In the ongoing saga of the coronavirus and fashion week, the industry is no closer to a conclusion than it was back when it carried on as if everything was just fine back at Paris Fashion Week in February and March. In the U.S., the CFDA seems to be purposefully vague about whether New York Fashion Week will or will not happen in any physical format — especially as cases continue to climb in many parts of the country.
Meanwhile in Europe, both life in general and the way of doing things in fashion seem to be resuming their old ways. While both Paris’s Couture and Men’s fashion weeks were held as digital events, by the time Milan Fashion Week Men’s rolled around this week, some brands like Dolce & Gabbana and Etro opted for IRL experiences. The resulting runway and street styles images made it look as if a pandemic never even happened.
But not for Gucci. The Italian luxury behemoth decided early on that it would be doing things differently. In late May, creative director Alessandro Michele announced that the brand would opt for two shows a year going forward instead of five, and that they would be co-ed — a departures from the recent decision to show men’s and women’s separately again.
On Friday, Michele showed the brand’s “Epilogue” collection, a co-ed line that he had foreshadowed back in May to be a closing of an era. And while many of the digital shows presented in the last month have fallen flat, with engagement and attendance much lower than in-person events, Gucci’s actually worked. Here’s why:
1. It kept its viewers on their toes
Is this a video? Is it a look book? Why does the invite land on the Gucci homepage? Accessing the show from its digital invite wasn’t exactly confusing, but it also wasn’t straightforward. On the homepage, there were various options, to click on the 20-minute streaming video, to simply access the look book, to shop for current product (with a reminder that most of Gucci’s stores are now open and done so with careful safety precautions). After glancing at two looks in still image, it was clear that there was more to discover.
“The final act of a fairy tale,” narrated an ’80s-era robot voice as primitive computer applications clicked open on the screen upon introduction.
2. It was unclear if a runway show was going to happen or not
As the video streamed, it was unclear if a runway show was going to happen or not. As the robot narrated and then as Michele himself narrated, video ran in the background of Gucci employees preparing for what appeared to be a runway show. There was a garden location (which was Rome’s Palazzo Sacchetti) and footage of makeup artists and hairstylists prepping models. Turns out, it wasn’t pre-runway footage but a continuous streaming of the brand’s campaign shoot — 12 hours of it, to be exact. The idea was to give an inside-view of what it’s like to put together a campaign. Working with Minneapolis-based photographer Alec Soth and directors Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo, the actual campaign won’t be released until the fall.
3. The models were totally unexpected
Perhaps in equal effort to do something new and, more practically, to limit the usual interactions that happen during a fashion show, Michele used his design team as the models for the show. This wasn’t actually a surprise — Michele had mentioned this at his digital press conference back in May — but seeing the faces of the creators of the collection’s pieces revealed an intimacy even through digital images. On the look book photos, yellow sticky notes named the designers and their titles and also gave instructions on hair, makeup, accessories and how to shoot certain details. Viewing the group, one could imagine how they worked as a group with Michele; what their days were like, how friendly they might be with each other. It’s also worth noting that at a time when companies everywhere are scrambling to include more Black employees in senior positions, Gucci’s creative team shows an inclusive representation, at least in image.
4. Inspiration was everywhere
Sure, there are show notes, unique locations and perhaps even a trip backstage to see a mood board at any given fashion show. But rarely does a designer reveal as much about inspiration as Alessandro Michele has during his tenure at Gucci. The creative director continued that tradition in the livestream, as inspiration images continuously peeped through in various boxes on screen.
By the end of the video, when Soth and the D’Innocenzo brothers were introduced as those who would work behind the camera, it was easier to see how Michele’s brain and references would co-mingle with the other creatives.
“Once again we have have turned everything inside out and we have pulled out the entrails of fashion once again — as in the past and in these last months. And so this is an experiment. So I can’t guarantee anything. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Michele narrated in Italian (with English subtitles).
5. The looks were shown in more detail
As the video clicked through each of the 75 looks, it wasn’t just the typical full length look book shots that were shown. There were headshot detail images, which showed each designer’s face in more detail along with the myriad turbans, hats and beaded necklaces. There were accessories detail shots, including footwear shots showing loafers, sneakers and snakeskin boots. Some of the images also rotated to show the look from a 360-degree angle — all of which was happening as the live stream of the campaign shoot proceeded in the background. These close-up additions were a simple but highly effective tool, especially for buyers who need to actually see pieces in detail in order to confidently place orders.
6. The fashion was still really great
There was nothing groundbreaking in the collection, though as an epilogue, it really shouldn’t have been. Instead, Michele’s usual magpie mix was even brighter and more optimistic than usual, with turquoise printed patterns, vintage paisley patterns, pop florals and rainbow stripes.