2015 was the year for Gucci. In one of fashion’s most surprising and talked about appointments last year, Alessandro Michele was picked out of obscurity and thrust into the limelight to head the storied fashion house as creative director along with Marco Bizzarri—the label’s newest CEO and president. Michele, while no stranger to Gucci having dedicated almost 14 years to the brand, helming various roles from director of leather goods, design and head of accessories to finally assisting Frida Giannini, was all but a quiet force working tirelessly behind the scenes. That the future of the company was placed in his anonymous hands after Giannini’s untimely exit, just days before the fall 2015 menswear show, was a daring move for the brand. In a miracle turnaround, in just five short days, Michele changed every last detail of that show right down to model casting and seating. The result—a brigade of boys in girls’ clothing and girls in boys’ clothing, dressed in pussy bow blouses, slinky lace, skinny trousers, berets andnerdy spectacles, sashaying languidly down the runway, shocking the jaded front row right out of their horse-bit loafers, which by the way also got a major makeover. Anything we remembered of Gucci’s sexed up, jet-set past was all but obliterated as were the gender roles; a sentiment that has followed through in his collections since. If Michele was looking to go boldly where no man has gone before, then he certainly vroomed into the unknown, marking his arrival into the future with a bright grosgrain bow.
‘The idea that a man should be wearing something different and more eccentric is obviously the oldest idea on earth,’ said Michele in conversation with JJ Martin of Harper’s Bazaar last year, referring to fashion practices of the French aristocracy under Louis XIV, when high heels, bows, and wigs were regular elements of a man’s wardrobe. ‘Men nowadays really don’t dress up anymore. But men wear bows for women.’ And in the Gucci universe now, men and women do more than just wear bows for each other—they walk seamlessly in and out of each other’s wardrobes decked in hyper botanica, serpents, stars, sequins and glitter in equal measure for both. In his six presentations following his first, these new ideas of sex, beauty and gender roles become abundantly clear in their sharp diversion of the Gucci of yesteryears. A brand that was once driven by high-voltage sex appeal is now driven by gentler, more bohemian tenants of romanticism and beauty. ‘My idea of masculinity is beauty. If you want to be beauty you can be beauty how you want; it doesn’t mean that you are not a man or woman. These are the clothes that give you freedom to choose who you are,’ he told Dazeddigital.com. And this idea of freedom, Michele has shared with his men and women alike.
While Michele’s new androgynous, gender neutral manifesto is a complete volte face from the past and a big statement to make for one of the world’s biggest brands, it also echoes a very prescient moment in our own very dramatic landscape of gender politics. David Bowie’s demise late last year once again brought his impact on popular culture to the limelight [Michele’s fall men’s 2016 even paid homage to the icon with a black cardigan with ‘Bowie’ written across the back, accompanied by animal embroidery and a large red heart]. Known for his transgressive acts, Bowie’s own work was the result of a society that didn’t leave much room for ambiguity and freedom.
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