The fashion industry has come to a point where boundaries between creative territories are no longer explicit but fluid in continuous interaction.
In fact, when we hear the word ʻfashionʼ, the first thing that comes to mind are the fashion capitols of Paris and Italy. Fashion researchers though have long pondered the question of the invention of clothing, and the development of the tools needed to create it; the watershed moments in human evolution where the first act of “hacking” was required to join the spirit of the idea with the prevailing technology and cultural mores of human pre-civilisation.
At times travelling side by side, at other times, colliding, Alessandro Michele has always engaged in “hacking” acts of bricolage through which he extracts elements from various points in time and space and makes them his own. Etymologically speaking, even the words “hack” and “hacker” which started at the same point in English language history, split later on to mean ʻhorseʼ and a brutal action.
Hackney nags were principally used to pull carriages giving rise to the name for those horse-and-cart drivers, “hacks”. By the 18th century, it became a catch-all for hired-professionals, for example: writers, came to be known as hack-writers.
Then, 200 years later, these two words (and worlds) were reunited in the world of silicon chips, and programming when in 1959, Peter R Sampson, a member of MITʼs Tech Model Railroad Club wrote a dictionary of tech terms used in then nascent computer world defining ʻhackʼ as “something done to produce or attempt to produce”. Quite the hack encapsulating the ethos of Gucciʼs experimentation and the catalytic conversion of 21st century fashion under the innovative hands of Alessandro Michele.
Culture, Time And Aesthetics Converge
Swiping designs from fellow creative director Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga for the new Gucci collection. Aria includes a number of these items ranging from ready-to-wear to accessories. For Michele, they ultimately represent an expression of reverence and homage. The idea came about in a rather organic way, as a direct result of Micheleʼs impassioned reaction to Gvasaliaʼs first show for Balenciaga, which he attended.
Gucciʼs show that Aprol, peppered with Gvasaliaʼs silhouettes, iconic shoulders, and motifs emerged from the fertile grounds of Micheleʼs “Hack lab” ‒ an evolution of his initial obsession with the Renaissance that kick-started gender-fluid fashion and now pulls together references from different places, time and then reforging them into contemporary cultural statements.
Beginning with a red velvet suit (homage to Tom Fordʼs Gucci), the model enters the Savoy, named for the hotel where founder Guccio Gucci worked as a teenager, inspired by elegant upper-class hotel guests and their accompanying leather accoutrements, and then walking through the “hack lab”.
The evolution was equal parts transformative and informative ‒ signature Balenciaga shoulders executed in Gucci monogram and palette; Gvasaliaʼs strict, tapered hourglass suit jacket but in the Gucci rhombus design. In this sense, Gucci becomes a hacking lab made of incursions and metamorphoses for Michele. An alchemical factory of contaminations where everything connects to anything. It is Balenciaga with a Gucci deepfake.
It is modern. And more importantly, it is meta. For the past five years, Gucci has defined the fashion zeitgeist ‒ moving from hidden references and subtle nods that enticed the millennials, and the co-option of gender fluidity for the Gen Zs. And as geek-chic androgyny became a little too familiar, Gucci under Michele changes the game yet again.
On this occasion, Michele wanted to honour his filial affection betraying the legacy that was handed down to him because the promise of a never-ending birth is only renewed through an evolving capacity. It would appear that in this radical act of co-option or to use the parlance, ʻhackʼ, Michele has taken the retro-inspired Gucci formula and sexed it up.
Crossing this threshold, he has plundered the nonconformist rigour of Demna Gvasalia; lingered over the anthropological implications of what shines, working on the brightness of fabrics. The strong reciprocal affinity between the creative directors, especially in their shared penchant for giving new life to the existent, forges a genuine, natural bridge between the two brands, diverse though they may be.
Michele believes that dialogue flowing in all directions is essential to the creative process that goes into designing a collection, and to the fashion industry in general. For the consumer, that dialogue is an expression of that generational dream ‒ unity in a world filled with tribal and sectarian animosity. Gucci might be “hacking” a fashion brand, but what they have catalysed, may just be the beginning of “hacking” the world into one that is blind to classifying labels.
Catch the Hacker Project’s exclusive pop-in at the MBS boutique on 15 November.