After revealing the Aria collection that saw a “hacking” of design codes between Gucci and Balenciaga back in April this year, Alessandro Michele’s ‘Hacker Project’ is finally ready to drop in stores worldwide. Not only is it an exciting coming together of creative minds, but this year’s Aria collection also marks Gucci’s centenary anniversary, making it a significant collection of progressive expressions and historical allusion.
2021 marks an important year for Gucci as a fashion house as it celebrates its 100th anniversary. It is also the year after Alessandro Michele announced the house’s departure from the traditional fashion calendar. After reducing the annual shows to twice a year, Gucci Aria became the first collection to launch in 2021. Aptly named ‘Aria’, the collection’s title refers to the Italian art of lyric opera—an elaborate solo melody that puts the singer under the spotlight—like how this centenary collection reveals the true voice and colours of Gucci.
“Celebrating this birthday means to pay homage to the mother’s womb then, but also to becoming the other.” – Alessandro Michele
It is this desire to look back on the past and evolve into something that led to the ‘Hacker Project’, which makes this merging of codes between Balenciaga and Gucci even more extraordinary through the unexpected “hacking lab” (as Michele prefers over calling it a collaboration) between the two fashion houses. Comprising 94 pieces, this creative rapport looks back on the house’s history gives nod to Michele’s immediate predecessor Tom Ford while transporting the brand to the present and future.
Familiar “nonconformist rigour” of Demna Gvasalia’s designs for Balenciaga make unexpected appearances in the Aria collection—iconic Balenciaga’s pieces such as the legging boots, spandex peplums’ hacked’ with the familiar double ‘GG’ monogram and the familiar Gucci hues of green and red stripes. Likewise, other pieces feature Balenciaga logos cleverly incorporated into and on top of Gucci logos and designs.
“In this sense, Gucci becomes for me a hacking lab, made of incursions and metamorphoses. An alchemical factory of contaminations where everything connects to anything. A place where thefts and explosive reactions happen: a permanent generator of sparkles and unpredictable desires. On this occasion, then, I want to honour my filial affection betraying the legacy that was handed down to me. Because the promise of a never-ending birth is only renewed through an evolving capacity,” explains Michele.
Paying homage to Gucci’s history, motifs and elements from the eras past are brought back to life, with iconic signatures such as the house’s Bamboo details, as well as illustrator Vittorio Accornero’s Horsebit and Flora pattern. The motif marks another important commission, which was made by Guccio’s son, Rodolfo Gucci, for Grace Kelly, i.e. Princess Grace of Monaco, back in 1966.
“Crossing this threshold, I have plundered the nonconformist rigour of Demna Gvasalia and the sexual tension of Tom Ford; I have lingered over the anthropological implications of what shines, working on the brightness of fabrics; I have celebrated the equestrian world of Gucci transfiguring it into a fetish cosmogony; I have sublimated Marilyn Monroe’s silhouette and old Hollywood’s glamour; I sabotaged the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie and the codes of men’s tailoring,” says Michele.
The house’s equestrian heritage also appears in the form of riding helmets emblazoned with ‘Savoy Club’, which refers to the brand’s starting point where Guccio Gucci first had an idea to launch a leather luggage business while working there as a bellboy. Then there are other explorations of Gucci’s equestrian ties in the form of harnesses, boots and whips—this time with fetishistic touches that nod to “the sexual tension of Tom Ford” mentioned by Michele in his collection notes.
Other Tom Ford allusions can be seen in the collection’s interpretation of the iconic red velvet tuxedo worn in the Autumn/Winter 1966 runway by model Trish Goff and later by Gwyneth Paltrow at the MTV Music Awards. In this Aria variation, the tuxedo is reimagined with pronounced shoulders and a leather harness.
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(All image: Gucci)