Fashion hurtles ahead at a blistering rate leaving a trail of soon defunct social media content in its wake. That’s the sentiment we hear repeated so often these days. And, in many ways, it’s true. But in a more considered sense, there’s more room for that which doesn’t change than ever: for that which stays, within limits, fairly constant. You can see it at LCM, where designers like Craig Green and Nasir Mazhar consistently fine-tune their precise aesthetic season after season. You can see it in Paris, where Balmain and its familiar army of reality-TV faces clad in sexed up, body-con armour. And you can see it, better than anywhere, and on a truly impressive scale, at Alessandro Michele’s Gucci. A far cry from the compulsory reinvention people expect of fashion, every chapter of Michele’s Gucci is another opportunity for him to illustrate and expand his madcap and blissfully eccentric universe.
And so, the showspace of today’s menswear show was familiar – green hued with an appropriately serpentine runway – but so were the clothes. The show notes, exhibiting Michele’s usual philosophical bent, opened with a quote by T.S. Eliot from ‘Little Gidding’: We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring / will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. This couplet, and the rest of the text, which went on to describe the collection as having “traces of otherness; echoes of spaces, crossed or imagined; temporalities, plural and thickened,” set a mood that established travel and journeying as something fantastical, joyous, and ultimately enriching. Of course, this spirit – this intellectual wanderlust – was embedded in the very fabric of the garments: in every embellished flower and every printed suit; in each fussy bow and each signature of the maestro Michele.
There is always a maximalist joy in Michele’s designs, which pick and plunder the beautiful and the strange from the giddy and many textured terrains of his mind (how appropriate that the show invitation was a map). Interestingly enough, this conception of travel stands in stark contrast to Miuccia Prada’s understanding of the term, which both this season and the last posited the odyssey as something vaguely bedraggled and terrifying: a reflection of our turbulent times. It’s testament to Milan’s (relatively newly regained) status that two of fashion’s greatest players can serendipitously riff on the same notion to such different and intelligent effect. For Gucci, whatever troubles may be stirring in the outside world, this collection represents a further refuge into the poetic tapestry of a technicolour dream. A place where, to borrow from Eliot, “all shall be well and / All manner of things shall be well”: forever.