Back in May, Alessandro Michele announced a Gucci reset. Spurred by the pandemic, the Italian brand would combine men’s and women’s collections, do away with the tired convention of seasons, and cut its shows from five to two per year. “We need new oxygen to allow this complex system to be reborn,” Michele said at the time, warning that given the structural changes, he wouldn’t present on the official calendar. There was no runway spectacular from Michele at Milan fashion week in September—no revolving carousel that put the backstage mechanics on display, no front row jammed with the likes of Iggy Pop, A$AP Rocky, and Jared Leto.
But its off-schedule plans, announced today, are no less grand or ambitious. Michele’s new collection—dubbed “Ouverture of Something that Never Ended” after last season’s “Epilogue”—is to be presented via a seven episode miniseries during a week-long digital film festival the company is calling GucciFest. The oxygen Michele was talking about this spring comes courtesy of director Gus Van Sant (of Drugstore Cowboy and My Own Private Idaho fame) and star, Silvia Calderoni, an Italian performer so gender fluid the New York Times likened her to “mercury, or some improbably liquid element that has yet to be discovered.” Van Sant co-directed the series with Michele, and Calderoni will be joined by “international talents and friends of the house,” including Billie Eilish, Harry Styles, Florence Welch, and Jeremy O. Harris.
Gucci isn’t the only brand that’s opted to show off-schedule. Bottega Veneta and Saint Laurent, also Kering labels, have yet to release their new collections. Nor is it the only house to present its collection in an alternative format; Moschino’s Jeremy Scott shrunk his spring 2021 clothes to doll size and staged a puppet fashion show with the help of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. But GucciFest puts Michele out in front in terms of the content-making aspect of the modern creative director role. This is a trend that has been developing for years with rise of Instagram and alternative social media channels, but the increase in online use during COVID-19 lockdowns have made storytelling more important than ever. The release says: “the presentation of the new collection is a joyful and irregular new tale… told by blending rules and genres, feeding on new spaces, linguistic codes and communication platforms.” These days, the message is the medium.
In addition to Gucci’s own content, the GucciFest micro-site will showcase fashion films by 15 emerging designers. Talent incubation is another trend on the uptick amidst the pandemic—see: Kerby Jean-Raymond’s Your Friends in New York, another Kering-backed endeavor. Among the up-and-comers Gucci is promoting are designers focused on sustainability such as Priya Ahluwalia and Collina Strada’s Hillary Taymour, others like Gareth Wrighton and Boramy Viguier who are exploring virtuality, and menswear names including Bianca Saunders and Stefan Cooke who create gender-neutral clothes in the mold of Alessandro Michele’s own work.
The digital film festival will run from November 16 to 22, and be broadcast on GucciFest.com, as well as YouTube and Weibo, with the full lookbook to be revealed in tandem with the final episode in the series.