In many ways, Alessandro Michele is a man who refuses to be contained in one box, which was likely a huge part of his appeal to Gucci when they tapped him to take over its creative direction all the way back in 2015. It turns out, considering how eager Michele is to play with other brands' iconographies, that refusal includes limiting himself to only ever working with the Italian house's codes. There have been blockbuster collaborations (err, "hacking labs," in some cases) with Balenciaga and North Face, as well as playful usage of imagery from organizations as different as Major League Baseball and Disney.
The next strange bedfellow taking up residence at Gucci is none other than sportswear giant Adidas. It's a natural fit, when you consider that each counts a three-stripe motif amongst their trademarks, something Michele says he's been toying with ever since he took over seven years ago. "I often thought about Adidas in my work, that was a hidden desire," he said at a press conference following the Fall 2022 runway on Friday. "I used pop symbols, I mixed things, I developed hybrids; three stripes for Adidas and for Gucci."
Of course, as Michele acknowledged, "the world of fashion is a difficult world" — especially when it comes to trademark protection, that crucial hurdle (not to mention potential legal landmine) to melding pop icons. But where there's a (corporate-backed) will, there's a (financially-beneficial) way: The Gucci Fall 2022 collection includes plenty of pieces featuring those famous three stripes, as well as Adidas' trefoil logo. They race down the center of baseball caps, the sides of Gucci-logoed capes, the front of sharply-cut bodices. The trefoil is slapped across silk scarves, embroidered on the pocket of blazers, hidden in the print on pants. But to Michele, it's not another cynical money-grab collaboration done for the sake of headlines and bottom lines; it's just how he thinks when he comes to the design table.
"Nowadays, we call this a collaboration — I know that the marketing department calls them this — but this is how I started seven years ago," he said. "I tried to interpret it my way, and the result, it might seem easy but I think the idea is really powerful."
Michele broke outside of the expected box elsewhere in the collection, too. While the Fall 2022 runway marked the first time the brand has shown in-person in its home city of Milan on the official womenswear calendar since the Fall 2020 show, Michele instead presented a menswear-forward collection — insofar as any of his collections can really be gendered, anyway.
"I thought it would be interesting to have a men's collection during the women's week, because we are so open to dialogue," he said. "I had prepared a menswear collection and I wanted to give a specific masculine image; my masculine world is very broad, I wanted to come back to this, to tell about this world."
The starting point for the collection, as Michele says it always is for him, was suiting, noting that women like to wear men's suits, and vice versa. Playing with that Adidas iconography, he turned out suits with the same laid-back feel as one of the brand's famous tracksuits, a clever blending of the two labels. There are also sets worthy of the coolest dandies, like one electric purple suit with wide black lapels and turned up black cuffs.
There was a prevailing feel of the '80s and early '90s across the collection, from Gordon-Gecko banker shirts to embellished leather jackets straight out of a music video; from suiting made to be seen on the New Romantics at London's Blitz club to fur-cuffed jackets with giant earrings that could've been ripped from New York's burgeoning hip-hop scene (ruled by Dapper Dan, another Gucci collaborator). "In the '80s, we were looking to the future, we never looked to the past. There was a lot of energy in those years — think of the haircuts," Michele says. He references the clubs of his youth, which were "venues for metamorphosis [...] places where we could really experiment."
But where other designers might mine their youths from a more emotional perspective, for Michele, his is just one more reference point in a mind fit-to-bursting with them. "I don't think I'm a nostalgic person, because I really like life," he said. He is just as influenced by what he sees on the street today as he is a painting in a museum or a piece of philosophical text from his library. It's a mindset which allows him to seamlessly reference a 1993 photo of Madonna in an Adidas dress, as well as a Victorian-era Italian countess who wore striped gowns in one collection, and have it all make sense.
"I like the quest, the process," he said. "I was thinking about my way of putting together collections, they are polymorphic; I look for order in disorder. They become messengers about our contradictions."
See the complete Gucci Fall 2022 collection in the gallery below: