As one might expect from a show that included models carrying their own severed heads and dragon puppies around like the latest “It” bag, there is a lot to unpack from Gucci’s Fall/Winter 2018 presentation.
Down the rabbit hole we go.
The show notes, which referred to the identity theories of philosopher Michel Foucault and the 1985 feminist essay “A Cyborg Manifesto” by Donna Haraway, produced this explanation for the collection’s surprising dualities, “Gucci Cyborg is post-human…it’s a biologically indefinite and culturally aware creature. The last and extreme sign of a mongrel identity under constant transformation. The symbol of an emancipatory possibility through which we can decide to become what we are.”
In other words, Alessandro Michele posits that in our post-modern society, identity is no longer supplied by tradition. With no single, organizing mass-culture-uniform, subcultures have come to represent facets of the self, reaffirmed by niche communities on the Internet. Therefore, we have entered a post-human phase, where one can choose to be anything they can imagine, be it animal, android, or human, or an amalgam of all three. Consider, for example, the cyber-punk who occupies digital and physical space simultaneously, or Otherkin practitioners who identify as hybrid versions of animals and humans. This is what he means by post-human – in a society where identity is self-supplied, one can literally be whatever they imagine.
Michele fleshed out his chimeric fantasy with the aid of Makinarium, a group of techno-artisans in Rome who create lifelike visual effects, and who are responsible for the cloned heads, extra eyeballs, and dragon babies that made such a striking impression on the runway.
Guests of Gucci were urged to arrive at the venue on time, made more explicit by the invitation – a plastic bag containing a tiny little box which ticked down the minutes to the show. Talk about building anticipation. Upon arriving, we were greeted by a sterile operating theatre, filled with blinding white light, which was a significant departure from the moody, thematically hued shows of seasons past.
For Michele, the designer is a surgeon – a Dr. Frankenstein figure come to life – stitching together fabrics and materials in order to forge new sartorial personalities and identities. The explanation helps explain his magpie sensibilities and piled-on styling: he has fragmented identity and diffused it across a multitude of looks. That’s why this collection was filled with Russian balaclavas, anime girls stitched onto nubby sweaters, Chinese pagoda hats, Kabuki knitwear, gypsy turbans, New York Yankees and Ziggy Stardust references, and even a model carrying a chameleon, which was a little too on-the-nose.
Gucci’s sales are at an all-time high, proving that Michele’s vision is successful on multiple fronts.
Yet, as heavy-handed as his philosophical notions were, it was difficult to see any relationship between the surgical set and the clothes. Furthermore, when it comes to Gucci’s pretty-ugly aesthetic, things can sometimes come off as pretty ugly. However, when divorced from the over-the-top styling choices, individual pieces were radiantly beautiful, painstakingly embellished, and commercially saleable.
Speaking of sales, Gucci’s are at an all-time high, proving that Michele’s vision is successful on multiple fronts. Hodge-podged together on the runway, it is harder to identify their desirability. Hanging on racks and stacked on shelves in a Gucci store, the individual pieces of each collection offer potent personality. Now it’s up to you to mix-and-match your way to a new identity.