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Gucci: Agent Provocateur

Having fainted at Gucci after exposure to strobe lights, screaming music and sex-pot women waving whips at their hips, I may not be the right person to review the spring/summer 2020 collection that effectively closed the Milan season.

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I absorbed Alessandro Michele’s parade of male and female figures acting emotionally disturbed in straitjackets of all-white uniforms, looking uncomfortably close to escapees from an asylum. As they passed, glassy-eyed, down the travelator that served as a runway throughout the 100-plus show, the star-shaped ceiling lights suggested a red light district.

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And so did the models, whose prim tailored suits were interspersed by transparent negligees as if in a re-run of hidden prostitution, seen in the famous French movie Belle de Jour starring Catherine Deneuve.

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“It was funny to see my women dressed as mistresses – sexy and romantic,” said the designer, who marks five years at Gucci in January.

“Orgasm is a strange emotion,” he continued at a press conference where his torrent of words in Italian was translated at the same time into English.

“When I was growing up,” he suddenly explained, “the idea of sex was connected with orgasm, the greatest pleasure.”

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With ‘Gucci Orgasmique’ labels stitched on the surface of many outfits, the show seemed dedicated not so much, as previously, to the 1970s, nor to the familiar nerdy Gucci look.

It referenced rather the Tom Ford era in the 1990s, which Michele referred to, saying: “I wanted to make men sexy – blazers – beautiful – something I did myself. I like things that are not easy to understand, that is sexy.”

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Whether or not the whips – which Michele said referred to rich people horse riding rather than, as they are often seen today, a sexual object – will really sell up a storm seems doubtful. But there were other irresistible accessories: chunky chain sunglasses; a black patent leather choker, and the signature loafer, now slim with pointed toes.

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Disregarding the agent provocateur outfits, there were clothes desirable for their simplicity, a preponderance of black, but laced with artistic colours and mainly for men.

“I wanted some Gucci heritage ingredients, used in my own way,” Michele explained.

It is surely the classics, simplified in shape but with intriguing colours and fabrics, that will be bestsellers. However much the designer talks sex and seduction, when it comes to fashion, the most potent and provocative dreams have to be turned into reality.

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Dolce & Gabbana: Rumble in the jungle

Talk about cultural appropriation! The Dolce & Gabbana show had so much green leafy forestry on the runway, so many musical references to the jungle and so many animals you might see on safari – all as fashion decorations. No wonder then that the spring/summer 2020 show looked like a collection bringing the “Sicilian jungle,” as Stefano Gabbana said, to Milan.

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The play on jungle fever, with its leopard-print carpet runway, could be seen as a witty and lighthearted paradise. Or it could, in these sensitive times, be considered as on the edge of poor taste.

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Given the drama Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana went through last year when they were accused of being disrespectful to China, this rumble in the jungle seemed like a doubtful choice.

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A line-up of safari outfits, sending reminders of white colonialists out to kill wild animals, was a particularly unfortunate fashion section. yet, before the show started I looked at the work close up and much of it was breathtaking in its artistry. Especially impressive was crochet work from southern Italy and a woven shaped bodice with the technique of a Borsalino hat. As a perky little dress, it was adorable.

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But is craftsmanship enough?

An enthusiastic Domenico gave me a guide to his passion for leaves and greenery re-created as cloth and decoration.“This for me is Italian fashion,” he explained. “Incredible raffia, silk and cotton altogether, and beautiful technology with a new technique for print. It is like a collage: you print attaching velvet with paper. It’s very wild, very organic, very natural – but also technological.”

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“I wanted the two concepts,” Domenico continued. “I figure that technology needs humanity and vice versa. I love people, I love fashion – amore!”

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The designer was so enthusiastic that it seems churlish to say that with feverish reactions to fashion in a hyper-connected digital world, it might be wiser to take the Dolce & Gabbana country down to the southern tip of Italy, to the designers’ beloved Sicily. But not to venture into Africa.

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