MILAN — Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele has been looking to transcend the runway show, and the coronavirus pandemic has provided an apt moment.
Michele teamed up with American film director Gus Van Sant to create a seven-part miniseries revealing Gucci's latest collection, titled "Ouverture." The videos will be trickled out a day at a time starting Monday in the format of a virtual film festival and following the addictive pattern of streaming services.
Film and fashion have a long relationship, and Gucci is not the first fashion house to team up with a filmmaker, even during the pandemic. Ferragamo presented a film by Luca Guadagnino, the Italian director of "Call Me By Your Name" as the backdrop to its live show in September, while another Italian, Matteo Garrone created a film for Dior's digital couture presentation in Paris in July. Prada commissioned five international video artists for its presentation in July.
What perhaps makes GucciFest unveil unique is its episodic format.
Michele announced in May that he was breaking with the tradition of the four-times-a-year runway show, often punctuated with an additional destination cruise show. Gucci will now roll out largely seasonless collections in November and April. It's hard to say what he might have done if the pandemic hadn't in some ways made a virtual presentation a necessity — especially as the virus makes a resurgence.
But Michele's notion of how to present fashion has been in evolution since he took over the brand six years ago.
"It has been in the air for many years, the need to follow a new narrative and a new communication. I like experiments,'' Michele said. While the pandemic did not condition the project, "for me it created a speedier reaction."
A film buff since childhood, Michele said he was discussing another project with Van Sant before the pandemic and proposed the miniseries project just a month ago. Van Sant traveled to Rome, where he filmed part of "My Private Idaho" 30 years ago, to shoot on location.
"It was a spontaneous idea to make something within just a few weeks. I sort of found that exciting and challenging, like something I had done before,'' the director said, recalling his work on "Gerry," "Elephant" and "Last Days," which he said were filmed on tight schedules with loose screenplays.
Michele said the project was more a collaboration than a commission. "I felt neither invaded, nor invasive,'' the creative director said.
The film series follows days in the life of a woman, played by Italian actress Silvia Calderoni, as she and her Gucci tribe move dreamily through a rarified Roman landscape, from her shabby chic apartment to a theater, café and vintage shop. She is joined by Gucci models with cameos by friends of Michele's, including Billie Eilish, Florence Welch and Harry Styles, all wearing Gucci looks that will be in stores starting next spring.
"There is a cinematic fusing with commerce,'' Van Sant said.
The format allows all fashionistas a coveted front-row seat, removing some of the exclusivity of the runway show. Customers will be able to see clothes in real-life, if perhaps surreal, situations. Michele said the garments were "freed from their traps," the idea that luxury brands like Gucci belong out of reach, only in certain boutiques or closets.
In the videos, branding is highlighted, and thought is given to the experience of the garments: Calderoni stretches in a sheer lace pajama, a diaphanous dress is set aloft from a balcony, and pearl beads rustle on a skirt fringe.
"The combination of cinema with exposing fashion ideas has a lot of potential, as cinema starts to get sucked into the computer screen,'' Van Sant said.