Gucci haute couture exhibit at Florence’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Written by Staff Writer

The cliche about Gucci — the word they’re often alluding to in their marketing — is that it’s just a good-looking house. It’s bad fashion to say so in any context, and here Gucci clearly doesn’t mean that they’re “just a good-looking house.”

Need evidence? Above all else, Gucci makes the most of the craftsmanship they buy, offering handmade and printed tailoring in a variety of colours, with fitted suits and coats in silk, brocade, silk corduroy, cordovan and pearl details.

You can’t go wrong buying the classic black, white or navy suit, and their casual items, many in block colors, are also excellent. The tailored shirts, cropped trousers and jeans are also tops; they simply don’t make bad choices.

But sometimes, Gucci is guilty of overselling itself. It had a terrible creative director before it was discovered that it had been set up by former Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli, who is said to have nixed ideas about world domination. To add fuel to the fire, Agnelli’s son, Patrizio, took the helm in 2003.

Agnelli is out and Alessandro Michele is in, but they’ve set aside all attempts to tidy up their image and instead emphasize the craftsmanship that they buy — as confirmed by the Florence exhibit, which features a pair of clothes made out of an ostrich egg.

It doesn’t seem like this is a good way to go about it. Giorgio Armani, the other powerful Italian fashion designer in the business, takes a similar tack in Europe, with one simple building block — Gucci-branded gowns — to bring the work from designers like Gucci and Tomas Maier under the same roof. Armani, though, has managed to retain his own brand identity, and his more expensive pieces don’t seem like an obvious stand-in for Gucci, as opposed to a fake Gucci knock-off.

It might be the case that Gucci simply has more of a clout from a financial perspective than Armani and that they have good reason to try and make a bigger splash. However, it looks like they’ve backed themselves into a corner by trying to be both Gucci and Lauren. They need to do their own thing, and tailor it to their particular approach.

If they were creative directors of other labels, then this might be more understandable, but they’re not. Michele is making a name for himself without much intention of creating a Gucci by Gucci concept. He takes things wholesale from Dolce & Gabbana and his label A.P.C., taking the same approach.

His new in-house line, made with Armani materials and the same materials he himself uses, is already stuffed with Lady Gaga references, mashups of drag queens and couture styles. It’ll only be a matter of time before he starts selling faux Marc Jacobs dresses and enough Gucci ribbons, bags and accessories to patch up the property. If that’s Michele’s ultimate plan, then this exhibit, with its ostentatious stab at a statue of a handbag, is proof positive that he and his team don’t know what to do with it.

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