The bizarre and at times disquieting images of mysteriously peculiar children in Ransom Riggs' trilogy of books immediately came to mind after the first model strolled down the runway at Gucci. In Rigg's first story, Miss Peregrine's group of little peculiars look like ordinary children, but they are actually grown-ups, elderly people locked in a frozen temporal loop.
The models on Gucci's S/S 17 runway were often dresses in disturbingly childish clothes that included ill-fitting cropped pants, embroidered gilets and shorts matched with knee socks (or lace tights…), sailors jumpers, Donald Duck knits and jelly sandals directly imported from 1980, though remixed here in their luxury version covered with metal studs.
One suit was characterized by a toile de jouy-like print that seemed to replicate not bucolic scenes, but prints of sea snakes, giant crabs and lobsters (and Donald Duck dressed like a pirate…) that looked like one of those fantastic Map of Days Riggs' children leaf through to spot mysterious and unexplored peculiar loops.
This collection was about adventures and travelling, themes recently explored also by Miuccia Prada, but with just one difference: Creative Director Alessandro Michele explained to the media that he hates travelling, though he was referring to physical travel. He indeed favours travelling with his mind, maybe with the help of a book that may liberate his fantasy.
A quote from TS Eliot included in the show notes explained more about the inspirations behind his visual feast: "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."
One of Michele's inspirations was Marco Polo's Il Milione, but at times the mixture of references made you think more about Calvino's Invisible Cities, with Marco Polo describing magical places to Chinese ruler Kublai Khan.
Books and fantasy, so that's how Michele conjures up imaginary worlds populated by snakes, bees and butterflies and by fictional characters like his geeks in floral jackets, lost sailors, grown-up childish men clad in pea-green frock coats or red PVC coats like the one donned by the little girl in Roeg's Don't Look Now and rock stars in embroidered jackets and pants spelling in ancient Greek "Serapis", the name of a deity venerated by the Egyptians, the Romans and the Greek (oh bless the Italian grammar schools of the late '80s/early '90s that have taught a generation of people how to confuse those who didn't attend them with simple Latin and Greek words/quotes).
Michele's femmes fatales were clad in Chinese robes, cocconed by furs with intarsia of fantastic monsters or opted for kitsch dresses in motifs that resembled heavily embellished decorative wallpaper or horrid clashing prints from the '70s (of the kind you would spot in your aunt's wardrobe a couple of decade later and that made you wonder if she had a secret life you never knew about...).
Quite often Michele's models wore pajamas and slipper-like shoes almost to highlight that for him the world, rather than being a stage, is a home. This touch of domesticity and these decadent artificial worlds are probably conjured up by Michele in his retreat in Civita di Bagnoregio, a picturesque village outside Rome, that was recently on the Italian news since, perched on top of a mountain peak, it risks of dying and disappearing (it is linked to the rest of the world by a footbridge and you must leave your car at its bottom to reach the village, in a nutshell visiting feels a bit like entering to a time loop…).
Yet just like all the cities Marco Polo describes in Calvino's book are actually different visions of the same place, Michele's designs are more or less new, revamped and remixed versions of the same designs we have seen in previous shows.
Nothing has changed or progressed at Gucci and the designs in this presentation weren't too different from the ones in the Resort 2017 collection, unveiled less than 20 days ago in London at Westminster Abbey.
So Michele may have enriched Gucci's limited vocabulary (based and revolving around its trite logo) with eclecticism and eccentric elements (it seems to be working as sales are up 11.5%), but now he seems caught up in his decorative obsession.
Are Michele's creative tour the force through art, antiquities, interior design, prints, obscure books and maps found in libraries and museums and his thrift-shop galore just fashion gimmicks destined to fade or assume old sepia hues like old photos of peculiar children or will he take new and unexplored directions?
Well, don't expect many changes for the time being (after all, this formula has brought some much needed luck to Gucci...), but to have the final confirmation we will have to wait till the next catwalk show: technically this was Gucci's last stand-alone menswear show as the brand plans to present men's and women's collections together, but in a way it has already done so since Michele opted for a genderless approach in most Gucci's shows he has directed so far.
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