September 19, 2012 7:01 pm

Gucci goes back to basics

Italian brand focuses on clear shapes and pure colours at Milan Fashion Week

And so to Milan. Fashion – the high end, at least – is one of Italy’s few still (relatively) healthy sectors, even though most brands acknowledge growth in their home market is flat; it’s exports that make the difference. And who knows what will happen next?

As Patrizio Di Marco, Gucci’s chief executive, said before his show, which marked the beginning of the third leg of the spring/summer women’s wear season: “It’s been an interesting year. Could be it will be more interesting than next year.”

Perhaps that is why creative director Frida Giannini chose to pare things down to basics in a collection that focused on pure colours – hot pink, coral, royal blue, teal, white and black – worn head-to-toe; a few clear shapes (pyjama suits, 1960s minidresses, long columns); and what she called “exotic hints”, which in fact looked a whole lot like nods to exotic markets.

Prints came in “Japanese wallpaper” sea anemone; there were tunics and buttoned-up Mao-like jackets galore; and necklines of otherwise simple gowns featured in coral and gold embroidery fit for an Indian maharani.

As it happens, Ms Giannini called the show “aristocratic purism”, and her show notes announced it heralded “a new aesthetic dynasty”. This seems a sort of grandiose way of identifying what the clothes showed: that Gucci may be shifting stylistic direction into a less luxed-up, even more accessible mode.

Indeed, some baroque, but patently fake, costume jewellery earrings aside, there was almost none of the usual 24-carat accessories on view; in a real departure for the brand, handbags were limited to tone-on-tone clutches in patent or Plexiglas-like material – and there wasn’t a GG in sight.

This restraint is probably a good idea. Though it meant the show felt a bit banal (the 1960s are modern designers’ perennial safety decade), and the ruffles crawling down the arms and up the throat of gazar dresses went a frill too far, two python-print lamé jacquard cocktail numbers were chic and hiply discreet, and walked the line between abstract brand signature and in the know.

Which is the sort of thing that appeals to all markets, in the end.

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