Unexpecting the expected at Gucci and Jil Sander

MILAN — Gucci was a surprise. We’ve heard that the brand’s need for a calmer, more classic approach to design precipitated the departure of shamanic genius Alessandro Michele, and his studio would deliver transitional collections until new creative director Sabato De Sarno’s first show in September. “Transitional” usually suggests something bland, a little silly, but that’s not what happened on Friday. Yes, the collection was a mess, with a let’s try anything vibe, but here it suggested less desperation than a peculiarly cheerful detachment. Press releases tell us that there are people in the studio who worked for Tom Ford nearly thirty years ago. They withstood Giannini’s Interregnum (consigned by this collection, at least, to the dustbin of history) and Michele’s Renaissance, and this was the preparation for “a new chapter”. A moment to reflect on what was, what could have been and what will be.

The only thing halfway through was the complexity of the staging, though it certainly suggested nothing less than a total commitment to Gucci’s actuality. Models arrived and departed in elevators, like a mechanical embodiment of the comings and goings of fashion. (In Klumspeak, “One day you’re in, the next day you’re out.”) The arena centered on two circular structures, apparently symbolic of the “creative wheel … that is always turning at Gucci”. They looked more like submerged conversation pits from the 1950s, stocked with a few dozen of the brand’s most familiar KOLs, which, rumor has it, all received a memo advising them to dress up, in observance of the quieter, more classic Gucci it was about. to be revealed. That memo clearly dodged at least half of them. In any case, it mattered little when the collection itself comfortably erred in excess from the moment the first model stepped off the elevator and onto the runway in a floor-length black satin skirt and metallic XL bralet (a little more covered than usual). than Stella Tennant in Chanel Spring/Summer 1996). To be fair, the next look was a gray double-breasted overcoat. And that’s how the show went, a screaming match between brilliance and sobriety, showgirl and Miss Prudence.

As is modern fashion, the runway stars of yesteryear have been brought back to strike the chord. But these women were the faces of Ford Gucci’s glory days. Amy Wesson wore baggy jeans, a striped banker shirt and a trench coat. Guinevere Van Seenus wore a sheer, glittering tank top and skirt over panties and red tights, wrapped in faux skunk fur. Somewhere in the middle was Liisa Winkler in gray wool overalls and a charcoal overcoat. This was one of the few tentatively pointed fingers towards a more sober future. But until that day dawns, the current design team was happy to get bogged down in piles of sequins and almost non-existent form-fitting dresses. Still, when the crew — dozens of them — trotted across the stage to applause at the end of the show, it felt a bit like a last hurrah. The next chapter is an enormous challenge that this moment of transition, joyous as it has been, could barely begin to address.

The lighting shrunk Jil Sander’s cavernous show space into small pools of light. The Zen staging demanded a Zen opening – strings plucked softly, ivories softly clinking. A reverent and intimate mood was established. Everything was as it always is in Sanderland. But then Bjork entered the picture, and Lucie and Luke Meier took us somewhere bigger and edgier than usual. biker leather with jil sander embossed like a go-fast biker logo. “The speed look,” Luke called it. That’s why the models’ heads were wrapped, as if they were about to don motorcycle helmets for a motocross rally. Then came volumes and sporty layers, oversized parkas, anoraks, tank tops and trackies, zippers defining seams as a decorative detail. The emblematic shades of Sander’s minimalism – white, black, gray – were mixed with tangerine, electric blue, lime green, lilac, lime, rose pink. And, all the while, those amazing coats.

Luke likes to talk about the rigor of the Meiers process, and that’s always been true in the past, but there was a skittish magic to this collection: an effervescent column of embellishments, a long-sleeved, high-waisted gown embroidered with stars, a black cape embellished with dark camellias, they all breathed a different kind of oxygen than usual. “I think it’s always important for us to create something in a magical way because we all need that,” Lucie said.

The lime green devoré dress suggested a different state, an absinthe-induced reverie, which matched the Victorian rose prints at the end. I smelled a dark fairy tale element, but Luke dismissed it. He said he and Lucie went back to the moment they decided to become designers – the late 1990s, the genre divide between art and fashion and music, drum and bass in particular. Those were the days when the Meiers could feel truly positive about technology, about the future, and they wanted to convey that same feeling here. There was positivity in that color palette. There was positivity in the fabulously incongruous graphs (Melting chocolate cherries? You would, wouldn’t you?). There was positivity in a sci-fi fantasy sense that felt more like primitive utopia than last-minute dystopia. And, all the while, those amazing coats. With matching shoes and bags. If accessories truly are the enduring mainstays of the future of retail, then you’d better buy a bag or boot that serves that future, however bright or bleak.

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