The most radical gesture

With the arrival of Alessandro Michele, Gucci has experienced a profound détournement. With a painterly eye, Hellen van Meene envisions a new future for the house

With the arrival of Alessandro Michele at Gucci, the Italian luxury house has undergone a stunning transformation from sexy to cerebral. Gone are the glamazons; in their place are boys and girls of substance. Michele’s vision has been able to capture a wider bandwidth and a more contemporaneous idea of what the brand could be. Instead of aspirational lifestyles, it tends toward individuality and thoughtfulness, an appreciation for the life internal.

The notes at this season’s men’s show referenced Guy Debord’s theory of détournement, and indeed this “flexible language of anti-ideology” offers a profound way of understanding Michele’s approach to fashion. In his designs we can see “fragment[s] torn from [their] own context and development, and ultimately from the general framework of its period”. When translated into a collection of clothes, we end up with design that is of the here and now, and intensely tangible. What a contrast with the idea of the total look, for so long the hallmark of the brand. Michele’s Gucci embraces the individuality of the end user as part of the process of realisation of his vision for the brand, and not as something to be suppressed.

Michele’s Gucci revels in the power of anachronism, the truth about our age of constant change. His proposition is best encapsulated in the words of Jacques Derrida, another philosopher who got a namecheck on the show note: “Untimely, ‘out of joint’, even and especially if it appears to come in due time; the spirit of the revolution is fantastic and anachronistic through and through.” It is a sort of wabi-sabi treatment that roughens up the blandness and homogeneity of the modern aesthetic. You could say that there is something so right about the way it all looks a bit wrong. The collections are leading a new wave in fashion by making available a set of tools that are flexible and translatable in an infinite variety of forms. You don’t have to worry about whether you are a Gucci Girl (or Boy) because Gucci complements and flavours your experience, however it is lived. To quote TED, that is “an idea worth spreading” in fashionlandia. §

Masoud Golsorkhi 

All clothes by Gucci unless credited otherwise.
All quotes by Alessandro Michele 

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“When a brand decides to change its creative direction, there is a need to tell a new story. This is what I decided to do. It is not only a matter of products, but a need to tell another story. Behind a new creative director there is always a new start. And when you start your new language, it has to be drastic. I didn’t hesitate. For me it was really natural and spontaneous. They gave me a pen and asked me to write a novel and I wrote it without even realising I was doing it.”

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“I am neither a sociologist nor a business analyst. What is evident to me is that the world is trying to go in another direction. There is a quest for a change, a new energy that is unstoppable. In recent years fashion has taken itself as inspiration; it has been stimulated only by itself. We decided that fashion was something slick, perfect, symmetric. Now fashion has to go a step further and try to write another story, because the world is
requesting this.”

Tankaut 15_126Anne-Louise wears the photographer’s own fur collar 

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“My idea of individuality is not a hedonistic one: it means freedom of self-expression. To me, elegance has something to do with freedom. Now people feel the desire to express their individuality; they don’t want to fit the mould any more. And fashion has to reflect and describe this social change.”

Tankaut 15_128“There is no nostalgia. To me the past is an instrument, a code we use to express a new language and to produce something that is contemporary. It is in the way you assemble again the instruments and codes you have that you become contemporary. 

I am interested in the reality of the present. The future doesn’t exist. Thinking about the future is fantasy. It is a human invention. What really exists is hic et nunc.” 
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Photography and styling: Hellen van Meene / Photography assistant: Movanna Bolhuis / Videography: Sohrab Golsorkhi-Ainslie / Production assistant: Jacky Mol / Models: Gio Durente, Anne-Louise De Vries and Klementyna Dmowska at Next Management London

Hellen van Meene’s new book, The Years Shall Run Like Rabbits, was published by Aperture in July. Her exhibition at the Fotomuseum Den Haag in the Netherlands runs until November 29