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Want to know how sticky a brand is? Look at people’s feet. The trophy shoe is the best indicator by which to gauge a label’s currency. And, right now, that shoe is a backless, fur-lined Gucci loafer /slipper, as seen at shows everywhere from New York to Milan, and in every climate, however fur-unfriendly.
Those not wearing the loafer (“too obvious”) are cinching their waists with a big, brass-buckled, double-G belt, or donning one of the brand’s AW15 sherbet pussy-bow blouses. Contrary to popular belief, most editors pay for their Gucci goods, as do the Chinese tourists stocking up on the new season in Japan, according to Kering’s finance director Jean-Marc Duplaix.
Could I have predicted that Gucci’s revenues would be up 11.8 per cent and sales up 4.6 per cent by the end of the second quarter in July? Possibly not with that accuracy. But I could have told you that Gucci is like, so hot right now.
Working with new chief executive Marco Bizzarri, Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele’s rehabilitation of the label (which accounts for more than half of Kering’s earnings) has been lightning quick. The Italian, 43, was announced as the new head in January; days later he staged a menswear show, womenswear following in February. His vision was a wrench with the house’s recent past: he ushered in antique-looking accessories, or “fake vintage” as he describes it, androgynous cuts and granny knits. “I don’t care about the future,” he has said of his historical obsessions. He put pompom hats on heads, and dressed bespectacled models in unflattering but oh-so-adorable long pleated leather skirts. He styled the show himself — a rare thing. Sales had jumped even before his first collection hit stores (he only “edited” the pre-fall collection that arrived in July).
For a man who looks like a bearded shaman and talks in hippie speak, Michele is a master of merchandising. The belt retails for about £260 (OK, I know because I bought one), the loafer £650 (“too obvious”). Want a print? He’s got 20: there are looks enough for everyone in his mix. But where is he taking the brand next? His subsequent shows — a resort collection and a second menswear show — have expanded on the same geek-chic themes. Would his student muse graduate for SS16?
Not enormously. She still hid behind giant frames, even if they sometimes sparkled with glitter, and her chiffons were sheer and her sequins bedazzling. “The past is an infinite resource,” said Michele of the show, staged in a disused Milan rail station. Inspired by the Carte de Tendre of 1654, here were an embarrassment of clothes, 65 looks, with countless styles and historical references: a rainbow crochet cape; lurex beanies, a tiered Victorian-style gown with sequin bib-front and belt (like punked-up Valentino); a chinoiserie embroidered skirt; an evening gown of transparent chiffons in neon blues and pink; a canary- yellow jacquard suit; a parrot print straight out of the 1960s; an electric-green lace skirt suit. One leather skirt had a printed motif that mimicked a Grecian urn; serpents slipped and slithered over the catwalk and the clothes. And so many gew gaws, brooches, pins, clips, bags and bitsies.
Just as Hedi Slimane has continued to riff on the same 1960s/70s rock groupie look at Saint Laurent to great success, thus far Michele has stuck to his lushly individualistic theme and added to it. He has also carried on souping up the company’s “pop symbols”. Green and red Gucci webbing was strapped around the waist, ribbed round cuffs and emblazoned on bags; the double-G buckle was prominent.
But what became of the furry loafer? It was here again, but now it was joined by alternative versions, one with a block heel, Gucci strapping, insignia and pearl detail. Another was made in a pretty jacquard. There were towering stack-soled heels as well, and a violently studded sandal. Everything was embellished, no accessory was enough: you want to wear a sequin sleeve, with a lace glove, poppy corsage and a stack of silver gothic rings? Michele’s your man.
It looked like the world’s greatest jumble sale — and I can’t wait to join the rummage.
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