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Sunday, June 26, 2022

A quieter gender fluidity marks Gucci’s return to the Milan runway | Milan fashion week

Gender fluidity is not just Harry Styles in a feather boa. It can also be a woman in an elegantly oversized double-breasted trouser suit, like the model who opened Gucci’s first Milan fashion week show in two years.

“Seven years ago I designed a menswear collection, and everyone told me I had invented gender fluidity,” shrugged the designer Alessandro Michele backstage. “I was like, my definition of masculinity is broad, OK?” (Funny, now, to recall the furore caused by a man in a pussy-bow blouse, as recently as 2015.)

Michele knows perfectly well that he did not, in fact, invent gender fluidity. “I am between two genders,” he said on Friday. “I was a special child. This is what I am, and I am voicing my own experience. Gender fluidity has become a marketing slogan, but I don’t want that.”

The show was also a reveal for a collaboration with Adidas
The show was also a reveal for a collaboration with Adidas Photograph: Mourad Balti Touati/EPA

This collection celebrated the quieter beauty of women in menswear, rather the rule-breaking energy of men in dresses. Most of the 84 models, whatever gender, wore trouser suits.

In other words: Gucci, best known recently for putting men in feminine clothes, dressed women in masculine clothes in a menswear-based collection shown during womenswear fashion week on models of all genders. Surprising an audience with a tradition-disrupting gender-fluid look is as on-brand for modern Gucci as supermodels in cocaine-white dresses slashed at the hipbone sashaying down a mirrored runway were in a previous era of glory days, under Tom Ford.

Gucci designer Alessandro Michele
Gucci designer Alessandro Michele. Photograph: Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images for Gucci

Gucci – the world’s second-most powerful fashion brand after Balenciaga, according to a recent Lyst report tracking sales, social media and search data – is not overly concerned with gatekeeping the traditions of what men and women wear.

“I really like men’s suits,” said Michele. “As a child I remember always feeling really impressed by them. Not just on men – I grew up in the 1980s around working women, and they wore them too.” The women in his design team love menswear. “They will say, I love this jacket because the line is so neat, it’s like a man’s.”

There was a clarity and simplicity to this show that allowed Michele’s charm and sincerity – which in some seasons has been at risk of disappearing under all the glittery turbans and jumbo pearl buttons – to shine through. The designer said of the return to physical shows in Italy: “It is beautiful to be home. It was so great to work with music and light and space again. Although spending so much time with lots of other people, I find this is very tiring”.

The show was also a reveal for a collaboration with Adidas. Double-breasted corduroy suits with a Gucci-adapted trefoil logo on the breast pocket, bespoke Gazelle trainers and triple stripes were reminiscent of the kooky elegance of Adidas tracksuits in Wes Anderson’s cult 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums. Michele remarked that “fashion has left the atelier” and credited Adidas with “bringing elegance into sportswear”, although he was at pains to point out that Gucci’s history with its iconic red-green-red stripe has a heritage traced to the Palio horse race in Siena, which dates to the 13th century.

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