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Gucci Cruise 2016 Alessandro Michele feature
Backstage at Gucci Cruise 2016Courtesy of Gucci

Why Gucci is getting everyone’s attention right now

After new creative director Alessandro Michele took over NYC for yesterday’s cruise show, Susie Bubble explores the radical reinvention of the house

Every aspect of the run-up to yesterday’s Gucci’s cruise show in New York was intriguing. The typewriter font on the invite. The bumblebee motif (a symbol you’ll find carved into marble all over Rome, where Gucci are based and where creative director Alessandro Michele was born). The cult Instagrammer @cococapitan employed to post artistic images on the Gucci account. Gucci’s radical makeover was already in full swing with the release of the softly sensual Glen Luchford pre-AW campaign images, but the resort collection was a chance for Michele to really show us his vision of Gucci.

In contrast with competing houses like Louis Vuitton and Chanel, who used far-flung locations and epic architecture to show their resort collections, Gucci opted for a familiar gallery space in New York’s Chelsea (where many NYFW shows are held), furnished with Persian rugs and toile de jouy covered chairs. As a montage of orchestral soundtracks started up, the garage doors to the gallery were raised up and the models proceeded to walk in from the street, where outside Luchford was shooting a film. And the street is certainly where Michele sees his eclectic cast existing.

The collection was a continuation of what we saw at the AW15 womenswear show in Milan, but fleshed out and roaming wilder with even more lovingly handcrafted details. It’s a wardrobe where brocade jackets, brooch covered furs, embroidered sweaters and quilted housecoats from the 40s to the 70s might fall out. Embroidered animal motifs like tigers, serpents and of course the bumblebee looked like they had been lifted from Japanese souvenir jackets and tattoos. Gucci symbols came at you unexpectedly with double Gs on glittering tasseled loafers, or the red and green equestrian stripe edging a white lace dress. Once again, the girls wore glasses and berets and the guys were suitably disheveled in their deliberately ill-fitting suits. The sensual and evocative Gucci characters that emerged from the AW15 show were cemented here. You imagine they might read Sartre, neck some beers and go gallery hopping together in Dalston, Williamsburg or their global equivalents. These are clothes that are aspirational in a way that feels more tangible because these live and breathing characters have inhabited them.

After the show, we were all invited up to an informal breakfast across the road with a chance to meander around, go up to the rails and inspect the clothes. Just another warmth-inducing gesture from this new Gucci driven by emotion. Come in, touch the clothes and be touched by the sentiment. The word “eclectic” cropped up constantly when Michele was talking about the collection after the show. He also talked of “love” fuelling the collection, which incidentally appeared on a see-through lace dress in French – aveugle par l’amour. So far, so very hippie and optimistic, which is what Michele’s vibe is all about. “I’m inspired by a lot of things – from the street, antiques, vintage wardrobes. It’s impossible to explain the exact point of inspiration. It’s about being free to love, free to express, free to show who you are through the way you dress,” said Michele. “Luxury means that you show the way you dress with eccentricity. It’s almost like a new kind of jetset – instead of roaming around the world, you’re roaming with your clothes.”

Michele’s definition of luxury is precisely what makes his appointment at Gucci so fascinating. How significant that Kering is allowing Michele the freedom to so dramatically change up the hyper-glam, ultra-bling status quo of their billion dollar house Gucci. Michele speaks of a luxury that has to evolve for a Gen Y and Z, who are arguably worse-off than the baby boomers. And whilst the bottom line is still all-important at Gucci, by letting Michele shake up the house, they’re sending out the message that luxury today is about creative freedom of expression. That definitely is a shift from the previous desire to dictate everything from the show to the clothes to the afterparty, which this time saw Michele muse Karen Elson donning new Gucci to perform at the back of B Bar & Grill. It feels like a bold move for the house in the context of what had gone before. It’s not a revolution, but in Michele’s words, a “renaissance” – one where eclecticism frees the shackles of how people expect you to dress. “The world is changing and we have to be brave,” said Michele.