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Gucci AW23 menswear collection Milan Fashion Week
Courtesy of Gucci

RIP maximalism! Gucci strips it back for first show post-Alessandro

After bidding the eclectic designer arrivederci in November, the house’s AW23 menswear collection was devoid of the feathers and flounce that defined his seven-year tenure

Friday the 13th gets a bad rap, but far from being a harbinger of doom, historically it was a day devoted to the divine feminine – until, as it so often often the case, the patriarchy got its filthy hands on it. With the number 13 considered lucky across many cultures, it’s also a symbol of new beginnings, so it made sense in more ways than one that Gucci’s first show post-Alessandro Michele would take place on this supposedly spooky day. 

In group chats in the days leading up to Milan Fashion Week’s AW23 menswear season, and conversations as industry members filed into the Gucci Hub, opinions as to what was coming swayed one of two ways. Either it would be Gucci business as usual, with Michele’s long-standing team picking up his mantle and carrying on in his maximalist memory, or a sharp foot on brakes when it came to the feathers and flounce the designer was known for, as they stripped things back to basics. 

Turns out those in the latter camp were the ones proved right – although even for them, the first look out of the gate came as something of a shock. As the showlights came up and the band at the centre of the stripped-back space (Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dogs) fired up, out came a model in a louche pair of khaki slacks and a white t-shirt, an oversized monogrammed leather bag swung insouciantly over his shoulder, and a very Broadway Market beanie topping it all off. As things got going, others in slashed, slouchy knits, and slick, wide-shouldered overcoats, and Gucci-emblazoned shell suits followed. 

For the weirdo magpie dressers who found themselves in Michele’s Gucci and its wild vision of androgynous, gender boundary-breaking fashion, this pendulum swing probably felt a little jarring. There were no floor-sweeping red carpet ready gowns or slinky slip dresses, and in their place was something a little more masc – striped breton tops were matched with oversized bombers bearing bolshy logo detailing, while skinny, stonewashed jeans were teamed with worryingly low V-neck tees and tucked into understated leather mules and ankle boots. 

There was lots to like about the collection: the hulking, angular outerwear and the impeccably-cut tailored jackets were chic and wearable, and accessories like the leather garment bag were great.

But where Michele conjured up a wild new way to dress – whether you bought into Gucci’s bank-busting luxury vision, or thrifted your way to the aesthetic as a wide-eyed fashion student – this felt less agenda-setting and more like a way to tap into the nostalgic mid 00s ‘indie sleaze’ aesthetic that continues to dominate social media. Some pointed to Tom Ford’s influence, which was seen in bleached jeans finished with metallic patch detailing – the designer headed up the house from 1990 to 2004, which is around the time the OG Brooklyn hipsters were piling into basements to listen to The Strokes the first time around.

Of course, change could well be coming, and the pendulum may swing in a different direction come next season. Like Louis Vuitton, which is also in the market for a new creative director after Virgil Abloh tragically passed away in late 2021, Gucci is reportedly looking for a new designer to grab the wheel – so don’t get too attached to those deep-Vs just yet, okay?