Last week, I was in Florence, the first step of a long-overdue holiday (eight years in the making), but I decided to visit the Gucci Museum. When in Rome, as they say. Well, near to Rome, at least.
The museum was opened in 2011, but it spans all the way back to Gucci's 1921 beginnings. There are some fabulous things within its walls, such as a pimped-out Gucci Chrysler with monogrammed seats, and lots of Lurex and leather and suede Seventies stuff, which looks like the clothes worn by the occupants of said Chrysler. They may have had a few of the horsebit-shaped ashtrays, or the monogrammed lamps with Gucci riding boots as bases. I love that Gucci included that stuff: it's hilarious, and tacky, and basically everything it has fought against for ages. Back in the Nineties, one of Tom Ford's first steps as creative director was to discontinue many of those dodgier lines.
Tom Ford. Remember him? Gucci doesn't seem to: nothing in the museum is from the Ford years, the period that propelled Gucci from bankruptcy to a billion-euro luxury conglomerate (the Gucci Group, which ended up being absorbed into the consortium now known as Kering).
It's interesting how a label can edit its own past. That's what Ford did, after all, focusing on the slinky, sexy Seventies to carve a niche for Gucci in the Nineties as a post-Aids reclamation of that period's kinky jet-set heyday. But, riddle me this: was there anything actually that Gucci about what Ford did? It was a lot of Halston, a bit of Beene, mostly easy American sportswear pieces luxed out and sexed up, with perhaps a double-G belt cinching the hips.
Walking around, I couldn't help but think of the frequent criticism hurled at Gucci's incumbent creative director, Alessandro Michele: that his clothes aren't "Gucci"; that his style doesn't marry with the label. What that really relates to is the looming shadow of the Good Ford Almighty, which his predecessor Frida Giannini, God bless her, never really escaped from. Michele's Gucci isn't slick, it isn't jet set, and to most eyes it isn't very sexy. But it's terribly, terribly Gucci, in a great way.
I wonder if Michele's been to the Museo, to look at the metallic lions' heads and horse profiles studding bags, at the suede and monogrammed trench coats, at all that psychedelic flora stuff swirling across Sixties dresses that he could have designed. I suspect so. There's a gold mine there, for Michele.
What I'm getting at here is that Michele's Gucci – the first incarnation of which, for autumn/winter, is currently sitting slightly uncomfortably in Gucci boutiques kitted out for Frida Giannini's style (set to be revamped, according to house insiders) – may not be the Gucci we're used to, but it's definitely, undeniably Gucci. Past or present, it's just a different edit, viewed with different eyes.
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