Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele says the blackface controversy has had a deep impact on the company and provided a learning experience for everyone.
Michele, speaking to reporters back stage after Gucci opened Milan Fashion Week on Wednesday, said the lessons were not linked to creativity but to how the company operates. Gucci announced it would hire directors for diversity and take other measures after facing a backlash for a balaclava sweater that evoked blackface.
Alessandro Michele's latest collection for Gucci was shown under unrelenting, even blinding, strobe lights that the designer said in some way evoked the intensity of everyday life. A religious hymn played as the models walked deliberately, almost robotically.
Michele chose a mask as the metaphor for the collection, noting that "clothing is our mask, which both shows and hides."
The show invitation was glued inside a paper-mache mask of Hermaphrodite, a homage to his exploration of genderless dressing. "The ancient world sang about the marvels of being between two sexes. Today it is one of the more difficult masks to wear, but being a hybrid is a blessing," Michele said.
Still, the combined menswear and womenswear collection had a tougher, more masculine edge, shrinking ever so slightly from the designer's gender-bending musings of past seasons. It was at its heart the exploration of the suit, with broad shoulders and unfinished edges and a stronger silhouette.
The looks also combined a sense of protection and also aggression with spiky accents on the looks and on belts worn cross body. An elaborate ruffle and lace collar peaked out of an overcoat, worn with baggy trousers. Boyish striped sweaters tucked into patterned jeans.
For women, there were pretty silken shirts with pleated peplums over straight skirts. A grey jacket featured three concentric rounded collars, like shawls, worn with trouser pants.
Gold-cast ear covers gave a theatrical accent to the looks.