MILAN, Italy — “I hate travel,” said homebody Alessandro Michele after showing a Gucci collection that was, he said, inspired by journeys. It must be easy to be a homebody when you weekend somewhere as extraordinary as the medieval village of Civita di Bagnoregio. But Michele also acknowledged that travel helps you better understand the importance of the place you come back to — and that may not be where you actually live. “Gucci is my home too,” the designer added.
Michele had more to say about home, telling in the light of Miuccia Prada’s statements last night. “People want to go home because they’re scared,” he said. “I want to make them so comfortable they can wear slippers in the street. The whole world is their home.” Looking around at the audience, there were enough people wearing Michele’s slip-ons, fur-lined or otherwise, to lend his statement real weight.
And that might have accounted for why so much of his new collection had a curious domestic feel: as exotic as ever, but with a silken pajama-y lounginess that called for cushions on the floor, smoky interiors (the vivid green of the venue today was slightly misted), someone reading aloud, from a travel diary perhaps, while a captive audience lolled in a heightened state of (un)consciousness, to Steve Mackey’s blissful soundtrack of piano, violin and muted noise from the streets outside this hermetic world.
Even more mesmerising than the renaissance of Serapis under the Gucci umbrella was the presence of Donald Duck.
Purest escapism, travelling in the mind – that’s the kind of journey Michele can manage, which puts you in mind of Jean Des Esseintes, the central character in Against Nature, Joris-Karl Huysmans’ decadent 19th century masterpiece, who created for himself an environment of such splendid artifice that he never needed to go anywhere. How much does that feel like Michele’s Gucci?
Today, there were new motifs to expand on the snakes, bees and butterflies, the embroidered motto L’Aveugle par Amour, all of which have come to constitute his design vocabulary. One new addition appliqued everywhere was Loved, as in, “You are…”, a sensation Michele fervently wished everyone could feel. Another was the Greek rendition of the name Serapis, a god whose cult bridged civilisations, Egyptian, Greek and Roman, like a rock star of antiquity. If the utterly arcane nature of such a reference seemed like quintessential Michele, Serapis actually signified abundance and resurrection, two notions that the corporate accountants would surely find reassuring as they tot up Gucci’s surging revenues.
But even more mesmerising than the renaissance of Serapis under the Gucci umbrella was the presence of Donald Duck. Here’s where things got really twisted. Little Alessandro never read books, so big Alessandro claimed. Instead, he learned about the world through the travels and travails of Donald Duck and his Uncle Scrooge. Overland, never by air (the show opened with the sound of a car engine revving). The kind of travel that is impossible now. I identify. Tintin was my travelogue.
And it wasn’t only Donald Duck’s journeys that activated Michele’s imagination. He loved Marco Polo too. A knit vest featured a rabbit riding a dog, an impossible journey, like Polo’s. There was so much more that spoke to travel of a peculiar Alice-in-Wonderland variety. Lifeboatmen? All at sea. Louis Quinze jean jackets? My time machine malfunctioned. Walt Disney meets Peruvian knitwear? The whole wide world is fashion’s oyster. And Alessandro Michele is its fantabulist, an utterly benign ancient mariner flagging us down on our way to somewhere else to inject us with the most exquisite poison.
And we don’t really even have to get up off the couch.