Gucci's new attitude on show with creative director Alessandro Michele
Michele unveils a fresh look for the brand at its cruise 2016 show
New creative director Alessandro Michele unveiled his new vision for Gucci at an intimate cruise 2016 show in an industrial space on New York's West Side. Did he want to borrow from the American city's urbane cool to help shake off Gucci's slightly stuffy, traditionalist reputation? If so, it worked - with Gucci revealing a more playful and desirable tone. It was all much needed after the huge shake-up at the brand with both the CEO and creative director leaving within months of each other.
This was the brand's first-ever overseas cruise show and Michele's first "official" full collection. It follows in the footsteps of French fashion giants Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, which have all seized the mid-season show as a golden opportunity to parade their vision uninterrupted by a hectic fashion week schedule. It also heralds a new, modern attitude at Gucci: the audience was invited to the "backstage" dressing rooms for breakfast and coffee where the smiling, long-haired designer chatted with guests.
Michele charmed the crowd - only about 200 sat in the audience, on zig-zagging rows of chairs, the bare floors of the open industrial space covered in layers of vintage carpets as models walked in from the other side of the street. Reality TV stars that have become a staple of Paris or Milan fashion weeks were notably absent; instead it was the likes of Karen Elson, Dakota Johnson and Fifty Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor-Johnson leading the front-row pack.
But back to the collection: colours were vivid, from sparkling lurex to bright, funky '70s shades. If Gucci is back with a bang - this points to Michele's refreshing interpretation of the brand heightened with evocative and directed styling. There was a tension between more masculine suiting and those girlish looks, something we've not seen at Gucci for some time. Prim buttoned-up collars and coats were a little goody-two-shoes, and at times even boyish. But it was the long floral print, chiffon evening gowns that came as the biggest surprise; those colourful ethereal, sheer ruffles couldn't help but steal the spotlight.
The show was full of references, from '50s touches such as cat-eye glasses and prim coats and shirts to wild '70s glamour, the odd nerdy piece and Victorian wallpaper prints. Michele seemed to be pushing the boat out with this collection.
While his previous two shows for the brand (he had to step in for men's and women's autumn-winter 2015 lines after Frida Giannini left) seemed much more tentative, cruise 2016 was fully realised.
To call it simply vintage-inspired would be too reductive - while the '70s and '50s were important, there is also a nod to the way women today like to wear it - with freedom, confidence and a pair of sophisticated heels. The designer made looks seem fresh while doing much digging through the Gucci archives.
In contrast to zig-zag stripes there were feminine laces laden with appliques, glittery chunky heels and the green and red Gucci stripe modernised on casual sweatshirts and dresses. This was a collection built for fashion editorials. There were plenty of new accessories to lust after from logo belts, to boxy leather bags and whimsical shoes - after the show, stylists and editors were cooing over tie-up booties with little fur pom-poms.
The berets and '50s-style glasses we'd seen before, with Michele maintaining the geek chic look he's been touting since taking over. This collection felt like his most confident and sophisticated yet. The brand has been crying out for a new direction for years, and despite some initial hesitation from critics, the consensus is Michele has delivered something highly covetable.
Had we been entirely convinced by the designer's new look for the rebooted Gucci? Prior to this full show, not quite. Sometimes with a huge but troubled brand, any shake-up can seem like a positive. However, the many layers of this collection hit the sweet spot. There's a positive energy to the collection. And it's cinematic to boot. It's these things that have sold us, and others, on a brighter future for the Gucci brand under Michele's direction.
Best of Gucci cruise 2016
The new Gucci girl has a mix-and-match attitude. Along with a taste for vintage, new designer Alessandro Michele also toyed with modern sensuality. There were no classic, red-lipped Hollywood glamazons on the runway but rather charming eccentricity - sometimes buttoned up, other times flashing some serious skin.
- I've always been a bit of a sucker for shiny lurex shades. If done well, it screams disco glamour. The shiny emerald button-up shirt and pleated purple midi skirt were an electric combination.
- A fuchsia astrakhan coat lined with lush brown fur at the sleeves and hem is definitely a guilty pleasure - gorgeous, although I'm hoping it's faux.
- A barely-there black lace mini dress was more lingerie than cocktail attire. I was wowed by the delicate dragonfly and lizard motif embroidery, and how it was topped off with a knitted headband and cat-eye glasses. Sounds like it shouldn't work, but it did.
- A feather-light chiffon and lace dress in pink, green and pale blue - not an easy thing to pull of with such elegant, bohemian grace.