But for all of Michele’s thought experimentation over the past few months, his Gucci clothes haven’t changed much since he first jolted the runway with his raided-Granny’s-attic vibe in 2015. While some pieces that are now Gucci staples—the logo-kitsch tracksuits, the fur-lined loafers—may feel very 2018, the global thrift shopper aesthetic remains remarkably intact and appealing. This is in part, I think, because there’s something so millennial about Michele’s brand of pretension: the collision of historical eras, the incredible groovy color palette, the literal references of an Instagram Explore page autodidact. (I think often the Paris collection that featured Michele’s own version of Issey Miyake-style pleated plissé fabric—which in fact led to a revival of sorts for Miyake among fashion-y influencer types.)
So if Michele’s work has a new valence, the change is in who is wearing it, and how it’s styled. Starting last season, Michaele softened the shoulders on his tailoring, and slubbed out his previously shrunken knits to something more Cobain-y. But he also stripped back his signature blitz of styling—piled-on belts, layered hats, gloves, and bags on every shoulder—so the whole thing just looks more personal. I wrote earlier about how digital fashion week presaged dressing up as a sort of political act, but it also seems that consumers (and a few designers) are really beginning to prize personal style over fashion. Rather than the big name on the label, it’s the small touches, like the flip of the cuffs or a pair of earrings, that personalize an outfit. Under this relaxed new regime, the fussy old Gucci boy upgrades to something beefier: jorts with a big old sheepskin vest; Daffy Duck denim vest over shorts in the flower power prints of ’60s designer Ken Scott; 80s jeans and a puffer with chunky dad sneakers and the very ladylike bag that Jackie O. carried. The employee-models look like you might imagine Gucci employees actually dress. You always wonder: who are those people actually designing your clothes? Well, here they are!
Michele’s earnest message is well-suited to this truly un-cynical moment. He sent many editors and industry viewers a big box of produce, and several of his designer-models clutched bunches of carrots or squash in the livestream. Vegetables ripening at their own pace—now that’s luxury.