forest where they find themselves gifted with the ability to levitate. It then closes with the visuals of a crystallized heart floating.
The storyline created is not only a symbolic portrayal of the duality of the stardom and mysticism that exists within the brand, but also proposes nature and glamour as solutions to the days in an often mundane pandemic driven world where we are confined to the walls of our home. “We find out that the party we deserve doesn’t happen in the lobby of a London hotel of the 20s. It’s rather like a deep and ecstatic dive into everything we yearningly miss today: a feast of air. A jubilee of breath,” he explains.
It doesn’t feel like a proposal for things to return to ‘normal’ per se, but more so a proposition for things to return to ‘natural’ and calls for a celebration for the things that we take for granted, hence the title Gucci Aria, which translates to breath. In corroboration with this theory, in his show notes, Michele quotes Italian philosopher Emanuele Coccia, whose work covers medieval philosophy and the theory of the image and the nature of living beings. As Coccia states, “It is the first name of being-in-the-world, it is the vibration through which everything opens up to life… inhaling, that is letting the world get inside us, and exhaling, that is projecting ourselves in the world that we are.”
Discover the making of
by Alessandro Michele and Floria Sigismondi
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