The Gucci Effect

How Gucci's Alessandro Michele brought the fun back into fashion


Picture / Supplied

It has been a long time since a fashion house has captured the imagination as dramatically as Gucci has done over the last year. Sales are up, but the influence of the 95-year-old Italian label hasn’t been so all-pervading since Tom Ford took it to new heights in the 1990s.

Under the creative direction of Alessandro Michele, the brand has re-emerged like a butterfly from a cocoon. And its new romantic and flamboyant, multi-hued aesthetic has had an impact beyond the cash tills. They are calling it the Gucci Effect and it has changed the mood of fashion.

“Alessandro is leading the way in fashion’s current maximalist mood,” says Sarah Rutson, the vice president of global buying at Net-a-Porter, which has launched an exclusive Gucci capsule collection of 20 pieces. “From rainbow brights to ensemble dressing and patchwork denim, so many of the trends we are embracing at the moment have been influenced by this shift. Looking ahead to next season, I don’t believe this will change any time soon.”

The last label to create such a sudden turnabout effect on fashion was Celine, when British designer Phoebe Philo took the helm in 2009 and almost overnight turned women’s thoughts to a uniform of chic minimalism. Philo ushered in an understated luxury that oozed un-logo-ed desirability. Distinctive but anonymous, chic not shouty.

This hankering for anonymity also came through in “normcore”, a mood of dressing that emerged from a generation that couldn’t afford Celine but was desiring more of a nondescript workaday aesthetic of jeans, trainers and sweatshirts. So, against a sea of athleisure and a background chant that tracksuits and leggings are the new daywear, Alessandro offers an alternative.

“He has championed the idea of personal style and individuality, which I think was lacking after several seasons dominated by a more minimalist mood,” says Rutson. “The Gucci look of now is eclectic, romantic and very optimistic. Colour and print are used in the most unexpected of combinations, inspiring us to be more daring. If that sounds daunting, then the accessories capture the look with a single piece.”

As in so much fashion advertising, the ‘Gucci woman’ is captured in campaign images as a slim, young woman barely out of full-time education, but the look Alessandro has created is not one owned by youth. The chintzy prints and colourful accessories owe much to a style of dressing enjoyed by previous generations, who embraced the ritual of dressing up and channelled their creativity into it.

There is something of Iris Apfel’s brio in the layers of clashing colours and rich textiles, and the clever use of the signature stripes of Gucci’s heritage. It recalls the poem by Jenny Joseph: ‘When I am an old woman I shall wear purple, with a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me/And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves/And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.’

It’s eccentric and endearing and bold. Under Alessandro, Gucci has brought back an emotion that hasn’t been felt in fashion for a while: joy.

- The Daily Telegraph

• The new Gucci capsule collection is available from Net-a-Porter.com

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