Gucci, F/W 2016
Gucci, F/W 2016

If the remainder of Milan Fashion Week is anything like this opening show, I’m going to need more headache medicine. That’s not a negative comment on the presentation, mind you, but simply a statement of how visually intense the experience was. Okay, so it started more than an hour late. We had warning early this morning when Gucci reset the clock on their website. Most people seem to adjust their schedule accordingly, though I feel a bit sorry for those who might have also had tickets to Fay. We were also warned at the door with a photosensitive seizure alert. I didn’t see anyone turning around at that point, but there were plenty of people popping some manner of medication on their way out the door.

In fashion, there are clothes made for wearing and there are clothes made to be seen. This collection falls fully in the latter category with an esoteric line that has influences from the 1960s, Spain, China, and the Victorian era. One doesn’t wear these clothes, one inhabits them. There were 70 ensembles in today’s show and finding cohesion between any of them is a challenge.

Even trying to decipher Alessandro Michele’s designer notes was impossible. Titled “Rhizomatic Scores,” the brand’s creative director babbles through four paragraphs before ending with a music score that looks like something from the archives of P.D.Q. Bach. In fact, the more I look at it, I’m pretty sure it is from the fictional composer. Yet, in a strange way that is difficult to describe, such randomness fits this Gucci collection quite well.

When the lights go down, a wall full of digital video screens lights up and flashes through a number of light patterns before showing time lapse video of flowers blooming and icebergs in reverse. A black tulle scrim between the audience and the runway gave an other-worldly feel to the models walking by, almost as though they were holograms (the effect also prevented anyone using a flash from taking a successful picture). Throughout the show, the digital background continued moving in one direction while the models walked in a different direction.

With such a large and disjointed collection, it is impossible to relate much more than basic trends. There were hats with mesh veils, a throwback to the late 1950s, early 60s. I used to have one but I’m not sure where it is now. There were monochrome looks in primary colors, though the Big Bird piece in yellow mohair is something we’ve seen before. There were various creative takes on the interlocking GG logo. Gowns were significant in number and sheer played a heavy role though not in any way that might be considered inappropriate. Ruffles and prints and patterns were commonplace, but he didn’t avoid plain, solid colored pieces either.

Still, there were some things that are just difficult to explain, such as the black gown with the huge black snake appearing to come up between the breasts. Or that one hat with tiny wings on the side. Then, there were the few patterned men’s suits that look as though they were perhaps made for Austin Powers, should that fictional personality ever make a return to the screen. Oh, and there’s an appliqued hydra in the mix too.

For those who love the artistic expression of fashion, the visceral exercise, and the visual challenge, this collection is a goldmine of genius. For those looking for something to wear to work this fall, this collection is a giant question mark likely full of expletives. Some will understand, most won’t. Most don’t want to have to work so hard at thinking about what their clothes mean.

Oh, but you’re going to have to wait six months to buy any of it. Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering, S.A., which owns Gucci among other fashion brands, said yesterday that he has no plans for any of their labels offering any kind of see-now, buy-now option as has been popular in London and New York. Pinault feels that such a concept “negates the dream” of luxury. He might know what he’s talking about, given that Gucci just had one of its strongest quarters of growth ever.

So, our eyes have plenty of time to recover from today’s spectacle before we see these clothes again. That’s not so bad, really. My head is still swirling. Six months should be about right.

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