No other designer does embroidery, symbolism and historical mash-ups quite like Alessandro Michele, so it is fitting that he chose Florence’s Palazzo Pitti as the backdrop for Gucci's Cruise 2018 collection, which he described simply as "Renaissance rock 'n' roll." As predicted, this catwalk was anything but simple, but then why would we expect anything less from the man who staged a cruise catwalk at Westminster Abbey?! Michele certainly upped his game and by doing so gave Gucci (which he playfully turned into 'Guccy' on sweats, jewellery and t-shirts just for kicks) even more potency.
If you align yourself with one of the greatest artistic movements the world has ever known, you've got some serious chutzpah and talent to throw around. Michele's familiar tropes were present in healthy supply: the mighty sequined snakes; the birds and the bees; feral wolves to contrast delicate butterflies scattered here there and everywhere. And flora – so much flora – mostly in the guise of great big roses, symbols of fecundity and thus of Florence itself under the Medici rule. "The very beginning of European aesthetics started from Florence," noted Mechele after the show.
Michele's talent lies in creating his own magical vision of history. Bar a few Botticelli-inspired looks inspired by the painter's favourite muse Simonetta Vespucci which were suitably Venus-like and dramatically fairytale – nothing was predictably thematic. And yet the Renaissance, as a concept at least, was laced through this 2018 Cruise collection, even when it came to a pair of grasshopper and beetle printed men's jeans paired with a pink teddy bear print sweatshirt. The reincarnation of Michelangelo's David? Perhaps this comparision is a stretch too far, but certainly Michele's message was one of enlightenment and the Renaissance was nothing if not exuberant, indulgent, and even unhinged if you think about it.
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Light, colour and classicism on his own terms was the subtext here, so rather than presenting anything radically different, this Gucci collection was a homecoming for Michele. Why? Because the Florentine Renaissance was a celebration of the self, of Man's graceful form, his earthly powers and immense potential. "You Florentines are the fifth element," Pope Boniface VIII is said to have proclaimed in the 14th century to the city's people. To draw a parallel – and we can because Gucci has allowed us to - Michele is the master of making every look stand out with its own individual narrative. He distorts the history books as he pleases. As such, the Renaissance here was alloyed with '60s 'rock' leitmotifs, Medieval-look capes, biblical iconography, disco cool and geek chic.
In light of this, the new Cruise 2018 slogans 'Guccification' and 'Guccify Yourself' are more thought provoking than just fashion parody: here is an aesthetic that that could only ever belong to one renaissance man, Alessandro Michele himself. We couldn't hope to copy that even if we tried.
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