If it ain't broken why fix it? This could easily be the slogan of Alessandro Michele's collections for Gucci. Season after season, his designs for the historical Italian house have so far been the result of constant and endless remixes (of obscure vintage books, prints and illustrations; antiquities and vintage clothes...) with a heavy dose of dark glamour added and a horror twist à la Dario Argento.
Michele's Gucci Cruise 2019 collection took place in Arles, in the South of France, yesterday night: his gloomy models suspiciously looking like the anti-heroes in a Wes Anderson film walked in the open air and amid the ruins of the Alyscamps Roman necropolis, surrounded by sarcophagi and flames, a set that, rather than referencing St. Joan of Arc burnt at the stake, evoked - as Michele highlighted on Instagram - verses 112-113 of Dante's Canto 9 from the Inferno, that were also featured on some of the outfits ("Even as at Arles, where marshy turns the Rhone, or as at Pola near Quarnaro's gulf which bounds Italia, and her border bathes, the sepulchres make all the ground uneven; so likewise did they here on every side, save that their nature was more bitter here; for flames were spread about within the tombs, whereby they glowed with such intensity, that no art needeth greater heat for iron. The lids of all of them were raised, and wails so woeful issued thence, that of a truth they seemed the wails of wretched, tortured men").
As a whole this collection was a Roman extravaganza that combined antiquities, religious vestments (to tie in with the Costume Institute's "Heavenly Bodies" exhibition, maybe?) and Fiorucci circa 1983: floral motifs were combined with lace leggings and matched with Gucci's own version of Buffalo Boots in shocking pink; buckled bondage pants reshifted the discourse towards punk; a hat with an oversized feather betrayed instead Michele's passion for appropriating and remixing (the original hat was designed by the late Frank Olive).
More commercial designs included shirts and sweats with the Pan logo from the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles; ruffled and tiered dresses abounded, but there were also richly embroidered velvet capes for merry Gothic widows at glam concerts and a ghost bride at the very end.
Quite a few models donned dresses or jackets that incorporated liturgical stoles (a trick lifted from Gucci's A/W 18 collection), yet they weren't the only religious elements: there were plenty of crosses on the brooches, chokers and necklaces that at times decorated the toga dresses; a couple of models also carried metal lilies like the ones you may see in the hands of statues of St. Anthony in Catholic churches (Michele has recently been borrowing the accessories of sacred statues - remember the designs he did for Lana Del Rey and Jared Leto at the Met Gala?).
Religion was also evoked via the sepulchral and funereal moods: a reinvented version of Schiaparelli's "Skeleton" dress (View this photo) made an appearance, but rather than featuring three-dimensional bones, it integrated a see-through panel around the rib cage area embroidered and embellished with gems.
The effect evoked the pictures of "catacomb saints" that Paul Koudounaris took for his volume Heavenly Bodies (a constant yet unacknowledged reference for a few fashion designers in the last few years...). The face of a male model was also erased by nylon stockings embellished with blue gems where his eyes should have been, something that also called to mind the attire of some of the skeletons portrayed by Koudounaris.
Death was also evoked by leggings with the words "Memento Mori", a note reminding people that we all must die and that ended up making you think about the power of death in fashion.
Michele is fascinated by death (he is also a fan of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery...), a recurrent theme in fashion (we have analysed it already in previous posts) that also calls to mind Giacomo Leopardi. All these connections make you wonder if maybe the theme for the 2019 Costume Institute exhibition at the Met Museum will be Death/Horror (it could be a sort of new and improved version of the Met 2015 event "Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire", curated by Harold Koda and exploring mourning attire worn between the years of 1815 and 1915...) and Fashion (and if it happens, well, you have heard it here before anywhere else...). Bets are open, in the meantime talking about death and fashion, Milan will soon be mourning as Gucci gets ready to leave its runways in September to join the Paris Fashion Week calendar.