The Kering-owned Gucci are beginning to see the fruits of Alessandro Michele’s creative vision. In the company’s half-year financial statement in July, where Gucci contributes 50 per cent of the group’s luxury revenue, the house reported revenues of €1.948bn, up 3.9%. More particularly, considering Michele has only delivered three collections in store, the second quarter showed Gucci sales up by 7.4 per cent. The brand’s creative pace has now found real momentum commercially, and the house is a rare bright spot at a time when the luxury market is faltering in almost every region (sales were up 19.8 per cent in Western Europe which accounts for 32 per cent of Kering’s luxury market).
Part of the brand’s success has been found in its unassailable confidence and consistent point of view. As creative director across all the brand lines Michele’s hand can be seen in every skew. And that’s a lot of skew.
“It’s my story,” said Michele backstage before his typically bedazzling SS17 collection which took in LA club culture, Gothic script, Eighties leggings embroidered with chinoiserie, Seventies studded platforms, punk and “old images of Venetian prostitutes” to create the aesthetic he calls “quirky and fabulous.” It was rich in detail — “we worked so hard on these fabrics,” he said, motioning towards an intarsia mink kimono coat with various typographic inserts — and big on charm.
Michele’s lost none of his enthusiasm in the 21 months since taking on the role of creative director: his mood board overspilled with ideas, many of which he had “worked on for ages” before jettisoning entirely. “I don’t like to take one idea as inspiration,” he continued, “instead I think of my collection like a song; I’m looking to find the right sound. The right language.” He smiled. “I can go on forever looking for that . . . ”
There were lots of new things here, but this last womenswear collection (as of next season he will show men’s and women’s together) remained faithful to his longtime obsessions: luxe fabrications, slogan belts, kaleidoscopic colours, piles and piles and piles of accessories (leather goods do, after all, make up 56.2 per cent of the business). So entrenched has the “Gucci look” become, it’s now a casual shorthand for anyone wearing an eclectic ensemble of street and modern, that borrows from an encyclopedia of references and mixes masculine and feminine clothing. “Often times, the look isn’t even Gucci,” said Michele, which could have been a passing comment on the myriad high street “interpretations” around, and perhaps explained why the show was obscured on social media in a mist of pink fog. Michele doesn’t seem bothered by his many imitators. “I don’t care,” he said. “I just love the idea of someone putting together things to create an individual style. Fashion should be a personal thing”.
Perhaps the most personal touch in this collection were a series of prints, the work of artist Jayde Fish, who had reinterpreted some favourite Gucci tropes — the snake, monkey, the Carte de Tendre that inspired the AW16 collection and even a portrait of Michele himself — and reimagined them as shamanistic symbols. Michele had found her on Instagram and invited her to decorate silk blouses and skirts. Like Guccighost, the graffiti artist who worked with Michele last season, it was a clever collaboration, engaged seeming and inclusive. “I’m not claustrophobic” said Michele of his approach. “It’s not about me.”