Gucci Los Angeles!

Alessandro Michele and Hollywood consummated their long courtship Tuesday night with Love Parade, Gucci’s latest show. Michele is the designer of the moment, a binary-buster whose runway clothes take inspiration from a benighted gendered yore in order to blend, swap, and exaggerate the familiar into dizzyingly unrecognizable and liberatory forms. Hollywood was slow to recognize Michele’s project, but, as gender play began to become big business (again) and an essential part of contemporary narrative, the film industry recognized in Michele a familiar approach. 

It takes extended residence in Los Angeles to recognize among its residents an abiding respect for its history with film. Noteworthy filming locations and ex-houses of dead stars, far from ignored, are piously pointed out with the quiet respect characteristic of a company town. As an old factory of progressive values, there is perhaps a natural affinity between the city and a designer who prefers a dialogue with the past as a means for moving forward. 


The models performed a small circuit of Hollywood Boulevard, emerging from The Chinese Theatre and proceeding down a section of the the Walk of Fame, where the show’s celebrity audience sat in branded director’s chairs. Proceeding across the eerily empty street to reach the sidewalk opposite seemed like space wasted until the end of the show when, emerging again from the Chinese Theatre, the models swarmed the street together for their final bow. So many Hollywood images, emerging as if at the wings of a stage, on a break (remember though, the Chinese theatre was always a movie palace), a (better) reflection of the showbiz celebrities who made up the audience. Hollywood always finds this kind of thing flattering. 

So too are celeb models, but Michele took care that they weren’t obvious. Jared Leto is a longtime supporter and muse of Michele’s. He walked in a signature check jacket and white leather pants with cowboy boots, looking sunburnt, small and ordinary, a reminder of what freaks runway models are. Macaulay Culkin was a clever middle finger to the influencer generation, a recluse dressed here like the guy at a Palm Springs restaurant who bullies the waiter: “Take the menu away and order me exactly what you like.” His shimmering sports jacket was beautiful and fitted his short square body perfectly. A tailor’s inclusiveness. 

This LA show is appropriate for Michele in part because of the failures of his concept. A gorgeous retrospective of twentieth-century typecasting, the titularly women’s pieces include decadent variations on stock feminine roles: the seductive Oriental in a chainmail fitted cap; baselayers in sci-fi synthetics paired with horse blinder glasses; the musician St. Vincent in sexy leather, a feathered cape and finned glasses as the sinister suburban subversive; and a great deal of play with lingerie, an innovation no doubt given new life by Hollywood and a reminder that suggestions of the body used once upon a time to shock. These looks throughout the show are mashed-up and combined, the different eras and references together suggesting a lark in a studio costume department. 

But it is precisely because Michele’s clothes have always looked like costumes that we have always struggled to wear our Gucci pieces, the beloved suits in particular. The costume effect plays a large part in Michele’s success in this collective gender fluid moment. For all the talk of discarding binaries, there is, as always, a desire to push at the boundaries of gender categories without exceeding them. Young people seem to want to announce their desire to be/not be a girl or boy today, rather than dismissing the categories entirely. Retaining the references gives license to play and irony. What, after all, is a costume but a garment temporarily donned and just as quickly discarded, a personality or idea rented? Contrast this approach with Daniel Lee’s most recent show at Bottega Veneta, where an androgynous futurism prevails. The choice between glam Dickies denim and monochrome clinging fringe tennis dresses, however tempting, both point to a danger of a future without reference to our gendered past. There is less opportunity for the play and exchange that Michele understands. Here instead we have the monotony of an unloved uniform.  

The trouble is that these Gucci clothes are for sale, and not inexpensively. When we leave the house in a Gucci suit, headed for a civilian dinner outing, we do so in our thickest skincare products. It is always a challenge to be the only one in the room living the open-minded future. Celebrities have developed a workaround for this. They are photographed in safer logo “essentials”—shoes, knitwear, belts, the logo serving like the watermark on a banknote as a tacit, unspoken assent to the label’s values. All the benefits then, and none of the work. It is those of us who brave the streets in our runway pieces that are the real heroes. Onward!

Gucci + Lanvin: Not a Collaboration

They appeared some days before opening. The incomplete stage, situated beneath the grand dome and visible from balconies above, was at the ground floor covered in black shroud. Like the members of a traveling theater troupe, staff in performance dress stood outside it with arms crossed, speaking earnestly. Of what? Peculiarities of acoustics? The customs of patronage in this region? In gold tracksuits they resembled nothing so much as off-duty members of a 1970s Formula One team, the offhand glitter of their clothes producing in the rural circuit-town a longing for urban glamour. And it is precisely to honouring this decade, and this desire for a material memento from these otherworldly jinn—a sticker, a used sparkplug, a cap—that Alessandro Michele has committed his Gucci.

We have all, for the most part, been with him, too.

American media have thrilled to the gender-bending qualities of recent Gucci collections. Famous rich young men appeared on magazine covers wearing pieces from women’s collections. Less famous younger people on younger media platforms embraced and embellished this aspect of Michele’s Gucci, part of this country’s ancient insistence on manifesting some—any—kind of destiny. In the face of economic and environmental apocalypse, we shall meet it, we learned, amidst gender and sexual freedom.  

And what could be a more relevant reference to our dizzying present, more flattering to the intelligence of the masses who line up at Gucci stores (like no place else now save Louis Vuitton) than the American 1970s? Frills, bell bottoms, lacy collared shirts and pointy lapelled jackets, yes, but also messy imperial wars with disastrous withdrawals, stagflation and liberatory politics fractured by questions of inclusion.

Michele’s lookbooks, of sumptuous Victorian/1970s hybrid interiors in freshly faded colours, point to a simpler explanation of his preferred references: these chaotic years, as translated by Michele, involved a maximalist interpretation of colour, print, and cut. There was more, not to put too fine a point on it, pretty. Subsequent decades made more space for irony, for slick monochromes or a deliberate dowdiness, which we see renewed, for example, by Demna Gvasalia. But who would pay for that garbage? Michele, by the play involved in his—admittedly not very revolutionary—nostalgic return to an earlier decade’s preoccupations, can have his cake and eat it: make pretty clothes without taking a previous era, or our own, too seriously. After all, surely some bullies wore bell bottoms, too. 

Who better than Michele, a virtuoso of liberatory lateness, to celebrate 100 years of Gucci? The anniversary Gucci pop-up at South Coast Plaza contains marvels, though on entrance a soberly suited employee couldn’t confirm quite what. 

“I write on fashion. Could you tell me the inspiration for that green installation? A train station?” 

A blank, but nevertheless widening smile. “Yes it could be.” 

I wondered if this was affected mystery or the inoffensive (and thus offensive) enforced open-mindedness of our times. Inside, however, I was given by a second staffer a beautifully measured tour of the collection, including the archival details which represent the efforts of past collections and designers. The women’s patterned trench coat is stunning, the more archival and baroque shoes a joy, and the wool men’s jacket (light of colour yet double-breasted?!) in anniversary tapestry particularly covetable. The latter we learned integrates references to pop music lyrics which label-checked the house.


It is easier to have nostalgia for a period one does not deeply know. Anyway, it’s a familiar furrow. Celine, and its cover band Saint Laurent (we knew it was the idea all along but didn’t imagine it would come off so easily) are also firmly embedded in a ’70s aesthetic, though this is shifting as Hedi Slimane plays with a bolder language of logo streetwear. For consideration of an alternative epoch, Bruno Sialleli’s Lanvin has interested us since his first men’s collections swerved, unlike Slimane and Michele, not from the 1990s, but to it. Reflecting on this period of superficial socio-economic consensus, of the end of history, but also of irony (which Michele has had to inject back into his cherished references-Slimane doesn’t use it), Sialleli crafted a composite tailoring which examined the ’90s prehistory of athleisure: oversized and athletic but paired with slightly too cute prints. This frisson, that the forever loungy jeans and Footlocker look did flatter some boys, and can look really good on really pretty models, was a brave move in a market with a wariness of artistically addressing recent decades of pop culture.      

The men’s looks in the Spring 22 show baffle us. If Sialleli in his first shows at Lanvin hovered over an innovative combination of post-Loewe sailor boy and forbidden straight boy ‘90s nu-nostalgia, he appears in this show to have yanked hard on the stick, pulling out of the landing. The pieces here are monochrome, gone are the contrast collars, all of it in Kim Jones Dior purples and blues. Jackets, in the previous shows matching oversized trousers with thoughtfully piped sleeves, are wider now all over, thus eliminating their distinctive internal tension. Half-hearted shaggy dog and boucle numbers look a lot like Daniel Lee’s first shows at BV. There are a few graphic prints, which seem fine, but in a not unisex show with 11 men’s looks, we have no story for them. The meat of Lanvin’s men’s collections, that interesting tailoring and play on the unconscious athleisure boy, is buried on the website and on the racks in-store. For the men, then, why even bother with the show?