Michele adds street and grunge spicing to Gucci mix
For his third womenswear collection for the venerable Florentine house, Michele worked with the Brooklyn artist called GucciGhost, best known for his graffiti involving versions of the brand's famous logo.
Two examples are used in prints splashed across many of the clothes Michele unveiled for the upcoming Autumn and Winter to a feedback-rich soundtrack in a converted railway shed.
The designer's notes to the show talked of inflaming change with "rhizomatic" thinking -- a reference to the nature of some plants' creation of complex interwoven root systems that take them in all different directions -- and also make them fiendishly difficult to eradicate.
But apart from the music, Michele did not depart too far from a script that made him the darling of kangaroo-slipper-wearing fashion editors the world over.
The acclaim has also started feeding through to the bottom line for Gucci's French parent company, Kering, which eased out Michele's now-forgotten predecessor Frida Giannini after years of stagnating sales.
Against that backdrop, bringing in GucciGhost, whose real name is Trevor Andrew, looks like an inspired move, bringing in a creative force whose work might otherwise have looked like a send-up.
Michele has said he did not have to think twice, hailing Andrew as a genius and arguing that taking the company symbols to the street was a no-brainer, in an interview with Women's Wear Daily. The magazine described the new collection as "fresh and beautifully rendered."
A pink thigh-length fur-effect coat and what looked like a dominatrix's white PVC mackintosh were illustrations of what Michele described as a sexier side to his work.
But there was also much that was familiar -- oversized, geeky glasses, platform wedges and work dresses with a 1970s silhouette and a racy librarian feel.
- Colours match Milan mood -
A stone-washed denim jacket came with furry cuffs and was deliberately oversized, like a military style great coat.
There were also dark touches -- hats with funeral veils and a white trouser suit accompanied by knuckle-dusting jewellery. Like those rhizomes, Michele seems himself proliferating in different directions.
Elsewhere on day one, Blugirl designer Anna Molinari extended the hedonistic feel of her spring collection into her outfits for next fall and winter.
Three-quarter length raincoats came in floral and other vibrant prints while the collection for the younger sister to Molinari's Blumarine brand was also dotted with bright Nordic-inspired knitwear.
Molinari declared last year that it was time for Italian fashion to loosen up a little and have some fun after years of gloom created by a triple-dip recession and a sense that Milan was losing its edge creatively and in terms of its rivalry with Paris as well as fast-rising London and New York.
That pessimism appears to have been banished this year with commentators talking up a Michele-led new generation of younger designers emerging to pick up the baton from veterans such as Molinari, Miuccia Prada and Giorgio Armani.
The upbeat mood has also been bolstered by what many industry insiders see as belated government recognition of the importance of fashion to the Italian economy.
The perceived shift in attitude was underlined on Wednesday by the presence of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at the official opening lunch here.
Italy's textiles, clothing, leather goods and footwear sectors generated a remarkable 61.2 billion euros ($67.5 billion) in 2014, the last year for which definitive figures are available.
More than 182 collections, the highest total since 2009, will be unveiled to buyers, media and fashion obsessives from all over the world over the course of the next six days with 74 catwalk shows staged in every available venue across Italy's economic capital, itself still buzzing after the success of last year's World Expo.
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