Gucci’s Aria Collection Was a 100th Anniversary Blowout — Complete With a Balenciaga ‘Hacking’

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Shannon Adducci
·3 min read
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Gucci is the fashion zeitgeist.

That was the message the Italian luxury brand conveyed across the global digital sphere Thursday with the debut of “Aria”, a massive runway collection that marks Gucci’s 100th anniversary. The show also confirmed the rumor that the brand was working with Kering sister brand Balenciaga. The result was a series of looks that creative director Alessandro Michele created by swiping — with permission from creative director Demna Gvasalia — key design details and motifs from Balenciaga to incorporate into the looks for “Aria.”

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It was nearly a year ago that Gucci announced it would follow a seasonless model, following a series of industry-wide conversations on shifting the fashion calendar as the pandemic wreaked havoc on brands and businesses. Much as Alessandro Michele presented the brand’s last collection, “Epilogue,” as an ending to an old world, the Gucci creative director debuted “Aria” as something of a new beginning.

Nevertheless, the collection still tapped into the brand’s long legacy of craftsmanship and design DNA. “I found out that 100 years had passed. In the show, I included elements from how I envision the mythology of the brand,” Michele said in a behind-the-scenes video that Gucci posted on its social media platforms. “And like in any great saga, no one knows what is real and what is not.”

That mythology came both from Gucci’s heritage and from the pop culture that has swallowed Gucci whole over the past decade or so. The show’s soundtrack was comprised solely of songs in which Gucci featured prominently in the lyrics. From Lil’ Pump’s 2017 “Gucci Gang” to Rick Ross’s “Green Gucci Suit” featuring Future from 2018, to Die Antwoord’s “Gucci Coochie” from 2106, the playlist emphasized just how strong of an influence the brand has had on music and pop culture — a relationship that Gucci has in recent years worked to strengthen especially within the Black community, forming its Changemakers Council in March 2019, hiring Renée Tirado as its global head of diversity and officially partnering with Dapper Dan in 2017. The Aria show’s soundtrack further acknowledged the symbiotic creative relationship that Gucci has with the music world, especially the hip-hop community.

On the runway, strobe and flash lighting was set up along narrow walls, taking the place of what would have been an audience in non-pandemic times. The effect mimicked paparazzi flashes to further drive home the message of Gucci’s star power.

As for the actual fashion, Michele leaned heavily into the brand’s equestrian legacy. Riding helmets and heritage leather boots were staples throughout the collection, while a model in a crystal bustier and voluminous feather pants cracked a riding crop to dramatic effect. There was also an homage to Gucci’s past eras — the first look featured a model in a velvet pantsuit that was a dead ringer for the suit that Tom Ford did for the brand in 1996, made infamous by Gwyneth Paltrow.

The first clue that Balenciaga was part of it all came when a turquoise sequined dress with those sharp shoulders came down the runway, and from there, Michele built up his idea of “hacking” the French brand with a pieces that became increasingly overt. There was a small black bag with the suggestion of the black-and-white striped logo of the French brand, whizzing by on the hand of a model. Eventually, a series of sequined statement suiting appeared, “Balenciaga” emblazoned across the entire look. Michele’s “hacking lab” idea is not exactly new — designers have been taking from other designers since the beginning of fashion — but it does question the principles and definition of collaboration today.

The 15-minute video concluded with the show’s models breaking out of the enclosed runway to a pastoral springtime scene, embracing each other, and jumping in slow motion — all the better to reveal more sharp leather boots and crystal-logo-studded kitten heels.

This story will be updated as new details come in on the collection.

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