To appreciate the gift of the present, you sometimes need to look at the past. In the early 1900s, a young Guccio Gucci worked diligently as a bell boy, porting luggage and tending to the elegant guests of The Savoy hotel in London. The spirited youth devoured the experience with mind, body and soul. Here, he acquired a taste for elegance, luxury and finely crafted leather goods, constantly observing the hotel’s sophisticated guests. He found life-changing inspiration through their cosmopolitan clothing and lifestyle.
In 1921, Gucci opened his first shop in Florence, Italy, where he gained recognition for his leather craftsmanship – specialising in travel bags, equestrian gear and accessories. The eponymous Italian fashion house celebrates its centenary this year amid the unusual circumstance of a world slowly waking from a period of lethargy brought on by the pandemic.
Nevertheless, Gucci is ready to embrace a season of celebration. The collection titled “Aria” refers to another Italian creation: lyric opera. An aria is an elaborate melody sung by a single voice taking its turn in the spotlight. This centenary collection clearly expresses Gucci’s voice with divine clarity. Gucci Aria is the first collection of 2021 for Gucci, which has departed from the traditional fashion calendar in favour of two presentations a year.
Alchemy of soul
Gucci’s abundant history does not summarise into a single inaugural act. The House’s journey is a story defined by the miracle of endless births, continuous celebrations and revolutions. The creative director of Gucci, Alessandro Michele, makes no secret of his joy and privilege to oversee the celebration of Gucci’s centenary.
“It means being able to open the locks of history and linger over the edge of the beginning. It means soaking in that natal source to relive the dawn and the coming into view,” the Italian designer explains.
In his work, Michele caresses the roots of the past to create unexpected blooms, cultivating new blossoms from the seeds that define Gucci’s identity. Adopting a novel approach, Michele shreds static codes of creativity through the actions of creative “hacking” made of incursions and metamorphoses. He seeks to pursue the poetics of the illegitimate, comprehending the past by transporting it to the modern world and altering history.
Reflecting on 100 years of Gucci, Michele shares his vision of the mythology of the brand. He plunders the nonconformist rigour of Demna Gvasalia. Throughout the 94-piece Aria collection, Balenciaga silhouettes make an unexpected appearance, from iconic legging boots and spandex peplums to ruched textures and sculpted skirt suits. The Balenciaga logo repeats on several designs – a contrast that should seem out of place and instead enhances the overall style with an inventive aesthetic.
Gucci’s creative director also exploits the sexual tension of his predecessor, Tom Ford. The first look nods to Ford’s 1996 red velvet suit, given a kinky twist with a leather harness over a powder blue shirt. It is a homage to Ford’s legacy in shaping the “ambiguous, erotic, luxurious and hedonistic” rhythm of the brand during the 1990s to the early 2000s. Michele also resurrects the Flora print, created by Vittorio Accornero in the 1970s and later revived by Gucci designer Frida Giannini, further fanning the flames of nostalgia.
The Aria collection also celebrates the equestrian world of Gucci, transforming it into provocative bondage-inspired accessories. Every horseback rider needs the right gear, so the collection includes riding boots in plain leather, wrapped in the Gucci emblem or morphed into a jodhpur silhouette.
The Italian designer sublimates Marilyn Monroe’s silhouette and old Hollywood glamour, going a step further to sabotage the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie and traditional codes of men’s tailoring. Furthermore, “Savoy Club” makes an appearance, emblazoned on riding helmets; it is a tribute to the iconic establishment that impacted the House’s founder.
The accessories steal your attention at every turn. Amid signature handbags injected with contrary logos and leather-accoutrements are glittering, anatomically-correct heart-shaped minaudières, futuristic eyewear, bejewelled heels and sandals. The clash of house codes amid androgynous styles paired with striking jewellery proves that Michele still has a vision for Gucci to grow in new ways. In Gucci Aria, we glimpse Gucci’s High Jewellery pieces in dazzling chain choker necklaces and more. It marks the first time the High Jewellery selection presents alongside the central collection.
Gucci gang, Gucci gang
Gucci Aria debuted in a special video presentation created by award-winning photographer and director Floria Sigismondi alongside Alessandro Michele. Sigismondi is known for exploring occult and surrealist themes and has worked with talents like Rihanna, Bjork, David Bowie and Marilyn Manson.
The celebration takes place in a film-set version of London’s Savoy Hotel. Here, models leave a moody neon-lit street outside the fictional Savoy Club. Inside, they strut down a long corridor littered with flashing lights fixed to the wall offering imaginative mimicry of absent paparazzi. Soon, models venture into a dreamy paradise filled with sunlight. It is an escape to a free-spirited Eden inhabited by white peacocks, horses and mist that scatters light.
“We get into a club, neon lights and cameras, but we find out that the party we deserve doesn’t happen in the lobby of a London hotel of the 20s. It’s rather like a deep and ecstatic diving in everything we yearningly miss today: a feast of air,” Michele says, explaining the significance of the set.
Dressed in glittering party clothes and ready to party, Michele pairs the visual feast with a worthy soundtrack, inviting us to jive with a medley of Gucci-themed pop anthems. Select items from the Gucci Aria Collection flaunt prints with lyrics featuring the word Gucci like Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang”, Rick Ross and Future’s“GreenGucciSuit”, Bhad Bhabie’s “Gucci Flip Flops” featuring Lil Yachty, and more. Michele tapped the talents of American musician and visual artist Lawrence Rothman to create the iconic tracks to create the perfect anthem.
The soundtrack proves the brand’s enduring relevance and captures the essence of what it means to embed into modern pop culture. As an anniversary collection, Gucci Aria successfully condenses the House’s greatest hits. It cements Gucci as a peerless cultural tastemaker for this generation and those to come, unrestricted to a stringently defined concept.
(All images: Gucci)
This story first appeared in Prestige Malaysia’s October 2021 issue. Read the full e-mag for free on Magzter.