It’s arguably the biggest job opening in fashion, and has been the subject of fevered speculation for months: who will take the creative reins at Gucci? Ever since Alessandro Michele exited in November following a blockbuster reign, fans and followers have had the Italian powerhouse’s Fall-Winter 2023 menswear show circled in bright red ink on their calendars. The last time there was a creative interregnum at Gucci, eight years ago, the January men’s presentation served as Michele’s coming-out party. Down to the second the lights went out on Friday at the brand’s auditorium on the outskirts of Milan, guests were swapping theories about what we were about to witness. An evolution of Michele’s romantic, maximalist vision? Or a swerve in a bold new aesthetic direction?
What happened was a little bit of both. The idea behind the collection was improvisation, according to the show notes, the first six words of which might have made a few hearts race in the audience: “Improvisation is an act of collaboration.” But no, this was not a collection molded by an outside designer brought in to impose a vibe shift, a trending strategy utilized lately at Dior and now Louis Vuitton, who have tapped Brooklyn upstart Colm Dillane of KidSuper to construct the men’s collection this season. This was a collaboration, according to the release, between the “multi-faceted creatives and craftsmen who inhabit the house of Gucci.”
The show was roughly split into two halves, based on the cut of the trousers: super wide, and then skin tight. The wide movement took the louche tailoring that Michele turned into a fashion phenomenon, and pared it back to its component parts. The opening look—a white T-shirt, huge brown trousers, and sleek boots—signaled an intent to go back to basics, the only accessories a rich oversized bag and a humble navy beanie. Blazers were tailored long and wide to balance the flowing pants, and several floor-length skirts, cut up the middle, built upon Michele’s fascination with blending gendered style codes. This was the stuff that Michele fans will slide into with ease. “It feels like the grandma’s attic aesthetic that Alessandro made so perfectly is being deconstructed, and you’re seeing the boy who went up to Grandma’s attic a little bit,” said one such fan, playwright and Gucci guy Jeremy O. Harris, following the finale.
As the show, set to a jam session by the bluesy trio of Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, got underway, it became clear that the design studio had done some of their collaborating in the archives. Of all the rumors surrounding the future of Gucci after Michele’s departure, I’m not sure anybody expected the return of the furry loafer. But there it was: the erstwhile faux pelt-lined “Princetown” slipper, the Michele product that launched his name into the mainstream, refreshed with a heel. Elsewhere, a large, soft version of the hero Jackie bag was affixed with hardware originally designed by Tom Ford in his Gucci era, and moto jackets were resurrected from the aughts archives.
Which brings us to the second section of the show. Come si dice indie sleaze? This part was undeniably on-trend, and an inflection point in Gucci’s menswear story: a spirited mashup of garments sure to hit with a new customer. One who likes, for instance, silvery sequined matchstick jeans, leather moto jackets, and mid-calf pirate boots (with skinny jeans tucked in, of course). It’s a new approach for Gucci aesthetically, but also in spirit. Michele was razor-focused on building a lush universe; any garment dragged through his rich garden of baroque references and wavy styling moves would come out looking of a part with the whole vision. This part of the show, thought, felt much more in conversation with what’s happening outside the garden gates. I read a glammed-up response to vogueish vintage styling cues (the moto-wear and lived-in nylon vests and snow pants), as well as the unlikely return of aughts fashion. My suspicion was all but confirmed when I noticed that Harrison Patrick Smith of The Dare, whose music bottles the mood of the unbridled, hedonistic bloghouse era of NYC, was sitting in the front row, a few feet away from Gucci CEO Marco Bizzari. “A lot of the things I would actually wear,” Smith, set to DJ the afterparty, told me after the show. The second half naturally got his blood pumping, he said. “It has this power-clashing, super sparkly show-off vibe. And I could see someone wearing those boots in a basement bar and everybody being like, Look at those. Those are sick.”
Some guests very much dug Gucci’s charged new duality. Like Jalen Ramsey, the Super Bowl winning Los Angeles Rams cornerback, who was attending his first Gucci show. “The thing about Gucci is it gives you a little variety,” he told me. “So I can step out of the box, or I can just go with something that I’m already comfortable with.” Ramsey saw a few things he can’t wait to wear: the flared pants and suit jackets in particular. “All of the jackets were dope.” Some of it wasn’t for him, like an eye-catching yellow leather boiler suit. “That one’s a little loud, that one’s out there,” he said. But he couldn’t wait to get backstage to check out the fresh looks in person. “I loved it,” Ramsey told me. “The new era of Gucci has already been fun.”
See who else hit the front row for Gucci’s Fall-Winter 23 show below.