The world is populated by all sorts of human beings, yet, you could argue, though different one from the other, most of us are "futurists". We indeed constantly live surrounded by a digital world; we greedly wait for innovative technologies or wonder how a certain gadget, app or programme will change, alter and eventually improve our lives. So it happens that, when we meet someone who seems to be living in a crepuscular pre-digital world less futuristic than ours, we feel confused, but also attracted to them.
Somehow this dichotomy calls to mind the Italian literary landscape of the early 1900s, with the Futurists supporting mechanisation and a passion for destroying words, reiventing fashion and recreating music, and their contemporaries, the crepuscolari or "Twilight poets", such as Guido Gozzano.
The crepuscolari favoured indeed the everyday and the mundane, they ignored the modern city preferring the provinces, and adored Sundays filled with sun and melancholy; they coudn't identify with a society run along technocratic and bourgeois-imperialistic lines, and therefore took up the position of self-doubting outsiders. Gozzano took refuge in his own ironic world, mixing in his works children's rhymes, a contagious playfulness and his trademark pessimism.
Rather than a lyric poet he was a narrator, as proved by his best pieces such as the poem "L'amica di Nonna Speranza" (The Friend of Grandmother Speranza, 1907) in which he ironically alludes to the fading of late 19th bourgeois values and traditions by describing a cluttered living room in Grandmother Speranza's house when she was a young girl.
The room contained so many "buone cose di pessimo gusto" (the good things of awful taste), including a stuffed parrot, busts of Alfieri and Napoleon, framed dried flowers, empty candy boxes, marble fruits, little treasure chests made of shells and a cuckoo clock. Dusty, sad and in bad taste, the living room still looked reassuring because it established a relationship between people, objects and places.
Alessandro Michele's collections for Gucci look like Gozzano's nostalgic inventory of Granmother Speranza's living room - they are indeed a constant reinterpretation of a past cluttered with good things quite often in bad taste, and they end up being successful because they include so many items, references and ideas that resonate with people of different ages.
Inspirations for the collections could be detected in Michele's Instagram count (Lallo25) with its images of artworks, a stuffed parrot and occasionally horrid bric-à-brac and antiques that could be considered as the nightmare of any minimalist interior decorator.
In a way, though, his supposedly geeky aesthetic that makes fashion magazines scream for a desirable bohemia probably makes more mature fashion connoisseurs feel stuck in Grandmother Speranza's stifling living room.
The puzzling and philosophically obscure titles of Michele's collections - this one was called "Rhizomatic Scores" in reference to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's rhizomatic' system of thought, as stated in the show notes that also included a 1959 piece of music by Sylvano Bussotti for pianist David Tudor - hide indeed multiple layers of influence borrowed from different styles and different times.
The main idea for this collection was mixing Catherine de' Medici, Studio 54, sport inspirations from the '70s and Italian and French couture from the '80s with street style,Michele's passion for borrowing ideas for prints from random art books and with his obsession for horridly grand and kitsch interiors with thick floral wallpaper and chairs covered in brocaded fabrics.
This collection included brocades and intricate embroideries; frills and florals; trompe l'oeil details that called to mind the previous collection; coloured goat fur protruding from brocade sleeves; bows (running the length of a sleeve), ruffles and puffy shoulders; silk dresses with mink details; double-breasted brocade coats; ostrich-trimmed gowns that we will probably see on the red carpet and several unlikely hybrids that combined evening wear with sportswear, such as a spearmint-coloured tulle gown with balloon sleeves, sequinned black panther motif and a number appliquéd on the back in pure basketball style.
Michele's love for the animal world prompted him to include once again his birds/parrots and coiling snakes on dresses, though he also introduced a black panther, a revolutionary symbol (that in the mind of some Italian critics may be reminiscent of Krizia's collections), and Op Art-like zebra striped platform shoes; his obsession for interior designs led him instead to replicate motifs that may have been borrowed from a Chinese Coromandel screen on a fur-cuffed three-quarter-sleeved dress.
Renaissance jewellery (see the pearly necklaces), tailoring (the sleeve and shoulder details), prints and Italian art were mixed with graffiti spelling "REAL" above the Gucci logo, a trick courtesy of New York street artist and musician Trevor "Trouble" Andrew, also known via his branded alter ego GucciGhost (a logoed spectre that made Andrew well-known around Brooklyn) who also "spray-painted" the Gucci "G" on biker jackets and fur coats, and emblazoned "LIFE IS" on a mink-trimmed baseball jacket.
Further accessories included multi-finger ring pearl bracelets; sparkling and glittering disco sandals; shoes with snakes crawling on heel; sunglasses covered in sparkling gems; baseball caps and net-veiled hats borrowed from the '80s and reinvented in pastel colours, and ankle-length socks in Gucci luggage-stripes.
Quite often while looking at Michele's designs you feel like stepping in Grandmother Speranza's living room, and have visions of Speranza talking with her friend Carlotta, both the girls wearing rather kitsch shawls covered with prints of oranges, flowers and birds.
Michele's collections are indeed vast remixes of several elements, quite a few of them - let's admit it - in bad taste, but all rolled together and reinvented in a wide range of colours.
The style could be defined as "geeky Gozzano" and it obviously has the power to attract people who have never lived it, but, if you're Michele's age and you're Italian, you can probably spot references, ideas, and a mood defined eccentric but that actually harks back to the '80s when in Italy we were able to effortlessly merge the '40s and Fiorucci and come up with impressively unique results.
Apart from the good things in bad taste Michele and Gozzano have something else in common: the poet wrote for the public of newspapers and fashion magazines, setting himself at the centre of mass cultural consumption, creating what could be defined as artistic products for a modern time devoid of aura.
Michele does the same: his collections aren't a cabinet of curiosities, but a living room stuffed with curious knick-knacks combined and recombined together for a very confused and essentially superficial digital society in desperate need for a fashion escape.
Yet the Gozzano trick works: Gucci reported last week a five per cent rise in sales for the final three months of 2015, besides, revenue in the final quarter of 2015 reached €1.1bn, 4.8 per cent higher than the same quarter of 2014 and ahead of the 1.5 per cent rise expected by analysts.
"The good things in bad taste" are therefore rather successful and at the moment there aren't any plans for speeding up the runway-to-retail cycles at Gucci (Francois-Henri Pinault, Chief Executive Officer of Gucci-owner Kering SA, stated that making the collections available immediately after the show "negates the dream" of luxury, while waiting "creates desire"). Having established himself as a decorator, Michele comfortably sits in Grandmother Speranza's living room, maybe knowing that he will have to find the door out and a way forward at some point, yet, for the time being, as he repackages and sells the past to the futurists, the future can definitely wait.
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