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The Look

How Gucci Got Its Groove Back

Dancer Mr Nathan Mitchell models some of our favourite pieces from the brand that can do no wrong right now

In January, after 11 years as creative director of Gucci, Ms Frida Giannini stepped down. Fashion month was in full flow, and the AW15 menswear show was due to take place in less than a week’s time. For Gucci, the obvious thing to do would have been to run with the existing collection, which had been designed and was ready to go. But it didn’t do the obvious thing. Instead, five days before the show, it decided to start again from scratch.

Over the next few frantic days (and presumably sleepless nights), the design team replaced everything – from the clothes to the models and even the venue – and produced a show that was a world away from the Gucci of old. Instead, androgynous models with long, lank hair and antique rings stacked on their fingers drifted down the runway in diaphanous shirts of silk and lace with pussy-bow ties. Others evoked the Rive Gauche beatnik look in berets, spectacles and crimson duffle coats. The brand’s longstanding icons were twisted into strange new shapes. Horsebit loafers became fur-lined slippers. Monogrammed accessories were defaced with graffiti-like flower print. The message could hardly have been clearer: it was all change at Gucci.

In the absence of a creative director, a few senior members of the design team took to the stage for the customary end-of-show bow. Standing in the middle of them was a long-haired, exuberantly bearded 42-year-old, dressed in a chunky cable-knit sweater. His name was Mr Alessandro Michele. At the time, very few people knew who he was. A behind-the-scenes figure at Gucci since 2002, he had spent the past few years as the head of accessory design and deputy to Ms Giannini. Whatever anonymity he had would soon be gone, though. Two days later, to no small measure of surprise from the press, he was announced as the new creative director.

In less than 11 months, Mr Michele has done the seemingly impossible and given Gucci a new identity all of its own. For long-time fans of the brand, this New Gucci might come as something of a shock. Yes, it’s eccentric. Yes, it’s a little bit Wes Anderson. But anyone concerned that Mr Michele might have thrown the baby out with the bathwater can rest easy. His iconoclastic debut may have seemed to all the world the actions of a brand keen to put as much distance as possible between itself and its immediate past, but in subsequent collections Mr Michele has displayed the intimate knowledge and deep respect for the brand that you’d expect from a man who has been working there for more than a decade.

Take the pre-fall cruise collection, which was showcased in June in the Chelsea art district of Manhattan. Among the more forward-thinking pieces that made up the collection – the elaborately embroidered blouson jackets, the oversized Chinese-print silk bowling shirts – there were elements of classic Gucci brought bang up to date, such as cable-knit cricket sweaters with the brand’s trademark red and forest-green athletic ribbing.

To illustrate this, we invited Mr Nathan Mitchell, a dancer and a man who knows a thing or two about flexibility, to try out some key new-season pieces in the surroundings of Château de Neuville, an 18th-century mansion on the western outskirts of Paris.

PIECES TO LOOK OUT FOR

Styled like an artist’s smock and designed to be worn loose, this patterned, reversible grandad-collar shirt rather sums up Gucci’s flamboyant new direction under Mr Alessandro Michele.

The striped athletic ribbing on this cable-knit sweater is a clear nod to the Gucci of old. In the pre-fall show, it was styled with a pale blue silk shirt and pussy-bow tie. Contributing Style Director Mr Dan May styled it similarly for our shoot, albeit minus the tie.

Bookish, Bohemian and retro-inspired, this jacquard-knit vest looks perfect under a velvet blazer – which is how we’ve styled it in this shoot.

The rebirth of Gucci coincided nicely with 2015’s trend for all things 1970s, and this corduroy blazer in a rich red-wine shade is a perfect example of how to wear it well. In a nod to the brand’s equestrian heritage, the jacket has a horse-print lining.