The Gucci guide to British subculture

For their show in Westminster Abbey, Alessandro Michele clashed his eccentric aesthetic with the style staples of London tribes

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Gucci Cruise Resort 2017 London Westminster Abbey Alessandro
Gucci Cruise 2017Photography Chloé Le Drezen

Yesterday, Gucci took the fashion world to church. On embroidered velvet prayer cushions, decorated with design motifs including snakes, panthers and cats, guests assembled in the hallowed cloisters of Westminster Abbey to witness the house’s 2017 Cruise show. Minor controversy aside, (one Reverend claimed the brand were seeking to capitalise on Christianity) the church setting certainly made a lot of sense. Thanks to Alessandro Michele, Gucci has been transformed into to a runaway success, with an entirely new aesthetic and an all-important spike in profits. The result is a devoted – even zealous – group of followers; every other guest at yesterday’s show seemed to have something Gucci on or about their person, whether a humble iPhone case, a bag, or a full, floor-length dress and pair of platform heels. And it’s not just fashion’s inner circle who are kneeling at the brand’s altar – the Gucci Effect has radiated throughout the industry, spawning copycats both on the runway and the high street.

The show began with a hauntingly beautiful choral rendition of “Scarborough Fair”, opening with a look that combined rainbow stripes of lace with a cosmic cat appliqué, tartan, snakeskin and a giant, sparkling embroidered dog. Yes, really – good bad taste was a key component, proving that only Michele seems capable of successfully pairing a psychedelic 70s secretary dress with purple athletic socks and green, metallic studded heels. With Union Jacks, fur, turbans, gowns, velvet, and much, much more, the collection was, in a word, rich – both in the sense which we have come to expect from Michele, and with a new point of reference: British subculture.

Backstage, (before everyone cleared out to make way for the choir, who were coming in at 4.30), Michele spoke of his first time visiting London in the 80s as a young man, and being struck by members of the city’s style subcultures. London, he said, was a place where fashion happened on the streets – and traits from the groups he saw made their way into the collection. Combat boots had laces wrapped, skinhead style, around the ankle; a denim jacket came patched, scribbled on, and covered in studs; beautiful gowns were paired with rainbow platform trainers, and more than one model sported acid wash denim. (It made sense, then, why flown-in members of the international press were being treated to a tour of Camden). 

“Michele spoke of his first time visiting London in the 80s as a young man, and being struck by members of the city’s style subcultures. London, he said, was a place where fashion happened on the streets”

With Victoriana, retro kitsch, and a kind of Pre-Raphaelite beauty, Michele’s fascination with the historic was also evident. He cited Elizabeth I as a key inspiration, calling her “the first rockstar”. She invented the likes of Madonna and Diana Ross, he said, by creating a way to show yourself, a persona of femininity and power. The Gucci cruise women certainly had both. But despite the storied setting, the show felt like a meeting of the past and the present, with models wearing specially designed logo earbuds, made in collaboration with will.i.am. There were also logo t-shirts and oversized hoodies that look set to capitalise on the viral Vetements formula of a wearable, recognisable, and hopefully not extortionately-priced garment (coming to a street style star near you).

With houses flying far afield this season (Chanel in Cuba, Vuitton in Rio), having both Dior and Gucci touch down on English shores was a welcome addition to the Cruise schedule. Both paid tribute to British style, whether drawing inspiration from the eccentric landed gentry or from anarchic subcultural pioneers. And while some might question the real significance of distilling Britishness into a few recognisable, postcard-style signifiers, having the best of French and Italian fashion interpret our national identity felt particularly apt this month. With the EU referendum on the horizon, whether we stay as closely tied to both countries is up to us.

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