"Meet me on Hollywood Boulevard," read a cocktail napkin signed by "Lallo" (apparently Alessandro Michele and I are on a nickname basis) and delivered to me dressed up as crime-scene evidence. With that mysterious invite, Gucci set the scene for a cinematic Spring 2022 show.
I live just north of the famous street, and as I turned onto it Tuesday night, I immediately saw searchlights beaming through the sky and couldn't help but feel a little giddy, despite venturing towards an intersection I usually avoid.
Home to flashy billboards, landmarks like Grauman's Chinese Theatre, the Dolby Theatre, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the Hard Rock Cafe and the Hollywood Walk of Fame — and, usually, an abundance of Los Angeles's famous traffic — the intersection of Hollywood & Highland is our Times Square. To take over the whole block for a Tuesday night fashion show is no small feat, but it was a big moment for Gucci: The brand turned 100 this year, hadn't held an in-person runway show since February of 2020, and happens to be the subject of a major motion picture coming out later this month. Plus, Michele has been drawn to celebrity culture throughout his tenure at Gucci, and music and film stars seem drawn to him. Having activated in Tinseltown on several occasions — from sponsoring the annual LACMA Art + Film Gala to taking over the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for a perfume launch — and imbuing collections and campaigns with nods to L.A., it was only a matter of time before the brand put its ample resources into a proper runway here.
With the possible exception of commuters diverted from their usual evening route home, Angelenos were excited to have Gucci in town. While La-La Land has become more of a priority for major fashion brands in recent years, we don't often get big-budget spectacles and events that bring the whole fashion community together — and certainly not during a pandemic. For those of us who didn't attend the shows in September, "Gucci Love Parade," as it was dubbed, was our "back to school" moment.
Well, that is, if we went to school with Gwyneth Paltrow (wearing the remake of her famous '90s red velvet Tom Ford-designed Gucci suit), Dakota Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, Jeremy O. Harris, Lizzo and a bunch of other rich people wearing head-to-toe Gucci. Aside from the Oscars, there had probably never been so many actual famous people standing on the Walk of Fame.
After taking our seats in custom logo-print director's chairs, models proceeded out of Grauman's, down the star-adorned sidewalk, and across the street, to return down the other side, all to a Björk soundtrack. Celebrities — including longtime muse (and "House of Gucci" star) Jared Leto, Phoebe Bridgers, Miranda July, St. Vincent, Jodie Turner-Smith and Macaulay Culkin — made cameos among the models as well.
In the show notes, Michele cited old-Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth and Veronica Lake as inspiration. As a child living in "a squat in the outskirts of Rome," his mother, who worked in the film industry, told him stories that ignited his deep infatuation with showbiz. "Everything felt like a fairy tale," he wrote. "That was my escape."
As a reference point, "old Hollywood" is not exactly the most novel, but Michele never went too literal, i.e. there were no Halloween costumes on this runway. He tread lightly with the theme, merging the glamour and romance of that era with his usual deviant, thoughtfully off-kilter maximalist touches — that somehow all add up to commercial desirability.
There are several dramatic red-carpet gowns and an abundance of elegant '70s-inspired suits fit for a black-tie affair. Tiaras, boas and opera gloves accessorize many looks, but the vibe is more "Celebrity Skin" than "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Dresses and skirts sometimes reveal bits lingerie and fishnet stockings (or, in a couple of cases, star-shaped nipple pasties), or have lingerie elements themselves, as if meant for a boudoir. Some tightly fastened gloves and latex tops hint at bondage. There are also Grecian elements in creatively draped silk and metallic gowns; in the show notes, Michele — a classics enthusiast — likened celebrities to Greek deities.
"Hollywood is, after all, a Greek temple populated by pagan divinities," he wrote.
For the more casual, modern looks in the collection, Michele seems to be poking fun at contemporary American style: Cowboy hats, neon athletic tights and running shoes, Hawaiian-esque souvenir shirts and horsebit clogs may have been inspired by local tackiness, but they're sure to be hits at retail.
During the after party, as Dapper Dan absolutely destroyed the packed dance floor, I reflected on the times other European houses have shown collections in and inspired by L.A., and realized they're usually dominated either by kitsch or a feigned bohemian attitude. But overall, this Gucci collection just felt like Gucci. It fit right in here, but it would've also worked elsewhere.
During a press conference after the show, Michele explained that he began coming to L.A. seven years ago and it became "a very important source of inspiration," adding that he wanted to be a costume designer at one time in his career. He also revealed a desire to direct films if his current job weren't so demanding. One wonders if he could one day follow in the footsteps of his Gucci predecessor Tom Ford and decamp to L.A. to make movies. Regardless, it's clear that his love affair with the city isn't over. Meet me on Hollywood anytime, Lallo.