Gucci has returned to Milan Fashion Week for its Spring/Summer 2020 show, unveiling a collection of more stripped-back pieces inspired by resistance and fashion’s place in the world today. A key reference point for the collection was Michel Foucault’s theory of “biopolitics” — described as “the power over life, over bodies. A power that legitimizes only some existences, confining the others inside a regime of containment and/or invisibility” — and the role of resistance against this power.
In fashion, it’s Gucci’s fandom that’s more dedicated than that of any other fashion brand in the world, with attendees from all ages and backgrounds uniting twice a year at the brand’s Milan headquarters during the city’s fashion week. Those not decked out in opulent, in-your-face Gucci lurex dresses, studded horse-bit loafers, or double G-logo handbags are the ones who stick out.
But then that band plays a different genre and the crowd is confused.
Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele pulled that card out for the luxury brand’s latest Spring/Summer 2020 collection by one eighty-ing the ostentatious aesthetic he’s so carefully architected over the past five years during his tenure as creative lead of Gucci.
The show’s opening 60 beige and ivory looks were different renditions of straitjackets, worn on models standing still on three conveyor belts. There was no color, no accessories, no makeup, no distractions whatsoever, forcing the viewer’s attention to the garment’s construction and silhouette itself. The space in which the show was set was stripped back to a clinical core — red light loomed over the Olafur Eliasson dreamscape-like space pre-show, which then went white after its start (all of which will be re-used for Gucci’s store displays).
While beautifully crafted, the Yeezy-like straitjackets didn’t sit well with many showgoers, nor with model and non-binary artist and musician Ayesha Tan-Jones, who staged a protest of her own by holding up her hands with a message that read “MENTAL HEALTH IS NOT FASHION”.
She makes an important point. Luckily those garments won’t be for sale, instead — in true Michele fashion — they served a more symbolic purpose.
“Straitjackets are the most extreme version of a uniform dictated by society and those who control it,” stated the brand on its show notes. One might speculate that it was Michele’s way of giving the finger to critics who have grown tired of Gucci’s repetitive show formats by saying “you want minimalism, here you go.”
What is certain, however, is the fact that Michele designed these blank-styled clothes to represent how through fashion, power is exercised over life. Normative dressing to eliminate self-expression in other words. After all, an object or rule only exists because we as human beings say so.
“Biopolitics,” Michele called it, quoting French philosopher Michel Foucault. It’s the power over life and body. “The power that legitimizes some existences, confining others. A power that imposes conducts and paths, that prescribes thresholds of normality, classifying and curbing identity, and chaining it to what is preconceived.”
If that sounds weighing, it is. But Michele has got the antidote to free ourselves from those societal norms, challenging the notion of the garment and what it stands for in its entirety. For the following 89 looks, he put self-expression back on the radar, urging consumers to resist the confinements we put on life by encouraging new forms of subjectification, and disengage the pressure of social normativity.
So this time, the music went up, models stomped down the runway in colored suiting, lace kink dresses, and oversized sunglasses. Many wore latex and carried whips. Gucci as we know it, celebrating both extravagance and sex — a number of accessories state “GUCCI ORGASMIQUE.”
The message was much to the amusement of front row guests including A$AP Rocky, Gucci Mane, Jared Leto, Dapper Dan, and Iggy Pop, the latter wearing bejeweled sandals and a snake embroidered, studded biker jacket with the words IGGY on the back.
Contrasting the all-white aesthetic, the SS20 collection was more brightly colored, although also more reserved than some of Michele’s previous collections. The designer took inspiration from Tom Ford’s time at Gucci in the ’90s, and the theme of “ORGASMIQUE” which was embroidered on patches throughout the collection. Stand-out themes included tailoring, as well as nods to workwear and denim-pieces.