MILAN, Italy — After another rapturous assault on reason in the name of Gucci, Alessandro Michele was explaining why his typically obscurantist/philosophical shownotes sang the praises of “the vertigo originating from overcoming the principles of non-contradiction.” OK, deep breath… it’s not as impenetrable as it reads. “The principles of non-contradiction” might just be the notion that everything needs to fit together to create harmony.
Overcome that idea, interrupt the natural order, celebrate chaos and you’ll end up with vertigo, "the feeling of losing your sense of self that you get when you look at art or something beautiful,” as Michele put it. Case in point: Gucci’s Autumn/Winter 2016 collection.
The show closed on an airily sheer gown in celadon chiffon, which floated down the catwalk with a snarling black panther beaded across its bodice. And yes, the panther was posed as a deliberate echo of revolutionary political passions. Michele has claimed it’s nothing short of a revolution he’s after at Gucci, and that panther was the capper on another performance that gleefully upheaved orthodoxy, like the gravity-defying images that opened the show: waterfalls running upwards, icebergs un-crumbling.
Michele stirred Brooklyn artist Trevor “Trouble” Andrew into the mix. He’s a Gucci obsessive (first luxury “purch” 15 years ago was a Gucci watch) who’s been Snapchatting this week as guccighost. He’s been spraypainting too: ‘REAL’ on a tote, the double GG graffiti-style on a fur coat, ‘LIFE IS’ on a mink-trimmed baseball jacket… signs which, in the words of Michele’s philosophical statement, “are decontextualised… and reactivated beyond shared conventions.” Again, there was a simpler read. It was simultaneously luxury and the street that was being taken out of context and turned around.
And that happened all over the show. Michele’s subversion of “lady” dressing scaled new heights. Old Hollywood glamour collided with Gucci’s nu-glam in a manic mash-up of pattern and texture and extraordinary colours. Brocade sleeves ended in a cloud of goat fur. Another jacket featured pretty pink bows running the length of a sleeve, a heavy gold fringe running across the shoulders, and hussar frogging all over the front. The decoration was choking.
But you wouldn’t mess with this eccentric lady. She was sporting pearl knuckledusters. Michele has already established his punk credentials with his contrary radicalism. For anyone who remembered Jordan, the iconic figurehead of punk style in the 1970s, with her twinset and pearls, and hair and makeup fit to make small children cry, this was a reaffirmation of how potent unlikely hybrids can be in producing a violent new kind of beauty.
All of that said, there was a surprising amount of clothing that will make Michele’s paymasters happy. Dissect it into tailoring, knitwear, lively jacquards, seductive embroideries, bombers, blazers, boots and bags, and you had yourself a whole gorgeous mess of items that will decontextualise and reactivate any tired old wardrobe. But it could only do that because it all came from the man with black panthers on his brain.