On the age-old stone benches beside Westminster Abbey's cloister lay a snake and a cat — their slithering or fluffy skins worked into tapestry cushions. The same symbols appeared on densely decorated clothes, bags and shoes, in which models for the Gucci Cruise show stepped over paving stones marking ancient tombs.
"I was thinking of dipping into this godly sea of the United Kingdom," said designer Alessandro Michele, looking around at the layers of intrinsically Italian embellishment on the clothes for men and women that he had chosen to put together for this London show.
"There is something really unbelievable - this country is like a box full of treasures, you can't stop," Michele said, "and I genuinely think I could work all my life with this kind of inspiration." This wannabe "English Eccentric", with an enthusiasm for intense decoration, has done a great deal for Gucci - and for fashion.
There is a naïveté about his work that includes references from Victoriana to Punk, but this sexual fashion soup is always served up with exquisite Italian craftsmanship.
Yes, we have seen the Union Jack flag worn like a sweatshirt before (thank you Vivienne Westwood), but not produced as an elegant sweater decorated with a silken headscarf, a sparkling flower jewel, a sporty plaid skirt and a bag fancied up with gilded leaves.
Gucci Cruise 2017
Detail of fur appliqué snakes, which appear on both the front and back of this fur coat
"Haute Punk" with antique trimmings best describes this look, in which everything from sandals dotted with furry bobbles and Art Nouveau birds competed for attention with hats and eyeglasses, more decorative bags, more snakes - more of everything.
While wondering at how a man's denim jacket could have so much going on from metal spikes to woven dogs and leopard print pattern, I remembered what I had learned from Gucci about Michele's concept that too much is never enough.
The company that once just produced shoes, bags and accessories is dividing the offering to be personalised by the purchaser. So the "Dionysus" handbag becomes DIY: You choose the motifs, from butterflies to lizards, bees, dragonflies - and, of course, snakes.
An embroidered King Charles Spaniel, Union Jack and Arts & Crafts-style gilded leaves on a handbag, just seen, are just a few of the Anglophile motifs from Gucci Cruise 2017
The "dressing room" backstage at Westminster Abbey
But I also saw in the Cruise 2017 collection that the design can move from elaboration to restraint. Rivulets of frills might flow across the shoulders of a woman's coat, while a man's light blue coat was patterned with pastel flowers, and just one single snake curled up the backbone of a pale coat. Molto elegante!
I tried interviewing Michele, but the English words tumbled out so quickly in his enthusiastic conversation that I cannot be sure if he was saying that this current period of the iPad and digital discovery is like a reincarnation of the Victorian Industrial Revolution, but it sounded like that. Yet what does this have to do with Gucci?
There is no doubt that Michele has reinvigorated the brand and given it a fresh energy. The full-blown hippie de luxe look, with its wild mix of florals on a gypsy skirt seemed refreshing. But there was also a genuine feeling of lavish glamour in a fur coat where the pattern of serpents seemed to be burrowing through the fur.
Detail of a fur pansy applied to a men’s fur coat
A fur appliqué snake motif on the back of a pale fur coat
After a week of Cruise, or "resort", clothes that go on sale in the late autumn, I still have no real understanding of the strengths and boundaries of this category. But Michele is bringing something to Gucci that may turn out to be more precious for fashion than his swathes of decoration, and that is an urge to buy into it. Gucci: The re-birth of desire.
Bias-cut silk for a figure-hugging slip dress
Frills at the shoulder and elbows for Gucci Cruise 2017