GucciFest 2020: Winners and losers
Where were Ben Hecht or Federico Fellini just when you needed them Sunday night?
Gucci’s novel online TV series whose finale episode premiered on Sunday did not exactly set the cinematic world on fire. Yet the brand’s generous decision to host a series of 15 fashion films by young designers in a mini festival, GucciFest, turned out to be a heroic celebration of the next generation of talent.
Entitled Ouverture of Something That Never Ended, the Gucci seven-part series was ultimately, however, a lesson that you can throw enough rock and movie stars on screen – Billie Eilish, Harry Styles, and Florence Welch, for instance - but you can’t make the concept stick.
Jointly directed by Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele and Gus Van Sant, the series – succeeding episodes were released each evening at 9p.m. – followed a week in the life of a character played by Italian actress Silvia Calderoni as she wanders around Rome; from home to café to post office to vintage shop, which turn out to only sell Gucci. A surrealist-lite vision where rock bands suddenly play live in your bedroom during your morning cappuccino. Every character wearing the latest Gucci collection.
In the end the most memorable moment was Eilish – dressed in an eschatology-blue sweatshirt and flat cap in suburban L.A. — as she is chased around a pool by two yellow Boston Dynamics robotic dogs. The type that Singapore employed to encourage greater social distancing in the pandemic. In Gucci-land these dogs even pose in a solarium. Quite frankly watching offbeat and pretty people try on clothes in a “vintage” store, shopping to sacred Russian folk songs, does not make for gripping television. Quite the contrary.
The TV series was not helped by some truly pedestrian dialogue, with some of the few notable remarks coming in a pithy commentary by veteran Italian art critic Achille Bonito Oliva in a phone call to Styles.
“Fashion dresses humanity. Art lays it bare. And music is a massage to the atrophied muscles of collective awareness. We live in an era of contamination. An age marked by a certain lack of faith in our future. But one where awareness of the present is vivid,” expounds the critic on an ancient mobile phone.
GucciFest, on the other hand, had many multiple moments of inspiration. Every film bearing the Gucci logo in the lower right-hand corner. We rank them as follows.
If one had to choose a winner, then it was Stefan Cooke’s heritage chic video. It starred its archive footage as much as the excellent collection. Black and white images of Highland glens, gothic cathedrals, medieval castles and northern seascapes that recalled the backdrop to The Crown. All juxtaposed by a great two-tone collection of cut-off Specials’ tanks with matching headphones; houndstooth jackets with diagonal flap pockets; posh patchwork leggings; bold Qui êtes-vous Polly Maggoo graphic shirts and waistcoats or perfect choir-boy collar white shirts. Directed by Eddie Whelan, styled by Alice Goddard and entitled Advent, this “softly subversive to textile manipulation” film brilliantly captured the essence of this London-based menswear label founded in 2017 by Central Saint Martin’s graduates Stefan Cooke and Jake Burt.
It could spilt first prize with Collina Strada, whose hallucinatory 3D video-game romp Collina Land took the cast on a virtual tour of intergalactic horizons replete with dragons, dinosaurs and aquatic creatures. Whoever director Charlie Engman is, he is assured of a great future. Mini fighting avatars had their moment too in Mowalola Ogunlesi’s coolly giddy gaming fashion video. And one also had to admire the confessional video of Bianca Saunders where the voluminous clothes and gentle self-examinations made for moments of charm.
Directed by Conor Clinch and entitled The Palace of Kings, designer Jordan Luca’s clip was set in Whitechapel. An uber hirsute model with a wacky afro and Dracula incisors marching around after-midnight locations of dank streets and eery parks. Which, unfortunately, made it hard to actually see the clothes. What was visible were rocker gent tailoring; cotton clubbing shirts; waxy leather blazers.
Others to impress were Rui with a darkly poetic tale of rabbit, sparrow and pangolin migrating around a pool and apartment – with teenage models dressed up in chopped up leotards. Or Shanel Campbell, whose blend of Caribbean cool, agit-prop imagery and Josephine Baker on the bayou made for a bold fashion vista.
And Rave Review. The Swedish upcycling marque’s video was tight, just 1.45 minutes. That left the audience hungry for more of his composite, acid-hued, uber exuberant coats and jumpsuits. Fantasy fashion at its best; and a great discovery, another reason to thank Gucci for generously hosting this innovative concept, even if their own series won’t be winning any Emmys.
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