Over the next seven days, Alessandro Michele is staging his most ambitious Gucci project to date. A week-long film fest dubbed ‘GucciFest’ will debut a series of shorts, directed by Michele and Gus Van Sant, which will showcase the house’s spring/summer 2021 collection entitled ‘Ouverture of Something that Never Ended’. Alongside this, Gucci will be sharing its spotlight with a series of emerging designers, who have each produced their own films that will be premiered on GucciFest’s dedicated online platform. Bring yourself back here each morning as we will be bringing you an ongoing guide to all what’s going on. Popcorn at the ready!
Part One – Monday, November 16th
As shows migrate onto film, fashion takes on a new context – and if Gucci’s Alessandro Michele has his way – it stakes a claim on new cultural territory. Step forth GucciFest. Not a fashion show, not a movie, but the SS21 collections presented as a collaborative film festival. Well if Beyoncé can do a visual album, why can’t Gucci break new ground in how we see fashion?
It’s ambitious. A weeklong virtual event showcased on the Gucci app, the headline act is the Gucci SS21 collection; Ouverture of Something That Never Ended. This is presented as a week-long mini-series, co-directed by Gucci’s Alessandro Michele and the legendary auteur Gus Van Sant, with one episode shown each night.
We follow the story of Silvia, a non-binary beauty, with a wardrobe of lacey loveliness. She lives in a vast Roman apartment with a troupe of bohemian friends. We see Silvia, wake up, pull on her gold mules and clip-clop to the bathroom for a pee. As she performs her morning stretching routine, (in a divine lace onesie) the TV talks directly to her – espousing the latest intellectual theories on gender and sexuality: “The revolution is going to be about love.” Outside the streets are bathed in optimistic light and thronged with latter-day flower kids. A shaggy-haired boy bounces a basketball whilst wearing a Gucci-monogrammed housecoat over his baggy jeans; a gorgeous blond girl floats past in a red leather midi-skirt and pink blouse.
But that’s not all. Alongside Gucci’s main feature, is a series of short films by young directors featuring the work of young designers. First up: London menswear talent Priya Ahluwalia, who collaborated with filmmaker Samona Olanipekun on a lush and vivid piece showing the “everyday beauty and strength of Black existence.” Gucci fest is about Gucci – in all its rich, eccentric, non-binary, fantastical glory but it’s also about a global mega-brand giving part of its platform to new creative talent in a way not seen before. That’s a powerful gesture.
Part Two – Tuesday, November 17th
What will Silvia do next? Yesterday we saw Gucci’s platinum-haired protagonist, played by Italian actress Silvia Calderoni, perform her morning routine. For episode two, Silvia’s surreal and poetic world unfolds further as she heads to the café. Inside it’s like a daytime version of The Blitz club with eccentrically attired customers dancing to Bronski Beat in their purple silk and fake fur finery. A pair of nudists chat idly at the counter.
Silvia, dressed in a prim Gucci monogram midi-skirt, American football tee, and carrying the new tote version of the Gucci Bamboo bag, meets her friend, played by the London-based musician Arlo Parks. The pair talk about the connectivity of all things in nature, which is the theme of this episode. Silvia confesses, in strange, dubbed dialogue, “I’d like to wear a bathing suit made of candy.” Arlo wearing a kaftan over her hoodie nips out for a sightseeing drive around sunny, lockdown Rome with friends. Silvia goes to the bathroom but when she returns, the café and its groovy occupants have been replaced by an empty theatre.
The Gus Van Sant and Alessandro Michele mini-series thrives not on drama but strangeness. In their carefully conceived alternate universe, experiences are heightened and the ordinary becomes odd. Is this what life would be like of bohemia wasn’t bohemian at all and was just the norm? Reflecting on the experience of seeing his designs removed from the catwalk context and put in a movie, Michele said, “I almost did not recognize them. Costumes and clothes are not so different, fashion infiltrates cinema and the other way around. And cinema allows you to fulfil the need to tell stories. If Michelangelo were alive today, he would be a director.” The story continues tomorrow when Silvia goes to the Post Office.
Part Three – Wednesday, November 18th
In idle moments do you find yourself wondering; ‘What is Harry Styles doing right now and what’s he thinking?’ Alessandro Michele and Gus Van Sant do. The highlight of the third episode of their co-directed GucciFest mini-series featured our favourite Cheshire lad, musing on the phone with esteemed the Italian philosopher Achille Bonito Oliva.
“Fashion dresses humanity. Art lays it bare,” he tells Harry who is in a garden in LA wearing denim cut-offs, an American football tee and Gucci loafers. Harry’s voice is so soothing and dreamy that everything he says sounds like a bedtime story. Of creativity, he says: “It’s about finding the thing you’ve always wanted to see or listen to that has never been made, It’s always an uncomfortable moment when you find the thing. You don’t know if you love it or hate it because you don’t know what it is yet but that’s the most exciting place to work in.”
This is celebrity endorsement 2020-style, with Gucci creatively leveraging star power in interesting and unusual ways. There are more exciting cameos to come this week, including a guest appearance by Billie Eilish. Each one offers it’s own epiphany of excitement to a diverse fan diaspora but these smaller cultural moments feed into a much bigger wave.
Meanwhile, the protagonist Silvia, is at the post office in Rome along with scores of other fabulously attired customers. It’s a fact of lockdown life that the queue is the new catwalk. This one literally is – they’re wearing SS21 (with a few tributes to early collections like the cult fur heeled loafers). Michele, who has always designed for eccentric individuals, understand the joy of people watching and serves it up on film.
Meanwhile, as the series of emerging designer films continued, modern menswear maven Bianca Saunders teamed up with on-going collaborator Akinola Davies Jr to creat The Pedestrian. Looking once more to Hans Eijkelboom’s 1978 work The Ideal Man – first explored through the designer’s SS21 collection – Saunders puts a group of handsome, awkward men in the hot seat, asking each about their ideal date scenarios, what they like about themselves and their go-to pick uplines.
The Wednesday evening line-up also consisted of fellow London designer Mowalola. The Fashion East export worked with animation artist David Killingsworth to create a rapid-fire film that felt as if you were playing a computer game whilst on LSD. It was totally bonkers and quintessentially Mowalola.
Part Four – Thursday, November 19th
Episode Four of the Gucci mini-series, Ouverture Of Something That Never Ended, sees Silvia go to an audition with the Sasha Waltz And Guests dance company. Silvia wears all-over sequins and is helped with her nerves by actor and writer Jeremy O. Harris (sporting a tweedy cardigan, Jackie bag and eco jeans).
The pair perform a playful duet to Ravel’s “Bolero” and then Silvia is ready for her audition. The other dancers are wearing what Gucci calls ‘renditions’ of pieces from Michele’s debut AW15 men’s and women’s collections. The mini-series has seen Michele habitually revisit his own archive, re-creating and re-contextualising things. What it shows is a remarkable consistency in his vision over that time, where vintage and new inform each other. It also underlines Gucci’s seasonless, trendless approach.
Part Five – Friday, November 20th
The cameo coups keep coming. After a major Harry Styles moment, now it’s the turn of Billie Eilish to make a guest appearance at GucciFest. She wore the key take-away item from the SS21 collection – a baggy, ‘25’ tee – with red track pants and the new Gucci Basket sneakers.
GucciFest is a multi-layered experience and in a film-within-a-film, Eilish performs her new single, “Therefore I Am” in a music video directed by Harmony Korine, where she explores suburban LA with her robot dogs. Back in Rome, Silvia watches her neighbours as they go about their bohemian business of making music, tending plants and painting.
The next pair of emerging designer films came from two of London’s most promising menswear labels. Stefan Cooke and his partner Jake Burt created Advent, an abstract take on a moving look book which aimed to offer a romantic vision of Britain. Drenched in a grainy, black-and-white hue, models pranced against archive footage of gloomy fields, spooky-looking castles and deserted beaches – each wearing pieces from the brand’s SS21 collection.
Can vampires catch coronavirus? There were no masks insight at JordanLuca’s Palace of Kings: London’s ultimate hotspot for all those who have a taste for blood. The film follows a series of normal-looking twenty-somethings as they track down the location of a house party. As they each enter the blue-hued dancefloor, the fangs come out as each dance the night away in slender suiting and boxy leather jackets.
Part Six – Saturday, November 21st
Welcome to finest vintage shop on earth! This piece of fashion heaven is staffed by real-life Roman vintage guru Giulia Salvatore, but everything from the raspberry striped fur coat displayed on a mannequin outside, to the white sunglasses that Silvia tries on, and the clothes worn and tried on by the customers is either a piece from Alessandro Michele’s debut AW15 collection for Gucci or a piece from his SS21 collection.
The consistency of Michele’s aesthetic is underlined. From 2015 to new, he hasn’t deviated from his vintage, maximalist, gender-fluid look. In the way that a fine wine matures, so every year, Michele’s Gucci becomes richer and more intense as his aesthetic develops. But within that, there are new directions. We see more sportswear, more denim (the baggy cut-offs Silvia wears are the brand’s new eco denim) and a deeper embrace of unisex finery with boys, girls and non-binary beauties wearing the latest Jackie bags or bamboo totes.
Is there a hint here too that Gucci might in real life open a vintage shop for past collections? It would be a powerful statement in terms of sustainability and a hit for the brand’s many fans. Amongst the customers trying and buying is the singer Florence Welch, who recites a poem as she browses. A long-time Michele muse, Welch makes her cameo in a plisse gown and floppy hat, her fingers adorned with rings from Gucci’s jewellery collection.
Paris-based menswear talent Boramy Viguier continued his mystical exploration of utilitarian dress codes with Lord Sky Dungeon – a film “driven by a desire to create clothing for adventurers.” A gang of warriors are sent on a sacred, spiritual quest in a galaxy far from our own, where giant heads have hands for tongues and everyone happens to be a pro when it comes to flinging a sword about.
Part Seven – Sunday, November 22nd
As Silvia strolled went for a night walk through Rome, she brought to a close Gucci’s extraordinary and unprecedented seven-day event. The miniseries, Ouverture of Something That Never Ended and the GucciFest platform, blurred the boundaries between fashion, film, art, music, philosophy, commerce, creative communities, poetry and global celebrity. All these elements existed as equals in Gus Van Sant and Alessandro Michele’s gentle, impressionistic and surreal mini-series. The idea for it evolved as a response to pandemic restrictions. It needed to do the job of catwalk show but it delivered so much more.
Ouverture blurred gender distinctions and did away with fashion’s throwaway culture by revelling in seasons and items past, but each episode was also an effective showcase for new, soon-to-be-cult SS21 items. In particular the ‘25’ T-shirt, Bamboo tote, new versions of the Jackie in suede or straw, Eco denim cut-offs and baggy jeans and the new Basket sneakers. The blurring of art and commerce went beyond just fashion. ‘Overture’ gave cameos to notables in the fields of music, painting, dance and philosophy. Alongside that, the seven-day GucciFest also ushered in a new era of collaboration, pioneering big brand mic-sharing with films spotlighting 15 young designers and directors.
For the final episode of Ouverture, Silvia – wearing a natty three-piece brown suit – recites poetry through an intercom to Asian superstar, Lu Han, who irons then cuts up a dress from Alessandro Michele’s debut 2015 Gucci collection. This is celebrity endorsement 2020-style, with Gucci creatively leveraging star power by giving the A-listers an opportunity to be seen in different and interesting ways. The transaction is cultural as well as commercial.
The series worked on so many levels. It moved at a gentle pace and didn’t offer one big dramatic event – although the Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and Lu Han appearances were certainly high points. From Kim Gordon’s soundtrack to the artwork of Ariana Papademetropulos, or the philosophising of Paul B. Preciado and Achille Bonito Oliva, each cameo offered its own epiphany and all of these cultural moments fed into a much bigger wave that rippled out. To say the whole thing was ambitious is an understatement.
Designer/artist/all-round creative wonder Gareth Wrighton closed out the emerging designer films with The Maul. The sequel to Wrighton’s video game graduate project from Central Saint Martins, the designer created a dystopian shopping centre where virtual versions of himself embodied the weird and wonderful characters first debuted throughout his three collections at Fashion East.