The fashion of the twenty-first century is like a sweet perfume of decadence: we often hear that it has lost its soul, that it has become a big industrial and commercial machine, that it no longer knows how to create emotions.
But the parades from cruises that punctuated the month of May came to contradict this pessimistic sentiment with creative ideas. The leader of this eccentric wave is Italian: it is Alessandro Michele, the artistic director of Gucci.
Risky on paper, his baroque style saturated with scholarly and sometimes contradictory references in fact propelled the brand's credibility and sales to new heights. For his cruise show, he chose Arles and its "Alyscamps" walk. Necropolis of the Roman era, this initially pagan, then Christian city of the dead became in the 19th century a place of interest for artists like Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Vincent van Gogh or Paul Gauguin.
Wednesday, May 30, at dusk, a thin ribbon of flame traced a burning path to be followed by the Gucci procession. The cortège displayed a creative mix: medieval bestiary, Masonic imagery, mourning clothes, punk spirit, pop culture of the 1980s, a gothic or folkloric touch to the Arles, and even some neo-classic material. The event was effectually underlined by a soundtrack with sacred accents, but even amidst this intense dramaturgy, every detail has its purpose, every piece is desirable, speaks to the audience, effectively demonstrating that the label can be both inventive and commercial.
What matters here is neither the novelty (everything —or almost everything— has already been done in fashion) nor even any notion of good taste, but the freedom of expression, precious and almost limitless, that the creator offered to his public. Ultimately, when the dust settles on this year's shows, Alessandro's cruise collection may very well be looked back on as the event of the season.