Gucci’s Spring/Summer 2017 runway presentation in Milan, as seen from an elaborate livestream, was over-the-top from the start. The crowd filtered into a huge mirrored room filled with smoke (get it?) and just barely lit with rose-colored light; the runway was one long, carpeted trademark Gucci stripe.
The show began with a kind of retro hypnosis routine accompanied by a bunch of blinking plastic eyes, which sort of had me anticipating something truly weird and exciting:
The thing about this show, though, is that there was so much going on—although a lot of it was great—that it was hard to discern exactly what we were supposed to take away from it. It was as though designer Alessandro Michele’s “cluttered, retro sensibility,” as the New Yorker warmly described it in last week’s issue, had doubled down on itself in a fit of self-referentiality.
Next up came a voiceover by Florence Welch, who read the work of English Romantic poet William Blake atop a panicky orchestral soundtrack as models, hobbling like septuagenarians in gigantic platforms (“inspired by Venetian prostitutes”), nonetheless sped down the smoky Gucci carpet, some too quickly to be photographed straight-on. Broadly, the theme was “an illusion of love”, hence the pink haze, the poetry, an immaculate heart of Mary sewn into a gown’s bodice. The clothing itself was heavily detailed, hyper-accessorized and pleasingly idiosyncratic, but the overall effect wasn’t much of a departure from previous collections at all; the goofy eyeglasses, charming in past showings, now feel a bit like a crutch.
The collection’s aesthetic ranged from Grey Gardens to postwar Britain interspersed with Ming Dynasty references and ‘70s disco details. The embroidered silks and Chinese dragon imagery coupled with cheongsam silhouettes and hand-painted fans were beautiful, especially when these ideas were superimposed over staid British suiting, but nearly all-white casting lent this an uncomfortable whiff of Orientalism. One male model was given face tattoos, for some reason. Hair was crimped, feathered, barrel curled, shaped into bowls, and/or obscured by enormous, incredible hats.
There was a lot to love—gorgeous shimmer, a bright orange coat with with two large zebras, amazing renaissance-inspired sheer paneled dresses, a perfect one-shouldered yellow number, incredible detailing and painstaking styling—but it was also just a lot.