Last September, Gucci presented their Spring Summer 2020 show – a collection that was colorful, controversial, and somehow… lackluster. Alessandro Michele presented a collection that was meant to “depict the before-and-after of escape – from subjugation, from society, and the norms on which it’s organized, and on towards freedom.” That’s a bold claim considering how little freedom there was presented during the show. Using straitjackets, confined conveyor belts, and a nostalgic use of colorful shapes, the show missed a great opportunity to highlight the collection’s meaning and to create an impactful narrative on fashionable freedom. So let’s break down what went wrong, and what could have been done much differently to create a better runway experience.
Act One – Wrong from the start
To signify the start of the show, lights went dark red, and came back up to bring attention to lines of models being moved into view on the conveyor belt. The lack of walking and completely white garb presented the first act of the show which was to represent “eliminat[ing] self-expression.” What was terribly off-putting was that the clothing were similar to straitjackets. That alongside the hospital-like beeps in the music and stark-white sterile venue, it gave a mental-hospital setting.
As posted on Gucci’s Instagram , the “blank-styled clothes” were intended “to represent how through fashion, power is exercised over life, to eliminate self-expression.” However, the use of straitjackets did not only miss this portrayal, it also used mental health as a “prop”, as put by model Ayesha Tan-Jones who peacefully protested on the runway the use of these imagery.
Gucci needs more tasteful ways to express oppression
To be frank, Gucci needed to find a different way to express oppression. A way they could have easily done that and drastically improve the show’s narrative was to include one of the colorful garments that shows up later in the collection in the midst of the white-clad models right before the lights cut black.
Another way to improve the narrative and highlight the meaning of the whole collection would be a model taking off the outer white garments [ones that weren’t straitjackets] to display a colorful outfit underneath. This would have been a great way to highlight what the show is all about – feeling oppressed vs. free.
Act Two – Missed Opportunities
Conveyor belts with little movement
After the white garments appear, lights go black completely, and the conveyor belts are empty to allow the actual garments of the collection to be walked on. As you can observe from the rest of the show, there wasn’t a true feeling of any freedom. Why was there such a constrained feel on a show that was focused on how “fashion in any expression is an escape to freedom?”
Something the show really missed out on was fully utilizing the conveyor belts. As the models walked in one direction one after another, it gave a very uniform sense of movement… because it was. With their blank expressions in beautiful clothing, it was almost like the same feeling as the beginning of the show minus the straitjackets and the with faster movement because they were walking.
The show should have taken advantage of the one-way direction of the conveyor belts by having instances of models moving in different ways, such as the opposite direction, or at a different speed. This would have been a simple act that would have broken up the monotony of the walk, and given the sense of freedom.
Also, the guardrails on the side contributed to the constrained feeling. Why have them if the idea is to feel free in fashion? The guardrails may have been meant to be a safety precaution for both audience and models, but please – if they’re willing to portray mental illness as a prop, then they’re already on the risky side of business.
Venue space wasted
The idea of utilizing movement more could have also extended to using the full space of the venue. Looking at the layout, there were seating areas with wide gaps in between the clusters of people, showing ample room for a model to break free of a conveyor belt and walk through. The linearity of the show maintains a sense of strict order; if a model were to break free of that order, it would have enhanced the narrative of the show. It would have also taken advantage of the full space.
Making the show’s message more impactful
The show held a promising message with an experience that did not live up to it. Some changes that should have been made are:
- Getting rid of the straitjackets to not use mental image as a prop
- Create a narrative element by incorporating one colorful garment as an introduction into the idea of oppression vs. freedom
- Utilize the compelling conveyor belts better by incorporating variations in movement (direction and/or speed)
- Utilize the venue’s open areas to lessen the constrained feeling of the show
- Create a sense of freedom through different formations – a mob form of final walk may be best
- Can even recreate the feeling at the beginning by having models emerge in the white garments (different white garments) and ripping them off to reveal the amazing collection that expresses their freedom
Gucci missed the mark on this beautiful collection. What I did appreciate about Gucci’s show was the intention to make the clothes pop. With an all-white environment, it allowed the clothes to speak for themselves. However, the use of straitjackets really set a tone for a very hospital-like experience that made the music feed into that image, and the room feel ‘sterile.’ Gucci also did not portray a meaningful story or fashion experience for the audience. The overall experience felt constrained yet colorful. Gucci needs to look at what they can use to elevate the viewing experience to help push the narrative forward.
*the screenshots of the collection are screenshots of Gucci’s collection