Genocidal Ideation on Display at Alessandro Michele’s Gucci Show
A procession of transhumans, walking in trancelike step through a suite of operating theaters: Bolted together from the clothing of many cultures, they were Alessandro Michele’s metaphor for how people today construct their identities—a population undergoing self-regeneration through the powers of tech, Hollywood, Instagram, and Gucci. “We are the Dr. Frankenstein of our lives,” said Michele. “There’s a clinical clarity about what I am doing. I was thinking of a space that represents the creative act. I wanted to represent the lab I have in my head. It’s physical work, like a surgeon’s.”
Someone was cradling a baby dragon. A couple of people had replicas of their own heads tucked under their arms. Several had their faces covered in knitted half-balaclavas, surreally suggesting a postoperative state. Others were hooded in what seemed to be lavender-lace allusions to burkas. It was sensational—in a disturbing and creepy way—as it set out to probe truths around fashion as a medium for transmitting inner states: a picture of what is happening as human brains have become irradiated in the LED light of the information age.
Michele sees this condition as positive—the possibility of being liberated from the confines of the natural condition we are born into. “We exist to reproduce ourselves, but we have moved on. We are in a post-human era, for sure; it is under way.” He called to evidence the breaking down of binary gender roles that is played out in his collections. There’s no more just being girls or boys today: “Now, we have to decide what we want to be.”
This Michele commentary—to be transparent—is distilled from the press conference he gave after the show, which he named Cyborg. He said the reference had been taken from his reading of the feminist philosopher Donna Haraway’s 1984 “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” Hand it to Michele—that text is massive food for thought, even to skim across in a quick Google search. But, then again, what of clothes?
The show radiated cross-cultural meanings, a clashing of symbols by a brand that has markets to charm across the globe. There were Russian babushka headscarves and modest, covered-up folk-costume dresses next to spangled, ’20s showgirl chain mail and jewelry; a pagoda hat and Chinese pajamas; English tweed, Scottish plaid, and a Fair Isle sweater; Italian ’80s vintage beige businessman suiting; a glam power-woman ruched dress and gold leather peplum jacket. Gucci logos were everywhere, of course, and there were branded love letters to Sega, Major League Baseball, manga, Paramount, and Russ Meyer. In other words: A zillion billion clothes and accessories guaranteed to stoke Instagram commentaries for weeks to come.