Tearing a page from Frank Sinatra’s book, Alessandro Michele is doing it his way.
“We’ve been called to order by the Earth and we are all aware that we cannot re-propose the past after this cataclysm,” said Gucci’s creative director during a video conference with the press on Monday.
Whittling down the brand’s shows from five to two and postponing the spring 2021 show were two of the main takeaways of the “Studio Visit” event, with Michele speaking from his atelier in Rome as the lockdown in Italy has been gradually lifted.
The designer underscored that he wants “to keep the conversation open” but admitted that, while the exchange with Gucci president and CEO Marco Bizzarri and his team has been fundamental to fuel the changes, he has not spoken to any of his peers in the industry about the decision to forego Milan Fashion Week but “felt the need to raise a hand and speak up.”
As reported, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the spring 2021 men’s shows and presentations in Milan will not take place in June and will run at the same time as the women’s shows, Sept. 22 to 28.
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Michele said the pandemic was a signal to slow down and that Gucci will not be ready to present a collection in September. “We’ll show further down the road,” he said, without giving details. The change will allow him to “bring oxygen” to his creativity as well as that of the artisans that contribute to the success of Made in Italy and Gucci’s production, he continued.
“Creativity is the only bridge that will lead us anywhere,” Michele said.
September, he contended, has always posed challenges to the supply chain and the pipeline, following the long August vacations here.
He was also adamant that he “adore[s] the shows and meeting the press, to have an audience and a public, but showing five times a year is impossible.” However, he underscored that he did not feel inadequate, but that he needed to exit “a macro-system that is bigger than me.”
As reported, Michele over the weekend posted 18 posts on Instagram that referred to six letters he wrote between March 29 and May 16. One pointed to the abandonment of “the worn-out ritual of seasonalities and shows to regain a new cadence, closer to my expressive call. We will meet just twice a year, to share the chapters of a new story.”
On Monday, he elaborated, saying that “we have inherited vocabulary terms that were born in other moments. As in rope jumping, we have to learn to avoid tripping over them. I don’t know if we need these words. Cruise, pre-fall are really antique terms, emptied of their significance. You know I love looking at the past, but to be productive in the present. These scheduled appointments were not very stimulating in terms of creativity. Now we need a different, more elastic system that fits with the moment. Creativity, like water, always finds the space to run.”
Accordingly, Michele is conceiving new names for the collections and has been inspired by the music world. “I felt the need to change names of the shows. I want to use words and terms borrowed from classical music, which offer the possibility of opening new horizons. Music has a mysterious power. It is powerful in supporting humanity.”
The designer is gearing up to digitally present on July 17 what would have traditionally been called a cruise collection. “In July we will come out with a story, Epilogue, with the seeds of what will be the near, imminent future. After the last show in Milan, where I wanted to overturn things, we will present a story with the people from my office instead of the models.”
In February, Michele dedicated his fall collection to the multitiered ritual of designing, making, staging and viewing a fashion show.
“I would like the reversal to continue, I am trying to complete this uncovering. I did the casting and it will be a beautiful thing,” the designer said of Epilogue. “For me it was important and necessary. Closed at home, we questioned and studied so much that we produced something that is also the reflection of what is inside my studio.”
Epilogue will take place during Milan Digital Fashion Week, slated to run July 14 to 17.
Michele confirmed he will hold two co-ed shows a year, predicting they will be in the fall and in the spring.
He said that Gucci.com will soon launch a shopping area that will allow a customer to identify as gender-fluid when providing information. The suffix for this is MX. “It’s possible to register on the Gucci web site in the MX option, this is a not-defined space where it’s possible to buy clothes not based on male/female distinction.”
Admitting he had perceived the COVID-19 crisis as “a complicated moment,” he said he believed the pandemic had wiped away social, political and geographic differences. “For the first time we were all in the same conditions. I was unprepared, as I never thought I would be immobile in my apartment in Rome, and despite the information provided it was pitch dark.”
The lockdown, however, allowed “time to think and work and it accelerated my moving into new territories,” as he revealed he re-read books on medieval history and the Barbaric invasions. “Time did not stop then, either. Beautiful cathedrals were built,” he said as an example. “Standing still does not help, we need to change and I feel like the first day of school, just as I did when I held my first show.”
And, embracing the poet in him, he said that during the lockdown, he felt “like a butterfly or a blooming flower, still as the roses in the vase on my terrace.”
He underscored that the diary he has been writing and the decisions he has been making come from love. “I fear for the wonder that surrounds us,” he said.
Likewise, he emphasized that he is “not deserting the system,” and that representing a company with 17,000 workers, thinking of the pipeline “is a great act of love.”
He also said he was driven by “great optimism,” and love for the company. “It’s my home.”
Slowing down, he believes, will also give breathing space to smaller brands that are not supported by a luxury conglomerate.
In response to a question, Michele said he was not embracing the ways of the late Azzedine Alaia, who was famous for showing whenever he wanted, regardless of the fashion calendar.
“I would like to show when I want, but I can’t,” Michele said. “I am part of an enormous system, Gucci is an empire and I feel I am part of a system. I probably will never be able to show when I want but I can’t run to be ready in September. I would be a liar and crazy to say we would be. The system exists, I can’t pretend it doesn’t, I am not anarchic and self-managed. But five shows is complex, especially after the planet has told us that we were going too fast. I am not an expert of the industry and economy, but I feel I need to give myself some time and also to the many people working with us. Rules make our lives easier but we need fresh oxygen.”
In accordance with other designers and brands, Michele also urged for collections to be available for longer periods of time in stores. “This rush for anything hyper-new makes us forget what we see.”