Gucci’s Spirit in the Material World
What does the House of Gucci represent as we approach the next roaring twenties?
If you’re Gucci’s risk-taking creative director, who ya gonna call to add some anarchy to your designs? Why, Brooklyn’s self-styled “GucciGhost,” of course.
WHAT’S GUCCI©!!? That’s the graffito daubed on the wall above Gucci wunderkind Alessandro Michele and his unlikely collaborator Trevor Andrew, aka “GucciGhost,” as they pose for a studio photo. The slogan (basically “What’s good?” in street argot) is an obvious nod to the rapper Gucci Mane, but it doubles as a rhetorical question about what the House of Gucci represents as we approach the next roaring twenties.
Under Michele’s inspired creative leadership, the venerable Florentine company has entered a thrilling new era of playfulness, experimentation, and out-there risk-taking. Michele’s Women’s Fall-Winter Collection, for example, not only demonstrates his electrifying magpie aesthetic, with its daringly meshed influences from punk and posterity, but his willingness to embrace Andrew’s fabled appropriation of Gucci’s logo with its artfully nonchalant dripping spray paint look.
That Michele invited Andrew himself into the Gucci fold—flying him to the company’s Milan HQ so he could bring his stamp to the collection—was an inspiring act of inclusiveness that single-handedly repudiates the image of Europe’s pre-eminent fashion maisons as bastions of aloofness and elitism. Whereas a less secure designer might have sought to censor Andrew’s street-art riffing on Gucci’s ying-yangish “G-reverse G” device—part-homage, part-parody—and invoke copyright law, Michele had the vision, as well as the wit and confidence, to appreciate its artistic merit and work with its creator.
If Andrew’s spraying of his version of the logo on garbage cans and other unfashionable sites was a brilliant stroke of ironic, declassé de-contextualization, Michele’s enabling him to re-integrate it in the new collection’s larky, generation-straddling designs was an act of startling post-modern re-appropriation. It wouldn’t have worked, of course, if Andrew’s contribution to the collection wasn’t visually arresting: in fact, it enhances the 21st-century post-punk vibe of Michele’s designs in a more authentic manner than those of any great designer since Vivienne Westwood combined the bondage look with Scottish tartans and 17th– and 18th-century cutting to forge punk fashion in the mid-1970s.
Born in Nova Scotia on August 31, 1979—thus seven years’ Michele’s junior—Brooklyn–based Andrew is less an urban marauder with a spray can than a genuine renaissance man.
A former champion pro-snowboarder who competed in the 1998 and 2002 Olympics, he was forced by severe knee injury and six broken ribs to reconsider his options and subsequently achieved cult status with his band Trouble Andrew. Its eponymous 2007 album is a danceable melange or skate and punk rock, hip hop, and electronica. (Andrew is married to the genre-bending producer Santigold.)
On Halloween 2013, Andrew cut eyeholes in his Gucci bedsheet and threw it over his head before taking to the streets of Bedford-Stuvesant, his Brooklyn neighborhood. From sacrilege was born inspiration: fellow revelers saluted the apparition as “Gucci Ghost.” Andrew soon began decorating the walls and fixtures of the borough with the image of a gentle specter—a South Park-like amalgam of the 1939 children’s character Casper the Friendly Ghost and various cartoon squids with Gucci Gs for eyes and an “o” for a mouth. It was just the beginning of his Gucci-galvanized street art. Earlier this year he explained to the website Dazed why he is obsessed with the brand:
“For me, the first luxury item I ever bought was a Gucci watch,” he said. “It meant so much to me to get to a place where I could walk into the shop and buy this Gucci watch, so it held so much value beyond what I paid for it. But I don’t have the money to buy all the pieces that I want, so I started making my own world where everything around me is Gucci, especially things that I thought weren’t so pretty, like a [expletive] set of garbage cans. Then I got really literal and started writing, ‘Life is Gucci,’ ‘Real Gucci,’ and all these things that represented positivity—almost like Gucci is the ‘God of fashion’ and that’s what the ‘G’ represents to me.”
Andrew’s “Real,” nonchalantly splattered on a black Gucci tote (with the company’s formal logo beneath it, is one of the triumphs of the new collection. On a classy black Gucci handbag, Andrew’s light-blue Gs jostle for space with scrawled yellow Stars of David: the idea is graffiti as a portable feast. In a more classical vein, Andrew’s Gs—red this time—adorn a cream silk calf-length skirt like curlicues. They are etched in black under a large white diamond motif on both a plush red coat and a sporty red and black mini-dress that would Mod women would have craved. A circled R for Real—as opposed to A for Anarchy—sits provocatively above one fur-embellished sleeve of a capacious white trucker jacket.
Don’t doubt for a moment, though, that sartorial anarchy isn’t in the details of Michele and Andrew’s 2016–17 Gucci revolution.
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