William the Conquerer was the first monarch crowned there in 1066, Kate Middleton was the first commoner to marry a future king there in 2011 and this Thursday, when they show their next Cruise collection in the Cloisters, Gucci will celebrate another historic milestone as the first fashion house of any nationality to show in London’s legendary Westminster Abbey.
The Abbey, which really requires no introduction other than the small fact that it’s one of Britain’s most sacred historical, political and religious sites, will open its hallowed interiors to Gucci for the label’s Cruise 2017 presentation on Thursday June 2. Alongside Pippa’s derrière, Gucci’s Cruise show promises to be the Abbey’s most social media friendly moment in a millennia. It’s perhaps also the biggest location coup of an impressive off-piste Cruise season that has transported fashion’s focus from Cuba to Rio and all the way to Oxfordshire, with a stopover in Sydney in between.
Before writing off Gucci’s decision to show in London’s iconic Gothic monument as a jarring one, consider not only creative director Alessandro Michele’s romantic aesthetic (he has spoken previously of his obsession with Tudor dress codes), but also his strong ties to the Big Smoke, where he lived and worked for several years during Tom Ford’s storied tenure at Gucci.
“London is always on my mind and in my memories. I’m obsessed with British culture, past and present. To be able to show the collection inside the Cloisters in Westminster Abbey is magical”
Born and raised in Rome, Michele initially studied at Rome’s Accademia di Costume e di Moda with the intention of pursuing a career in costume design – plans which soon gave way to dreams of a career in fashion. Michele left Rome for Bologna, where he spent three years designing knitwear for French label Les Copains before decamping to Fendi for four years spent as the house’s senior accessories designer. It was there, while working alongside Silvia Venturini Fendi that he would meet his mentor, Frida Giannini.
Michele and Giannini both joined Gucci in 2002, and it wasn’t long before Michele was hand-picked by Ford to work alongside the designer at his Mayfair HQ in London, where the brand was during its halcyon decade-long stint. After Ford’s departure in 2004, Michele returned to Italy, where he spent the last three years working as Giannini’s associate director in Florence.
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Following Giannini’s departure in 2014, Michele has famously not only filled that void but has ushered in an era of remarkable reinvention at Gucci, returning the brand to its glory days both in its home country and its second home abroad, London. As proof of his influence in London, last November Michele received the International Designer of the Year award at the British Fashion Awards in recognition of his impact on global fashion trends and his reinvigoration of the retail experience.
Michele has also spoken a great deal of London’s role as his creative muse, telling interviewers, “I need to go to London. You have everything there—present, past, future, exhibitions, theatre. And real eccentricity is still very much alive with the English—the kids in the East End, beautiful English old ladies.”
No doubt all these worlds and more will collide to spectacular effect in Gucci’s Cruise presentation this coming Thursday. Watch this space.
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