A Gucci show doesn’t begin on the runway—it starts from the moment show-goers receive their invitation. This season, the show invitation came in the form of a papier mâché mask of Hermaphroditus, the two-sex child of Hermes and Aphrodite and a symbol of androgyny, delivered in a straw-lined wooden crate. The show itself was held in a venue with circular seating against uncomfortably bright, 120,000 LED-powered flashing lights that blinded guests and was soundtracked by a thumping, growling beat.
As hinted from the show invitation, the mask was a running theme for this Autumn/Winter 2019 collection, for which Michele sought inspiration from German philosopher and political theorist Hanna Arendt. According to the show notes, Arendt “reminds us that we are persons when we choose the mask through which we appear on the world’s stage.” The way we dress is a part of living “as a distinct and unique being among equals,” says Arendt.
On the runway, Michele played with different variations of the mask—some spiked, some S&M leatherette, some blanked, some peekaboo with eyes and mouth—paired with his now signature overstated vintage grabfest, gender- bending clothes.
However, there was a shift in mood in this collection (a far cry from the glam, glitzy Hollywood fanfare in Spring/Summer for sure), with a strong sense of tailoring this time, done in a Gucci away of course. Suits were blown up, shoulders were exaggerated, waists nipped in, trousers bulbous in the extreme, and some ties rendered wide. Others came in deconstructed, unfinished details with the label worn inside out.
There were some interesting fabric choices like paper yarn and Moire, and then there were crust ruffles, soft florals and vintage inspired logos and prints. Accessories were easy to spot as usual: two-tone loafers in exotic leathers, patchwork sneakers, multi-functional duffle bags, gilded ear cuffs inspired by Eduardo Costa and even kneepads with the Gucci logo.
As ever, Michele left us with much to ponder. Beneath all the theatrical stylings, this is Michele’s most sartorially aggressive collection yet. All those references of masks were perhaps a metaphor of how we explore and use clothes and garments to construct our social identity. At times we hide; at times we reveal who we really are.
“When we show ourselves on the public scene we reveal ourselves to each other in our plural identities. The visibility space therefore represents the condition of possibility of being together and, at the same time, different.” With Michele’s clothes, you can do both.