When Alessandro Michele was appointed Creative Director of Gucci in 2015, the fabled Florentine house seemed to have fallen into a sluggish trance. Michele’s immediate antecedents had allowed
Gucci to lapse into the “good-taste” bad habits of drooping houses: they devoted their energies to resuscitating heritage loafers from the archive and putting out collections of perfectly unobjectionable peacoat-friendly ensembles in bourgeois tennis-club pastels. It had been years since Tom Ford’s tenure electrified Gucci with a depraved iteration of deviant Hollywood glamour. Gucci seemed to be drifting off into the same sunset that consumed Pierre Cardin, Ferré and a whole armada of over-merchandised, over-logo-ed, under-inspired also-rans. And then Mr Michele took over. Michele is a collector of unusual antiques and an interior design genius. He is an antiquarian aesthete of the kind J.K. Huysmans created in Des Esseintes: the fin-desiècle anti-hero and aesthetic adventurer of the 1884 novel “Against Nature” who, in order to find the perfect complement for an exquisite oriental carpet, buys a giant tortoise and has it gilded and bejewelled, spending months finding rare and luminous stones to set into its shell. Like Mr Michele, Des Esseintes is a collector of experimental effects and exalted states, found by combing through antiques markets, rare books and pop culture. Huysmans wrote that the tail ends of centuries all resemble one another as they are periods of vacillation and social confusion. Michele’s collections are millennial fever dreams that blend renaissance flounce, glam garishness and schoolmarm-y dowdiness. They exult in a controlled confusion of genres characterised by the ecstatic maximalism of the over-erudite collector. His ready-to-wear is couture-quality and layered in symbol and cypher: snakes, insects, birds, beads and cryptic half-slogans expressed in precious beadwork and fine embroidery. Like Huysmans, Michele feels very fin-de-siècle because he seems like a visitor to his own century. In these photographs, our traveller finds himself wandering among the deathless architecture of Athens dressed entirely in Mr Michele’s creations.
Originally published in Dapper Dan 15, 2017.