Maps, psychedelia and optical illusions: Gucci SS16

As Alessandro Michele continues his revamp of the house, we break down the unexpected elements are defining the designer’s creative vision

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Gucci SS16, Dazed Digital
Maja Salamon (Next) at Gucci SS16Photography Virginia Arcaro

Since taking the helm at Gucci for the house’s AW15 menswear collection, creative director Alessandro Michele has drawn critical acclaim for his gender-blurring, romantic vision of fashion that remains rooted in the intellectual (his press notes often cite the likes of Roland Barthes). His troupe of beret-clad Bohemians, donning thick-rimmed glasses and ruffled blouses, all look a little like Wes Anderson’s characters seen through the lens of high fashion; so artfully composed is every tiny detail of their outfits. This season Michele presented a collection which continued to explore what are now his signatures: a vintage femininity, antique shop eclecticism and a romantic nostalgia, but there were some new additions to his repertoire too. 

CENTURIES OLD CARTOGRAPHY

Michele seemed to have dipped into history’s dressing up box and pulled out an assortment of references that spanned not just decades but centuries. One dress came with a cartography print that referenced the Carte de Tendre, published in 1654 by Madeleine de Scudéry. The image replaced place names with virtues (like obedience, generosity and sincerity) to create “a map of tenderness, a moving topography of desire” – and made a pretty bold statement about female sexuality and emotion in a repressive time. 

EXOTIC ADVENTURE

The press release cited “the possibility of getting lost as an opportunity for learning and discovery” – and Gucci's collection invited you to get lost not just in time but in geography, exploring an exotic world through the language of its clothes. Parrots in bright orange and yellow were made of microscopic sequins, flying across sheer leaf pattern skirts, while colourful snakes wove their way around heels and up the spines of dresses and jewelled ants were embroidered onto suits.

“The press release cited ‘the possibility of getting lost as an opportunity for learning and discovery’ – and Gucci's collection invited you to get lost not just in time but in geography, exploring an exotic world through the language of its clothes”

60S PSYCHEDELIA AND 70S GLAM

With glam rock stacked platform heels that came complete with smiling mouths stamped into the soles (a motif that also appeared bejewelled on ties), a whole lot of lurex and heart and star detailing on leather loafers, Michele tapped into the effervescent styling of glam rock and psychedelia for his girls of SS16. More Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band than groupie girls, models wore wide-collared shirts with cropped kipper ties that felt straight out of the 70s. 

PUNK

With a studded leather biker jacket and matching skirt, Michele dipped his toes into punk references – but he didn't steer too far from familiar ground, combining subcultural nods with Gucci house codes. Biker gear came complete with painted roses and bumblebee embroidery (a Gucci signature). While shoes were covered in spiky bullet-like studs down the back and across the straps were to be found in red and green – the house’s trademark equestrian inspired colours.

TRICKS OF THE EYE

Michele ventured into unexplored territory with looks that used hundreds of embroidered, tiny sequins to create almost cartoonish trompe l’oeil bows, frills and collars. One look with a bra and skirt was entirely constructed in this style, while a dress made from a variety of floral prints, was overlaid with seemingly three-dimensional ruffles, worn with a bright red pussy bow and a pink belt. This optical illusion added a playful touch to the collection, proving that despite its lofty intellectualism, Gucci isn’t taking itself too seriously. 

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