“What I am trying to do is to put something poetic into a powerful, iconic brand. I am really inspired by different time periods, and that’s something we are missing in fashion,” said Alessandro Michele backstage.
This was just before he unleashed his romantic, girlish look, putting his beating fashion heart into filmy fabrics, flower patterns, coats with a pretty decoration at the back and furry loafers that you can bet have brought orders texted in to Gucci already.
The show was an absolute volte-face from the streamlined, crisp, urban Gucci of the last decade, when Alessandro was working under Frida Giannini.
She has now left, and Alessandro convinced François-Henri Pinault, CEO of the Kering luxury group, to give him the chance of a lifetime.
And who wouldn’t succumb to this great romantic? With his dramatic black curls, intense enthusiasm and vision that encompasses the Renaissance and sweet floral prints, along with the idea of a modern woman who runs to answer her lover at the door, wearing a dress that is part nightgown and part Victorian frock.
“I love Jane Eyre,” said the designer, referring to the heroine of Charlotte Bronte's best-known novel. This style can best be described as ‘attic chic’, hence a tailored, flower-printed jacket with the mark of a fold at the hips, as though the garment had been locked in a trunk for half a century.
Berets perched on the head suggested a young French woman from an earlier era.
The show was engaging in its passion and visual energy. It was not a triumph — that would suggest a more pushy, in-your-face collection, rather than this dream of a gentle woman wearing semi-sheer dresses, handcrafted knits and back-to-the-Seventies trouser suits, or tops and pleated velvet skirts.
All were distinguished by appetising colours, like a ginger coat with fondant-pink fur cuffs, or a petal-like asparagus green skirt with a lilac blouse and red flowers in the hair.
The clothes — including those for men — stood out as young, logo- and status-free, fitting into the dynamic of Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent.
But is it Gucci? A bag with a Napoleonic bumblebee? Shoes bobbling with fluffy fur baubles? A whiff of the brocade and velvet from an opulent past?
The question is better asked like this: what is Gucci? Is it primarily a leather company that makes clothes (like Louis Vuitton)? Is it the hot and sexy look that Tom Ford invented in the Nineties, his heyday now a generation ago?
Did Frida Giannini’s chic and slick look better catch the essence of Gucci?
And above all, are Alessandro’s wild, romantic dreams going to stop the fall in Gucci’s sales and profits?
“We are very excited. Alessandro is like a hidden jewel, he was under the radar,” said Marco Bizzarri, Gucci’s CEO, sitting with François-Henri Pinault and his wife Salma Hayek, who was already wearing a trouser suit with navy jacket and wine-red pants from the new collection.
“Business will grow, but we must maintain creativity,” Bizzarri continued. “Even big luxury names cannot do something average.”
I don’t know about the finances, but I warmed instantly to the new designer, for his passion, his enthusiasm and his intelligence.
It has been a long time since luxury seemed so romantic. Alessandro put his heart in the show, and it showed.