Gucci Cruise 2019 ignites Alyscamps

Fashion houses can take their guests to visit unique locations for a show, but surely Gucci staged a true fashion first Wednesday night – a runway show in a cemetery.


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Gucci Cruise 2019 - Spring-Summer2018 - Cruise Collection - Paris - © PixelFormula


Albeit, one where noted Roman citizens went to their final resting place, in the Promenade Des Alyscamps, a cemetery dating from 4 A.D. And then they promptly set fire to the place. One could not fault Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele for chutzpah!

After a day's rain, it was a mercifully dry evening in the cemetery, located in the center of the ancient Roman town of Arles. 500 yards away, a Roman Colosseum where Picasso went to see bullfighting. Michele installed a burning passage along the 200 meter dirt path. On either side, perched on silver benches VIPs, editors, bloggers and the likes of Elton John, Valeria Golino, Salma Hayek and her husband and Gucci owner, Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault. It’s a tribute to the power of fashion that Gucci could install a huge fire inside a UNESCO world heritage site.

Since taking the reins in 2015, Michele has led a maximalist revolution in fashion. This was even more of that – daffy duchesses in ruffled satin gowns; hipsters in zebra print leggings paired with pink bobby soxers; a rather marvelous British postbox-red cashmere coat worn over turquoise stockings and logo pumps, oh and topped with contrast sunglasses – one lens black the other white. The collection was crammed full of great shades: insect rocker style; studded silver warrior biker looks; retro Futurist après ski. Kering Eyewear sold over four million pairs last year and Gucci accounted for some 40% of them. This brand is on fire financially too.

He also sent out a whole series of Chateau Marmont sweatshirts, logo bags and shearling jackets. Joy to the eye of that LA hotel’s front man André Balazs. And was Balazs getting a royalty, one wondered? “You betcha!” responded Balazs.

The night before, Gucci showed a video montage on its Instagram account. Images of lichen-covered tombs, stone lions and gods' heads showed the setting to a voiceover from “Vivre sa vie,” Jean-Luc Godard’s film chronicling the life of a Parisian woman. But at the actual event, one could hardly see the monument, as this show kicked off in darkness after 10PM; with dry ice swirling around the Romanesque tombs.

Michele telegraphed his invites some weeks before the show by sending guests a telegram in plain gray. But the collection was an explosion of color.

This was also Michele getting his wish for a setting in the Ancient World. Last year he admitted to wanting the Parthenon in Athens, but (kept out by a preservation order) he ended up in the Palatine gallery of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence.  

In 2016, inspired by “the first rock star,” his name for Queen Elizabeth I, he showed cruise in Westminster Abbey. Though his 2015 cruise debut was pretty modern New York – inside a former garage in Chelsea.

The last large city on the Rhone river, Arles is rich in history. First established in 800 BC, the Phoenicians later made it into an important trading port and the Romans took it over in 123 BC. Julius Caesar established Arles as a colony for his veteran troops in 46 AD, and the great Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa was crowned in this charming city. A decade ago they found the oldest bust of Caesar in the banks of the Rhone nearby.  Though the city’s importance has waxed and waned throughout history. The arrival of the railway diminished the port of Arles into something of a backwater. One reason it attracted Vincent Van Gogh, who lived here for two years, creating over 300 paintings and drawings, and forever linking the city to his name.

Pre-show, Michele even posted an image on his Instagram account of Van Gogh’s painting of the postman Joseph Roulin. There were no obvious lifts from the Dutch master but yards of Provençal florals and a color palette that Vincent would have loved.

The name Alyscamps comes from the Latin Elisii Campi, or Elysian Fields; or in French, Champs Élysées. The final resting place of heroic souls in Greek mythology- and there was something heroic about this whole show – a cast of millennials free from the sexual and moral inhibitons of their parents' generation.

Michele’s guests were as eclectic as his clothes. Take Kim Jong-in, the dashing new dancer and star of Korean-Chinese group Exo (labeled the biggest boy band in the world); and actor in web dramas and films, better known as Kai. Though his post-show concert was classic bluesy rock – five tunes from Elton John, who Gucci is currently dressing. Not sure what Julius Caesar’s troops would have made of this event – but Gucci fans will love it.

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