The ideas just keep coming from Gucci’s wunderkind and his pre-season show last week gave us plenty to inspire the day and evening sectors across casual and formal, says Sandra Halliday.
The fashion world has been conducting a love affair with Gucci since January 2015 when Alessandro Michele stepped onto the AW15 runway and stepped off it a bona fide star. But he’s no shooting star, more a supernova. He doesn’t yet have the recognition outside of the fashion world of say, Karl Lagerfeld or his one of his predecessors at Gucci, Tom Ford, have. But it’ll come.
Why am I so sure? Well, when a designer shakes up a brand so much and so successfully, it simply has to happen. Gucci CEO Marco Bizarri (the clever guy who gave Michele his job) said late last week that product is flying off the shelves. Bags are up 7% this year, shoes up 46% and RTW up an astounding 66%. Wow.
But Michele is having a beneficial effect on more than just Gucci because, to put it bluntly, he’s inspiring the rest of us too. And the Resort 2017 (or Cruise or Pre-summer, whatever you like to call it) last Thursday threw us more ideas than many brands offer in several few years.
More like a main season show in that it featured 96 exits, it was clear from its evolutionary, transitional style that it was pre-season. But evolution in this case contributed to revolution too and gave us plenty of ideas for moving fashion forward. Here are just some of them…
As a high street denim designer pointed out to me a while ago, the gulf between high-end and high-street denim is huge and is rarely bridged. But these acid-washed jeans offer up a new direction for your perennial skinnies that doesn’t rely on a) slashed knees or b) holes anywhere else. This look can use classic denim or finer cotton (with a touch of stretch) and can take in bleached and tie-dyed effects too. Michele has gone for a natural waist-level waistline cinched with a belt, but chances are high street versions will sit lower. What’s key though are two things – the pattern created by the acid-washing that gives an instant update for bread-and-butter denim, while the addition of floral and fauna motifs transforms the look further. A tiger’s head and scattered florals tap into the embellished denim trend without making it too dressy. Teamed with a logo or motif tee, this look feels as casual and youth-focused as anything you’ll find at Jack Wills.
I noticed a fondness for strap detail on shoes in December and January as the pre-fall 15 collections appeared and Michele has both confirmed and boosted the trend. On the one hand he’s given us a new direction for ankle boots with a slightly longer boot and a pointed toe. They look great in snakeskin wrapped with multiple straps. And to keep the snake theme going, he’s used smooth leather but turned the straps themselves into writhing snakes. On the other hand, straps add an extra dimension to shoes (remember, Gucci’s shoe sales are up 46% this year!) Michele extends them up the leg and even dresses them outside of those skinny acid-wash jeans for a further style statement.
Footloose and footless
Runway designers have been pushing heavier, patterned hosiery for several seasons now but it hasn’t filtered through to the mainstream in a big way yet. Will these footless tights make a difference? Michele used them partly as statement hosiery and partly as a revival of the leggings-under-skirts trend of some years ago. To add to his hosiery obsessions, he gave us an array of frilled and striped socks to, again, both continue and confirm the socks-with-sandals trend.
Playing around with classics is a well-trodden path for many designers and Alessandro Michele has joined the throng in style. Particularly interesting here is his heavy use of plaids and tartans with a tartan strapless evening dress that could have come straight out of the 1980s were it not for the hi-lo hem, the giant leaping leopard embellishment and the accessorising with jet black heritage jewellery and sunglasses. See also the tartan kilt with dog motif (teamed with Union Jack sweater), the classic loafers with Union Jack upper, the deerstalker hats, pussy bow necklines, headscarves, the check coat atop luxe hoodie and acid wash-jeans) and the tailoring. Here, we get the imagining of classic skirt suits given a youthful vibe with ruffle trim and embellishment or made retro in a late-60s silhouette in red, white and blue. Pantsuits meanwhile are kept slim cut and classic but given an edge in after-dark brocade or with the addition of heart motif embellishment.
The ruffle should evolve into a key trim for day or evening given Michele’s heavy backing. Cut deep it gives drama to eveningwear but smaller ruffles also dress up softer, more fluid evening looks and could be key for bridal next year. Ruffles also find their way onto skirt suits to give them a younger edge, as well as onto statement knits and as a finishing touch for bib fronts across both day and eveningwear.
Raining cats and dogs
The rain may have stopped by the time Gucci showed last week but Michele’s continuing use of cat and dog motifs set the seal on quirky motifs in general. What was key here was that these didn’t just appear where you’d expect them (such as placement prints on T-shirts) but in jarring settings on a neat skirt, as part of a suit and as the key embellishment on a denim jacket. This is one way of giving quite conservative pieces an on-trend edge that will appeal to both the youth and contemporary markets.
Alessandro Michele loves print and embellishment and continued to back it for this collection. With handbag sales on the up, he differentiated them not just by shape and hardware but by floral patterns and applied animal decoration. Both day and night dressing came with a heavy quota of pattern as he used exotic silks into which the pattern was woven as well as heritage Gucci prints (and subverted forms of those) to add an extra dimension to classic such as the shirt dress or pleated skirt. Even the acid washed denim that was a key feature of the collection made a powerful pattern statement.