Alessandro Michele has long delighted us with his eclectic styling bar none, with looks that pull heavily from vintage styles across many decades, inspiring those of us not in the market to drop a small fortune on a full Gucci look to experiment with fashion. He’s encouraged us to believe that we too can create the same eccentric magpie, nerdy outfits with creativity and a little vintage shopping. His everything-but-the-kitchen-sink maximalist approach has perhaps drawn some fair criticism for relying too heavily on sensory overload. And though a vintage vibe runs deep in Gucci’s Fall 2019 collection, this season there was a different purpose, a darker, more poignant story line that reveals itself through his many pop culture references.
Michele’s “lost boys and girls” collection of oddly fitting and layered pieces looks a bit like children’s clothes mixed up with too-big adult sized clothing. As if there are no grown-ups left, and the kids have been left to their own devices to survive and grapple with the post-horror of whatever post-apocalyptic world they live in. The kids are trying to hold it together, they wear suits and dress shoes because they are beautiful, but are also protecting themselves and are guarded from something strange that we can only guess at. Maybe this is Alessandro Michele’s vision of the future, or maybe it’s a reflection of how he feels about the world we are living in now – a world out of control, frightening, threatening, and almost certainly lost. Perhaps this is his response on how to cope, survive and carry on living with bravery, defiance and beauty.
There are some really beautiful garments in the collection like a pair of voluminous golden moire trousers, and an iridescent lame mini-dress with glamorous poof sleeves, and cozy fox fur wraps thick enough to bury your face in. Other very tailored ensembles like a dramatic houndstooth skirt suit with big, gold naval buttons, and a jewel toned jester diamond silk party dress screamed 70s. The clothes nods to a different era of wealth and wellbeing, when cocktail parties in nice parlours or fancy lounges were commonplace. But we sense that this is no longer the world they live in. Many of the looks are worn in deep layers, possibly to fend off the effects of extreme climate change, or to blur the wearer in some kind of anonymity. Most touching of all is the gold gilding on ears and eye patches – it feels like the gold leaf seen on Catholic and Russian religious orthodox icons.
A clue that we are looking at something serious and sacred is reinforced by the heart wrenching moulded tear drops painted beneath the models eyes. The ears are highlighted as though intent listening is a crucial skill just like in the Netflix series “BirdBox.” The spiked masks and chokers feels less like a flippant hard punk fashion statement, and more like a genuine effort to be protected and ward off an attack. As if it’s not inconceivable that a wild predator could try and peck out your eyes, or someone suddenly lunge for your throat. Shins are guarded both front and back with roller blade knee pads and repurposed coils of metal, a slightly tribal reference that alludes to “Lord of the Flies.”
Does growing up on Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter make us all feel like we’re about to experience an epic shit-storm, or are we gearing up for battle? Are those fantasies just so poignant because they echo real fears? Are they a reflection of reality that we don’t know how to talk about or fully understand? Like the first terrorist attacks, and the home grown high-school nightmares that began with Columbine and still occur far too frequently. To the growing realization that the adult world on both a personal and political level is no more stable, rational or fairer than any high school drama or real life tragedy? Surely we don’t actually live in a more dangerous world than any other generation – with world wars, trench warfare, atomic bombs, bloody revolutions, infectious plagues, natural disasters unmitigated by technology, and a see-saw history of dominance and violent power swings in the wake of time. Each era has its own calamities that define it, and each generation has to decide how to cope, how to respond, and how to do its part to change the course of history. Alessandro Michele seems to be telling us to open our eyes, to participate, and to be prepared for the reality we are currently facing.