Okay, Gucci. As if we weren't already convinced of designer Alessandro Michele's zany yet glamorous genius, you had to go and give us Fall 2018's futuristic collection. As the brand's creative director, Michele premiered an eclectic mix of rich luxury and eerie strangeness that was nothing short of woke. At least, if the model with a third eye painted on her forehead was any indication.
First, let's set the scene. The Gucci show was set as a psychedelic hospital room, featuring lurid green walls, flickering LED lamps and operating tables. Michele told Vogue, "We are the Dr. Frankenstein of our lives. There’s a clinical clarity about what I am doing. I was thinking of a space that represents the creative act. I wanted to represent the lab I have in my head. It’s physical work, like a surgeon’s."
Through this bizarre operating room traipsed a slew of "post-human" models, futuristic beings carrying live snakes and chameleons, replicas of their own severed heads, and even a Game of Thrones-style baby dragon.
So what does the statement-making show called Cyborg actually mean? Well, as Michele told Vogue in a press conference post-runway, the designer was inspired by his reading of the feminist philosopher Donna Haraway's A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.
The designer's vision fostered an allegory of the identities we create for ourselves every day. It's about the worlds we construct, from social media to the establishment of new gender roles. What could be a more appropriate metaphor for the rapidly changing state of society than the shedding of snakeskin? Or a chameleon's ever-constant changing of color.
This is not to say that any of Gucci's signature bold opulence was missing in action. To the contrary, Michele adorned models in a dizzying array of colorful garments packed with cross-cultural meaning –– like the lavender lace "burkas" some wore down the catwalk, to the colorful Russian babushka-like garb and Japanese pagoda-inspired headwear.
Some models got the shimmering crystalline treatment, with huge chandelier-like adornments. There was even a fantastical chainmail dress complete with silver nipple tassels, worn with sneakers and a face-covering beanie with cutouts for the eyes. This haute couture showgirl gives zero f**ks, people.
At its finest, fashion sends powerful messages and raises intriguing questions — Gucci's show at Milan Fashion Week did just that. It's true that our identities are changing, at times faster than we can keep up with. What kind of world will we wake up in tomorrow? What kind of identities will we create, and continue to create, as we move into the future? Will we shed our "skin" or rise from the ashes like one of Khaleesi's baby dragons? Will we step forward into a fresh new dazzling world like Michele's show seems to indicate?
We can't possibly know the answers to all of these questions, but they certainly bear thinking about, and therein lies Gucci's genius. At least one thing is for sure: The future, as shown by Michele's vision of it, is diverse, inclusive, and beautifully cross-cultural.