Phenomena: Gucci's Milan Show Falls Flat Despite Severed Heads


Last month at Milan Fashion Week, heads were rolling — but not because of the outfits. This year fashion-giant Gucci, in an extension of its runway theme inspired by Donna Haraway’s 1984 essay “A Cyborg Manifesto,” made a bold statement by having several of its runway models carry models of their own severed heads with them as they showed off this year's fall and winter collections. However, that statement was not as clear as it was bold.

The inspiration from “Manifesto” was intended to translate into a feeling of dystopia — of a world where people do not have to fit into the boxes of identity politics. Gucci's creative director Alessandro Michele said that the heads ran with the literary theme in that it wanted viewers “looking after your head and thoughts.” But it seemed everyone's thoughts were only on the heads and not Gucci's rather mundane wardrobe collections.

The garments themselves, an uninspired mix of plaid coats and structured jacket sets, were the last thing viewers and critics were talking about after the world famous fashion show. Whereas most runway shows are tailored to create a cohesive story that is reflected in the clothing catalogue, Gucci's constructed theme of a dystopian dream mashup with a sterile operating room saw little connection with the pedestrian line for the upcoming seasons.

Gucci described the show on Instagram as reflecting “the work of a designer — the act of cutting, splicing and reconstructing materials and fabrics to create a new personality and identify with them.” And that about sums up the show that Gucci put on in Milan: just a slapdash horror-movie surgery spliced together.

This farce epitomizes the essence of what has alienated so many people from the world of high fashion. Far-out, abstract themes that only translate into either mundane clothing or items that no person would wear out in even some of the more progressive circles. From the bold thinking of a plaid sportcoat that could be found in any thrift store in the midwest to whatever the hell this is, Gucci has remained committed to keeping a consistent class divide in the world of fashion. Then, by attempting to insert a deeper philosophical meaning, Gucci’s own sense of entitlement and elitism that already exudes from the fashion world is only furthered.

That’s not even the only bout of bizarre that Gucci was engaged in during Milan Fashion Week. There were also lizards and baby dragons held by models in addition to their own severed heads. But what does it have to do with the clothes themselves? Are these various bells-and-whistles adding to the aesthetics of the clothes? Will people who see you wearing this blouse worth hundreds or thousands of dollars think back to the baby dragon clutched in the arms of the model who wore it? There’s nothing wrong with a theme, but at this point it frankly becomes a distraction from the clothes themselves. Are you buying the Happy Meal for the food or for the toy?

If Gucci really was going for the ambience of an operating room and the construction of surgery mimicking the process of clothing design, the theme seems like it would be better suited by clothing that reflected the human body more. Free flowing dresses with rich, colorful embellishments that captured the dynamic diversity of the human anatomy would have corresponded far better with the operating room theme. Or, in regard to “Manifesto,” creating clothing that doesn't fit in with the identity politics today. Perhaps unisex articles that reflect a not-too-distant future with evolutionary design elements. That is something the casual observer could wrap his or her head around.

The viewing experience of Milan is reminiscent of the feelings I had while walking down Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. Strolling down the street, I was bombarded with high-end stores and fantasies unattainable to most people. In so many storefronts sat luxury brands that I had never heard of that were marketed to the elitist of the elites. However, confining this avenue of opulence to one small section of the city is far different than making an international spectacle out of the classism that has enveloped the world of fashion. Rodeo Drive does not make headlines in publications for us plebeians.

So what is the solution? Does Gucci simply abandon the time-tested formula of luxury brands that only cater to the highest echelon of society, and therefore reaping the most money from the deepest pockets of the world? It would be crazy to think they ever would. But where does that leave the rest of us? Where are we to go for style without putting a lien on your house for a pair of heels? I use shoes here specifically because that has been a modern method of regular people taking back the fashion world. The mainstream acceptance of sneakerheads over the past decade has been encouraging in the fight for fashion equality. Where you could be a blue blood and read Vogue for the latest in fads, the regular person with a modest budget can turn to Complex to see the latest in sneaker news. The sneakerhead revolution is a model for how to reinsert ourselves back into the world of style. Now we need another new fashion frontier.