Why fix it if it isn’t broken? That’s the big question around Gucci at the moment with many fashion observers wondering when (and if) brand saviour Alessandro Michele will shift gear from his eclectic, hugely decorative style.
He’s well aware of that speculation but seems not to care for now. With sales rising … no surging… there’s no need to change.
But he’s certainly evolving his silhouette with a focus on shoulders (either sharp and square, 80s-style or full and sloping, also 80s-style), which makes the SS18 collection a slightly harder sell for anyone old enough to remember that decade. But then older Gen X and Baby Boomers aren’t exactly his core target market.
Who is in his sights? Younger fashion fanboys and girls of course, and anyone who likes to pick-and-mix, dipping into Gucci for a pair of jeans, a sweater, a bag or a pair of slides without going head-to-toe. Let’s face it, wearing Gucci head-to-toe these days would be a bit like dressing up for a costume party.
Personally, I wasn’t bowled over. We’ve become used to Michele sending out easy to love looks in recent seasons. From jeans and T-shirts to motif knits and grand gowns, there’s usually plenty that’s easy on the eye with Michele being an expert at creating ultra-commercial pieces even though they’re masquerading as avant garde.
It’s all in the styling, you see, and the ‘story’ built up around Gucci’s creative guru.
But this time, it wasn’t quite so easy on the eye. Yet while it wasn’t quite to my taste, if you think of a Gucci collection more as a series of individual pieces that can be worn any way the customer likes than a series of designer diktat looks, there was a lot that affluent customers will want to buy and high street wannabes will hunt out in their nearest fast fashion store.
Forget some of the more ridiculous pieces - a jumpsuit that was more like a clown suit, squared-off shoulders big enough to put an American footballer to shame. But there were plenty of must-have items and key seasonal pointers that are being seen on other runways this season too, and the detail and workmanship was undeniably beautiful.
Take logos. Michele replaced his angry cat/kingsnake obsession this time with the word Gucci, and occasionally Guccy, or the double G as a giant statement logo or as the house monogram fabric. It was used on tops, bags, skirts and more. We also got the double G picked out in gems at the end of long strands of pearls. And where the word Gucci was used, it wasn’t heavily stylised but was just the word with the key cities in which the brand is present printed underneath. Meanwhile single G was stylised, used as a repeat print on dresses.
Sequins. These were big news too, used all over for evening dresses made to be seen from miles away but also as the starring element of a new snake motif and an embellishment strand that looks part flame, part feathers. Add in gemstone encrustation and this is opulence taken to the max.
The bag. Michele has been pushing belt bags out for most of his time in charge of the label and they’re obviously selling well for the brand as here they are again. Interestingly, those belt bags came with little decoration other than regular quilting and the double G. And this more pared-down approach was seen across the bag offer this time with the everything-embellished approach of previous seasons left behind (brave move). Giant shoulder bags carried the double G but some bags had - shock horror - no decoration at all (except for a tiny hardware logo).
New jacket silhouette. Well, it may not be completely new as it’s very 80s. But it leaves the biker/bomber debate behind as it looks back 30 years to a cut that mixes elements of both, adds in dropped shoulders and layers on heavy decoration. The same effect can be seen in what looks like a thrift shop denim jacket with collar and shoulder decoration. Think early Wham! videos with lots more embellishment and you’re nearly there. Add in an OTT shell suit and the look morphs into everything bad about the 90s, but young shoppers will probably love it.
Glam rock. It wasn’t all 80s. Some 70s influences crept in with pieces like the snakeskin patchwork jacket that, with its frayed welt cuffs, felt more vintage find than brand new. And revival pieces from the age of fun fur with kitsch motifs tooth look further. The red jacket with furry sleeves and heart edging along the zip, or the Ziggy Stardust jacket with lightning bolts summed this up perfectly. No surprise to learn that Michele has been delving into Elton John’s costume archive.
There’s more of course, but I think you get the picture. That fact is, Michele and his team are going for the broadest possible sweep of customers. Anyone who wants to defect from Prada, Dior, Louis Vuitton or more should find at least something here.