“Because only pagan antiquity could arouse my desire. Because it was the world of the past, because it was a world that no longer exists.” Alessandro Michele quoted the historian Paul Veyne in his original French on a spray-painted bed sheet hung from the entryway of the Musei Capitolini venue where his Gucci Resort show was held tonight. It was a fitting quote for a collection presented in what’s considered the first museum in the world; Rome’s Musei Capitolini was conceived by Michelangelo in 1471 and opened to the public in 1734. Inside, Michele’s gawky beauties walked among ancient statues in near darkness, illuminated only by torches placed on guests’ seats.
So far, so typical for Gucci’s creative director, who riffles through the decades—centuries, even—like other designers swiping through Instagram. This show marked a turning point for Michele, who pivoted from poetry and theory—he’s quoted everyone from William Blake to Donna Haraway—to politics. Midway through the show, a purple jacquard pantsuit came down the runway; across the back, splashed in big block letters were the words, “My Body, My Choice.” A few looks later, an ivory dress appeared with its midsection embroidered in the shape of a uterus; in place of ovaries there were blooming pink flowers. Elsewhere in the show, the date 22.05.1978, the day the Italian law protecting legal abortion took effect, decorated the mini capelet that accessorized a pajama top and matching skirt. Still other models wore tattooed “scarves” across their mouths, as if silenced, or muzzled.
At the press conference after the show, Michele explained himself: “Women have to be respected… they should be free to choose what they want.” He said he designed the collection, some of which was completed in the last 24 hours, as a reaction to “recent news.” Restrictive abortion bans designed to challenge and eventually reverse Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court level were proposed in Alabama, Missouri, Ohio, and Georgia earlier this month.
Michele, and by extension Gucci, are taking a clear stance against reproductive injustice here. It’s not the first time that the brand has endorsed activism; a year ago, Gucci donated $500,000 to March for Our Lives, a gun violence prevention organization. But it is the first time Michele has made his position so explicit.
To be sure, there was as much at play here as ever. Michele made lavish reference to historical dress, draping a toga over a plaid suit and dressing male and female models in the familiar red and un-dyed white wool of Roman army uniforms. “It was important to organize this show in Rome,” he said, “to pay tribute, to glorify this place of freedom.” Also: Mickey Mouse reared his big-eared head on all manner of pieces, and there were logo’d guitar cases to beat the band. Michele’s Gucci speaks to a large, diverse audience, but this collection will resonate loudest with those who understand just how much is at stake in the fight for women’s reproductive rights. His sensitivity to the issue is bound to influence designers and brands, just as his eclectic magpie aesthetic and embrace of individual style has reverberated down through the seasons since his appointment at Gucci.
From Vogue US
Photo: Salvatore Dragone / Gorunway.com