Inside Westminster Abbey – London’s most famous religious building – centuries of U.K. history have echoed beneath its vaulted ceilings. Royal ceremonies, weddings, burials, and coronations have taken place in its hallowed halls, but recently it was the site where Italian brand Gucci touched on the U.K.’s most provocative moments in style history. For Cruise 2017, Alessandro Michele was able to distill what is quintessentially “New Gucci” and quintessentially British in a 96-piece collection that spanned both menswear and womenswear.
No designer in recent memory has been so adept at turning kitsch into commercial success as Michele has done since emerging from obscurity to take the helm of Gucci. Where once the brand and its parent company Kering were commended for having the foresight to ditch the “celebrity designer” hunt to replace Frida Giannini by tapping an unknown, they have now created a celebrity in Michele who has taken to the glamorous red carpet life like a style blogger to the ‘Dionysus’ bag.
Michele’s newly vaunted status in the fashion community has everything to do with his ability to turn his vision into dollar signs for the brand – after all, Gucci’s financial turnaround has happened under his watch. “Sales of Michele’s women’s ready-to-wear have surged 66 percent this year, while his shoes for women are up 46 percent and new handbag sales are up 7 percent, led by designs such as the $2,250 Dionysus,” The Fashion Law reports, but Gucci is on pace to turn those numbers up even higher by implementing Kering’s long-term goals for Gucci’s future. These goals include seeing the full range of Michele-made products in stores, since his creations currently only account for 70% of in-store products. Michele’s creative acumen all but guarantees that when the full range of his products are in stores, that sales will climb higher. Everyone wants to buy into the New Gucci look.
You don’t have to be an Anglophile to appreciate Michele’s excellent reworking of British style tropes for Cruise 2017. Instead, through the lens of history, it becomes clear that Michele is deftly upholstering looks from decades past with the kind of chinoiserie, glitter, and glam that fashion girls (and guys) crave. The New Gucci look is the result of a multi-faceted identity, one that allows the Gucci girl to be whatever or whoever she decides. Cruise 2017 drenches her in color, ornaments her with accessories, embellishes her lavishly, and does it all with fine craftsmanship and rich materials. She is presented as the underground rave girl in a black web-lace dress, the pedigreed sophisticant in a Wedgewood print full-length frock, the punk in a Union Jacket sweatshirt, the prep school girl in coordinated separates, the 80s new-wave kid in spiked denim, the Victorian damsel in a modest, frilly gown, and dozens of other iterations. Gucci’s Cruise 2017 collection is absolutely bursting with personality.
Ironically or not, inside of the Westminster Abbey’s grandiose framework, prim silhouettes were placed alongside skater tees and sloganized sweatshirts. It was a meeting of the pious and profane, where animal appliqués were treated like religious icons and formal tuxedos were spun in yards of metallic brocade and shocking shades of rust red. Some of the most eye-popping looks came from Michele’s reworked Edwardian dresses, with their high ruffled necks and long leg ‘o mutton sleeves. He showcased them in a variety of dreamy finishes from lush brocades to silky midnight florals and watercolor pastels on frothy chiffon. Accessories, as always, were strong. They included a line-up of massive chandelier earrings, hip fedoras, lace leggings, triple-strap Mary Janes, and rainbow-striped metallic creepers – no look was complete without a combination of at least five accessories or more. There was also a surprising amount of velvet and fur outerwear on display, a nod to the trans-seasonal trend that has taken over the industry of late.
On the strength of such fine fashion, Kering’s Chief Executive Officer Marco Bizzarri’s statement to the press seems a foregone conclusion. “There is no doubt we will outperform the market,” he declared. No doubt, indeed.