The new messiah

Gucci A/W 2015

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening,” said Coco Chanel. And once in a while there’s a designer picking up just the ideas that are living among us, consciously or not. Just as Coco Chanel sensed that the time was ripe to free women of the corset and Yves Saint Laurent contributed to the liberation of women by giving them le smoking.

They don’t come often, those designers ahead of their time and at the same time with their feet right down in society, being able to translate sociological and political trends into fashion trends. But when they come, they are on everyone’s lips.

Last year the fashion world saw one of those designers coming, as a replacement of Frida Giannini at Gucci. His name was Alessandro Michele and nobody had ever heard of this man with long hair, a beard and multiple rings around his fingers. Not for long. Within just one or two seasons this man was a household name on every cool fashion party, editors found hastily their way to the Gucci store to buy his loafers, bags and pleated skirts and are still not done talking about this new, vintage kind of sexiness that colors his collections.

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Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s new creative director

It seems that Alessandro Michele touched all the right buttons and not only created a much needed revolution at the house of Gucci, but in the fashion world as a whole. He quotes anticapitalist philosophers such as Walter Benjamin, he refers to feminist writings such as  La Carte de Tendre of Madeleine de Scudéry (which he even printed on a skirt) and tells in interviews about his love for the Renaissance and how he resents the way women are practically forced to look like these days. He refuses to participate in the rat race that the fashion system has become and designs collections that are made of timeless items, which are not meant to be replaced when the next season brings new trends, but to be cherished and loved and combined with other timeless items of Gucci’s new collections. He plays with gender roles and mixes masculine with feminine elements, and he gives women a kind of nerdy romantic look instead of in-your-face sexiness.

This man doesn’t only look like a kind of new messiah, from a certain perspective he is the new messiah. In the fashion world, that is. That world seemed on her way to explode, with one designer after another resigning because of the enormous pressure, people growing tired of all these trends that are following each other so rapidly, women suffering under a creeping pressure to look hot and sexy and style purists looking for authenticity in this mass industry that fashion had become.

If Alessandro Michele’s collections for Gucci are about one thing, they are about freedom. Freedom to be just who you are, without chains and strains, without a system telling you who or what you should be. The same freedom a growing number of young feminists is looking for, and a growing number of people opposing against the power of money in this capitalist society of ours. Michele of course is no less part of the capitalist system, being a commercial designer who admittedly wants to make things that people want to buy. But hey, nobody said freedom was free.

I wrote a piece on the resurrection of Gucci for Volkskrant Magazine. You can read it here or here (Dutch only).

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