It's not every day you turn 100, and in Gucci's case, they're not horsing around. In celebration of its centennial, the brand is rolling out projects throughout the year, and despite it only being April, we've clocked all the headlines: It started with a partnership with The North Face that sold out internationally; Then there was its teased Beloved campaign starring both Harry Styles and Serena Williams; And now, as a highlight, the Italian house released the Aria Collection, and we bear witness to one of the biggest designer partnerships to date: Gucci and Balenciaga.
If you thought that GG North Face puffer was hard to track, we suspect this pairing to break you. We're much more used to high-low collaborations, but this is an altogether different approach. Creative director Alessandro Michele is tapping into the mind of Balenciaga's Demna Gvasalia for the former's "hacking lab," swiping a selection of Balenciaga's familiar codes with the Aria vision. The end result mashes logos, monograms, and silhouettes, and we are reacting accordingly (cue head explosion emoji).
"I wouldn’t like to sentimentalize a biography though. Gucci’s long history can’t be contained within a single inaugural act," Michele stated in the show notes. "As any other existence, its destiny is marked by a long series of “endless births” (M. Zambrano)."
To mark the dawning of Gucci's next century, they presented a fifteen-minute video that opens to a dark street, neon lights illuminating an imaginary Savoy Club. The location isn't an accident-founder and leathermaker Guccio Gucci was a porter at the Savoy Hotel in London, England, where he first became hypnotized by the luxury suitcases checking in. In 1921, he opened his own leather goods shop in Italy. Back to the collection, which takes a sharp turn. Lil Pump's 'Gucci Gang' creeps in, setting the stage for Aria's soundtrack of any song that ever waxed poetic with Gucci-encrusted lyrics. The Gucci-fied playlist features: Rick Ross' 'Gucci Green Suit', Harddope's 'Bugatti', Bhad Baddie's 'Gucci Flip Flops', and Die Antwood 'Gucci Coochie'. Bangers only.
The clothes themselves hold Gucci's heart in its hands, literally and figuratively, with models delicately clutching anatomically correct bedazzled hearts. The aforementioned Balenciaga partnership exposes itself with the GG motif superimposed onto Demna's trademark '80s futurism It works in reverse, with "BALENCIAGA" text appearing on Gucci's iconic Jackie handbag and Michele's deft tailoring. Both logos flash across a crystalline suit.
When it comes to Gucci alone, Michele revisits Gucci's archives, with bronzed horse bits, traditionally adorns its loafers and handbags, displaced and oversized onto fetishized harnesses. The equine theme runs deep, with models wearing caps and jodphurs, lashing the runway with leather riding whips.
Under Michele's reign, Gucci has always been a bit on the nose with whimsical undertones. For Aria, he pared back the seventies oversaturation, with cleaner nods to the classics. It stands as an ode to the brand's rich heritage, but this is not an anthology. "Crossing this threshold, I have plundered the nonconformist rigour of Demna Gvasalia and the sexual tension of Tom Ford," Michele continued, noting Ford's hypersexualized era of Gucci in the '90s. "I have lingered over the anthropological implications of what shines, working on the brightness of fabrics; I have celebrated the equestrian world of Gucci transfiguring it into a fetish cosmogony; I have sublimated Marilyn Monroe’s silhouette and old Hollywood’s glamour; I sabotaged the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie and the codes of men’s tailoring."
The film ends as the models explore a secret garden, illuminated like gods and surrounded by fairytale creatures ranging from pristine peacocks to albino rabbits to white horses (the latter of which seems to be a running trend). Given the ecstatic energy behind this collection and the debut of the most high-profile collaboration (that's not technically a collaboration) to date, maybe it was all a dream.