Changes in fashion are to be expected. Sometimes they are subtle and hard to pinpoint, such as the slow exit of the wedge heel or the quiet passing of skinny jeans. At other times the change is fast and relentless – and this is exactly what we’ve seen at Gucci over the past two seasons.
The Gucci effect
With the arrival of Alessandro Michele, the creative director with a bold new vision for the brand, the smooth sensuality and high-octane glamour of the Gucci woman has been replaced with a kooky, colourful and cartoonish portrait of a lady. Today, Gucci stands for printed silks, coloured lace, crocheted skirts and capes, pussy-bows, multicoloured lurex and transparent chiffon in neon colours. It’s also using an endearing technique that results in trompe l’oeil buttons, belts and bows being added to garments, which are adorned with beads and sequins in a colourful and playful way. ‘It’s really about that kind of contradiction between the past and the future,’ Michele told the New York Times, which goes some way to explain how an essentially discordant collection of looks has succeeded in conveying one of the strongest messages of the season.
Geek chic glamour
Intrinsic to the current collection’s appeal is its ‘geek chic’ styling. The formula favours glittery oversized glasses, crocheted gloves, corsages and short-strap handbags that hang from the wrist. There are, however, snatches of old-school Gucci, as seen in the strategic use of the house’s signature red and green stripes to define a waist or a hemline, and the interlocking gold GG motif, although this is a little less shiny and a bit more distressed than in previous years.
For Sarah Mower, chief critic at Vogue Runway and author of the book Gucci by Gucci, the shift in focus has relevance beyond the fashion house’s design credentials. ‘The speed at which Gucci has been overhauled and refreshed since Alessandro Michele has been appointed has been astonishing,’ Mower explains. ‘I think he’s a leader in the new, warm, human and eclectic feeling which fashion is craving.’
Prada leads the way
Michele has reinvented Gucci in line with the feeling of the times, and the nod to eccentricity that has been freshly employed by the label is a common thread on Milan’s catwalks. Designer Miuccia Prada has long been known for her quirky designs, and where others are making their first forays into the arena of out-there style, Prada embraces the aesthetic like a seasoned professional. At Prada this season, boxy 1960s-style suit jackets are decorated with silver stripes, tweeds and tartans, and layered with pastel-hued gauze. There are geometric knits in solid blocks of dense colour, hems that hover between the knee and the calf and an impressive selection of accessories including leather bowling bags and oversized bauble earrings, while the most remarkable items are net-like veils draped around the neck.
Marni’s unique vision of woman
Marni is a brand where the meaning is as much in the accessories as in the clothing, and quirky details are all part of the label’s DNA. This season, a palette of bold primaries with accents of dusky pink and jade green provide the wallpaper for a collection that fuses loose shapes and geometric lines with contrasting print and colour. Giant leather ‘sack’ handbags, dangly Perspex earrings and flat, square-toed thick-strap sandals once again confirm Consuelo Castiglioni, the label’s designer, as an architect of left-field fashion design.
A change is afoot
With high-profile changes at Gucci and bold touches from labels such as Marni, Italian fashion has been brought into sharp focus and there’s a particular air of excitement around its new experimental leanings. What is apparent is that the shift in design focus being witnessed in Milan has a growing and infectious appeal and, rather than being the exception, dressing with a quirky eccentricity will increasingly become the norm.
The polished, sexy ideal of the Italian woman may not have been put to bed for good, but she is no longer the only contender on the catwalks. A new concept of woman has emerged, bolder and more playful than before, and Gucci, Prada and Marni have captured and embraced her spirit.