At the beginning of 2015, when Alessandro Michele presented his inaugural collection for Gucci — the whole pussy-bowed, fur-slippered menswear shebang now talismanic to the Italian luxury house — it heralded a new era for men. His radical push for an extravagant gender-fluid way of dressing shattered the industry’s insistence on traditional masculinity. To Michele, it’s a continuous conversation. But if anything, his latest men’s collection doubly underscores his school of thoughts on the topic.
On a Tuesday evening in Milan, almost exactly five years after his bold debut, Michele’s Fall/Winter ’20 menswear show took place within a set that resembled an ancient theatre. Its stage was a sandpit surrounded by boxed wooden seating. And smack dab at the centre was a colossal metal pendulum swung, its tick-tocking sway an ominous reminder of time’s irrevocability. Yet a visit to the past was, in fact, Michele’s path into unravelling his take on masculinity’s newfound fluidity.
“It’s time to celebrate a man who is free to practice self-determination, without social constraints, without authoritarian sanctions, without suffocating stereotypes,” writes the show’s accompanying short essay on masculinity, titled “Masculine, Plural”. Waxing lyrical on Michele’s chain-breaking rebel, it describes this idealised persona further: “A man who is able to reconnect with his core of fragility, with his trembling and his tenderness... A baby man, able to do bold and playful somersaults, who wonders in amazement when the world becomes new.”
This vision took form as a cohort of lanky pretty boys who wore babydolls, powder blue princess coats and tiny pink sweaters with “MON PETIT CHOU” (directly translated from French: “my little darling”). Some had on shrunken jackets and shorts, slightly dishevelled, as if it was the first day of boarding school. Michele constructed his garments as grenades to be thrown at the hetero-orthodoxy that enshrouds young male minds with the belief that adulting means putting an end to dressing up, and in exchange, having to “man up”.
The creative director dubs the show as “an invitation to go back to childhood to learn new ways of being male.” A revisiting of the past is necessary, Michele says, “It is possible to learn things again, to use time in a different way.” It’s his proposal of turning back time, learning to unlearn.
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