All the way back in May of this year (a mere six months that somehow feels like six years), Alessandro Michele announced that Gucci would be rethinking its approach to the fashion calendar, cutting back from five shows a year to two. The Covid-19 crisis had ravaged the industry, and many designers were already talking about ditching the traditional schedule. But Michele was taking Gucci a step further: He would eliminate not only the distinction between menswear and womenswear — something he'd been doing pretty much from the moment he took the reins at the Italian fashion house — but also do away with the idea of "spring" and "fall" collections altogether.
And thus, the new Gucci system was born, beginning and ending with "Epilogue," the collection which would have been Resort 2021. "Epilogue" wrapped up Michele's three-part attempt at turning fashion inside-out, showing the behind-the-scenes parts of the process that are normally hidden from public view — a fitting finale to Gucci's commitment to the calendar. It was also an open door for Michele to start something different.
The first full collection created in this new system, titled "Ouverture of Something That Never Ended," was presented in a seven episode mini-series directed by Gus Van Sant, unveiled daily over the course of a week. (The brand dubbed it #GucciFest.) "Ouverture" follows Italian actor, artist and performer Silvia Calderoni throughout the course of a day — though, not necessarily the same day, as Michele cautions: "The plot is just an accident that breaks the linear and progressive character of time."
The production value alone is awe-inspiring — and it does lead one to wonder just how much money Gucci was spending on fashion shows if this is the budget they have for presenting a collection without them. Though the spaced-out episodes could be a bit frustrating (they made coverage slightly challenging, at the very least), it was nice to be able to explore them at my own pace. And while it's true that it's harder to get a real feel for the clothes in this format, with a brand like Gucci that's reliably similar from season-to-season, I didn't feel like I was missing out on that real-life, up-close encounter with the clothes in the same way I might with other brands. It was an interesting way to give the clothes their own lives.
I enjoyed "Ouverture" overall, though it must be said that the miniseries itself was a bit try-hard, even twee, at points. The project occasionally suffocates under the weight of the attempt to make the mundane sublime. It would be nice to see Michele let some air into Gucci's world. We already know what his clothes look like in the brand's tight, philosophically-bent vision — why not play with their possibilities in a place with more humor?
While celebrity cameos are de rigueur for a fashion house of Gucci's size, a number of them — namely, Billie Eilish and, it pains me to say this, Harry Styles — felt shoe-horned in, clearly shot off-location and incorporated as a neon-lit reminder that these famous people like Gucci, too. (Not to mention, I'm sure, a little extra insurance that at least a few of the videos would bring in a view count to justify the costs.)
Alessandro Michele Turns the Gucci Fall 2020 Fashion Show Into Theatre in the Round
Gucci Takes Over the Historic Le Palace Theatre With a Literal Show for Spring 2019
Gucci 'Epilogue' Marks Both an End and a Beginning
Populating this world with so many actors and models and notable names across race, gender, sexuality and age — as wonderful and welcome as that is to see — only makes the lack of plus-size representation in "Ouverture" all the more glaring. Without the typical constraints of a runway presentation to keep in mind, it's challenging to arrive at any other conclusion than thinking the reason we never see plus-size models in Gucci shows is simply because they're not wanted there, and that's a tough pill to swallow in 2020. Michele has shown himself to be such an innovative thinker in every other arena, it would be nice to see him catch up in this one.
Quibbles aside, though, the joy here is in the attempt: The most successful fashion presentations this year have been the ones which think outside of the traditional formats, letting us into the world of the designers for just a moment — think mini-documentaries and interactive adventures, fan-submitted Q&As and tongue-in-cheek infomercials. I'll take an overwrought, risky film over yet another staid, boring video, or worse, a live catwalk presented to an empty room, any day.
I also have a lot of admiration for Michele and Gucci using #GucciFest as a means to promote the work of other smaller, emerging international designers handpicked by the creative director, with films highlighting the work of Ahluwalia, Collina Strada, Gui Rosa, Rui, Bianca Saunders, Mowalola, Cormio, Rave Review, Shanel Campbell, JordanLuca, Stefan Cooke, Yueqi Qi, Boramy Viguier, Charles de Vilmorin and Gareth Wrighton airing alongside Gucci's ambitious project. It's a wonderful way to share the brand's apparently bountiful resources, fiscal or otherwise.
It's unlikely Michele himself will abandon the live format altogether, considering his predilection for approaching the fashion show as theatre. But now that he's had the taste of creative freedom with "Ouverture," one really wonders if fashion shows can ever be the same.
You can watch every episode of "Ouverture of Something That Never Ended" on YouTube, and see the complete Gucci "Ouverture" collection in the galleries below: