Italian actor Silvia Calderoni emerged from her bundle of sheets to slide out of bed. She is as straightforward with the morning bathroom ritual as she is with welcoming young music enthusiasts into her home. Next stop: out for a coffee and then to the post office.
This is Italy. Roma—the eternal city, where many movies have been made on its hallowed ground.
But this surreal story is part of a “GucciFest,” in the words of Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s creative director, who worked with director Gus Van Sant to create a seven-part mini-series about current times, with a new episode screening every night until November 22. Back in May, Michele announced that the brand will show “seasonless” collections twice a year instead of the usual five.
Overture of Something That Never Ended brings fashion overtly into the real world of friendship and daily ritual, of anxiety and eccentricity, of casual gender placement and androgyny.
“For a week, a swarm of eccentric and vital stories run through the festival,” Michele explained. “Stories made of imaginative bursts and oneiric gestures. Stories focused on the human.”
Risen from the Dead
There is something compelling about watching a life unfold, with its only purpose the casual display of Gucci clothes: an earring shaped as a cross; a bold sweater; a pair of skinny pants; shoes in an unlikely, untouched condition. We believe in these people, even the one standing in line at the post office with a squawking bird inside a cage.
On-screen there is another reality: the super-fans checking in to see their hero, Harry Styles, make a brief appearance. The online audience surged, even if the comments suggested that Harry’s taut, bare body was more desirable than his clothes.
As I look at other mini-movies, colorful and energetic, in which Gucci is giving fledgling designers the opportunity to get on the digital stage, it feels as though this GucciFest is open to the world, and that Van Sant has turned it into a fascinating “happening.” Will public YouTube screenings become the future of fashion?
We believe in these people, even the one standing in line at the post office with a squawking bird inside a cage.
What a difference the coronavirus has made, since I followed Michele across the dank and muddy earth of an ancient burial ground in the South of France, for the 2019 Cruise Collection of 114 looks.
The candles guttered, throwing unearthly shadows on the runway, as the audience pulled away from the flames. By the time I fought my way into the graveyard, I found Michele hugging Elton John, who was playing his heart out in this little corner of rural France. (Elton and Gucci are a lasting love affair.)
Fashion in the Raw
How privileged I have been to see fashion in the raw, whether it was Naomi Campbell, so long ago, giggling as she fell in a heap on her ridiculously high Vivienne Westwood platform shoes; or the recent beauty of a Valentino show, where many of the outfits were worn by women of color, and tears streamed so fast down my face and my shaking hands could barely hold my phone.
Now fashion means film. Not five senses with smells of earth nor the touch of velvet; not even a back view of a model walking the traditional runway. But plenty of a different kind of joy from the digital world and the modern movie business.
Van Sant, renowned for his portrayals of poetic youth in films such as My Own Private Idaho, with River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves, has made a fascinating movie series for Gucci, while Michele’s designs were sometimes seductive or colorful and wearable—or just telling a modern story.
There was something fresh and charming about these groups of friends, with shoes so perfectly untouched. And I liked hanging out digitally with this lively crowd and looking at next season’s offerings while they practiced yoga and modern dance backstage in a theater.
But like any abrupt change, with some things so lovely, other sensations were slipping away.
Suzy Menkes is a storied fashion journalist and the author of several books including The Royal Jewels and Fashion Designers A-Z: Etro Edition