When Gucci's new designer Alessandro Michele debuted his first womenswear collection for the house in Milan on Wednesday, the industry was eager for triumph. "We're all critics, but we love having someone new to cheerlead," said Robin Givhan on Style.com, noting that Michele's audience was a warm and receptive one. So what's the verdict? We've rounded up the critics' responses to his gender-neutral, vintage-inspired, Wes Anderson-esque collection below. See all the images from the presentation here.
Vanessa Friedman for The New York Times:
Mr. Michele delved into an imaginary attic trunk full of vintage treasures, recombining the elements for the girls and boys of a haute flea market world . . . it was all, said Mr. Michele backstage before the show, intended for sale . . . Which was also the thing about this collection: while it was dressed up in the language and atmosphere (and expectations) of the Next Big Thing, it actually had the unpretentious feel of the comfortably familiar . . . Mr. Michele shares an approach with Nicolas Ghesquière of Louis Vuitton and Phoebe Philo of Céline, both of whom have been much applauded for their willingness to make clothes . . . But at this point in the swiftly turning fashion cycle they are not, by any definition, actually new.
Suzy Menkes for Vogue UK:
The show was engaging in its passion and visual energy. It was not a triumph - that would suggest a more pushy, in-your-face collection, rather than this dream of a gentle woman wearing semi-sheer dresses, handcrafted knits and back-to-the-Seventies trouser suits, or tops and pleated velvet skirts . . . I don't know about the finances, but I warmed instantly to the new designer, for his passion, his enthusiasm and his intelligence . . . It has been a long time since luxury seemed so romantic. Alessandro put his heart in the show, and it showed.
Eric Wilson for InStyle:
Michele’s look could be described as the opposite [of sex.] . . . The designs had an anti-luxury appeal as well, washed silk dresses with tiers of ruffles that looked deliberately well-worn, or floral-print suits with odd creases and wrinkles that made them look as if they had been packed away in boxes for decades . . . From a fashion editor’s perspective, it was a moment that provided an exciting proposition for an audience that has been inundated with luxury fashion and its customary marketing labels. These looked like clothes for real characters, unique and individual. Retailers and customers may differ, for the designs are not conventionally beautiful, but they will certainly challenge anyone to think.
Nicole Phelps for Style.com.
Indeed, Michele's Fall collection felt like a very sharp break from Giannini's Gucci. Ford's, too—it's the in-your-face sex of his late '90s collections, after all, that lingers in the memory. The new man at the helm has a decidedly more romantic outlook. His Gucci girl is an ingenue with an eccentric side, one who looks as though she's picked out her clothes at estate sales and vintage stores, and mixed them magpie-style with handfuls of heirloom rings, chunky rimmed glasses, the occasional pompom hat, and fur-lined horse-bit loafers . . . It lacked a bit for sophistication, which is as much a part of the Italian house's heritage as the interlocking G's that appeared on the new, rectangular bag shape.
Miles Socha for WWD.
The young Italian took an eccentric, democratic approach rather than making a big, unmissable fashion statement . . . Here was another strong message of regime change, much like the one Nicolas Ghesquière dispatched last year when he arrived at Louis Vuitton . . . The designer said he wants to speak to the contemporary world with a more personal, storytelling approach that takes inspiration from “the romanticism that I feel in the street.”
The verdict: Everyone was hoping for a triumphant, game-changing collection, and while that didn't happen, they are happy with the charming, romantic and vintage-inspired clothing Michele presented instead. He has broken strongly with the past, and the critics respect that. The clothing is very wearable, which is important considering Gucci's declining sales are what landed Michele in this position in the first place. Michele is conscious of his customer, telling Vogue.com backstage that “contemporary fashion is something that can happen on the street,” and “sensuality is what’s inside.” The main criticism is a lack of sophistication. This is Gucci, after all -- a brand with a storied archive that Michele is more than familiar with, but is not allowing to weigh him down. In a mission statement on each seat at the show entitled "The Contemporary is the Untimely,” he wrote: “There is no room for consolatory nostalgia." In with the new, indeed.