LONDON, United Kingdom — Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele has responded to claims that the label's new alien-inspired video series is plagiarised from the work of a Central Saint Martins BA student.
The videos, shot by Glen Luchford during a casting session for Gucci's Autumn/Winter 2017 campaign, were released on Thursday via Instagram and show models styled to look like aliens. But the label was quickly accused of plagiarism by student Pierre-Louis Auvray, who wrote on his own Instagram feed: "Young creatives struggle enough without big companies shamelessly stealing from them."
Auvray's supporters flooded the comments beneath Gucci's posts, and fellow Central Saint Martins students also showed their support via the @bafcsm Instagram feed, which is managed by students at the famed fashion school.
Speaking exclusively to BoF yesterday, Michele refuted the accusations of plagiarism. "It's not true," he said, explaining that he only came across Auvray's work for the first time this weekend when the allegations surfaced. "It's something that makes me feel really sad. People build a story around nothing."
The likeness between Auvray's work and the Gucci campaign is coincidental, insisted Michele. "It’s about my memories, so movies from the '70s [including Star Trek: Lost in Space] that I saw many times," he said. "It’s more about space, we have the robots, the aliens ... I tried to work with Chris [Simmonds, artistic director] and the guys and Glen [Luchford, photographer] on strong characters."
Nor, Michele said, could it have even been possible for him to steal Auvray's ideas (first posted on Instagram in February), because the planning for Gucci campaigns begins so far in advance. "[The idea] started in my mind a few months ago, because it’s big, big, big work, to organise everything."
It's something that makes me feel really sad. People build a story around nothing.
Michele also noted that the idea of an alien with pointed ears is an obvious trope popularised by "Star Wars" and "Star Trek", a point echoed by several commenters on the @bafcsm Instagram post. "Pointed ears on an alien, just because you need the character of the alien, is something obvious," Michele said. "It’s a very simple language for a kid to translate as an alien ... I grew up with this kind of thing."
Michele added that he would be open to speaking personally with Auvray to straighten out any confusion. "I’m so sad, because I think it’s not a good idea for a teacher at a school like this to push a young guy to destroy, in a way, his creativity," he said. "Creativity [is] not about the fame. I mean, it could be possible that you are thinking something that is in the mind of someone else. The idea that I’m 45 doesn’t mean that I have no creativity. I’m like a student, it’s the same, it’s not a war!"
Michele also discussed the role of Instagram in spreading ideas, compared to when he was a student. "When I was a student, I remember there was a very beautiful collection from Balmain, all red, and I was working on my final work for the school and I did the same … I didn’t think that someone was borrowing my work. Instagram is transforming reality."
Update, 24th April 2017: In a statement issued to BoF, Pierre-Louis Auvray said: "This is an aesthetic that I have heavily featured on my social media for a very long time ... I intended to keep working on and make it a part of my graduate collection portfolio, [but] I will no longer be able to do it because I am just a student and Gucci has an international platform ... Fashion has some really ugly sides and what happened to me is very sad but I am conscious that some companies [have done] even worse things to plenty of other young artists. But it doesn’t mean it should be normalised. Instagram and social medias are great promotion tools for us, I just wish these companies would not use them to steal our ideas."
Editor's Note: This article was revised on 24th April 2017. An earlier version of this article misstated that Pierre-Louis Auvray first shared his project on Instagram seven weeks ago. This is incorrect. Auvray first shared his project on Instagram in February.