Alessandro Michele, the creative director of Gucci, astounded audiences this week by showing his Fall 2018 collection in a Milanese operating theater. Models carried baby dragons, iguanas and fake human heads, and some wore third eyes on their foreheads. Online, Chinese fashion fans were divided over its success.
Since Michele joined Gucci as a creative director in January 2015, the brand has reinvented itself at an unprecedented pace. It blurred gender lines by combining its men’s and women’s runway shows in 2016, and traveled through time in an Ancient-Rome-inspired catwalk in 2017.
This year, the company again pushed the envelope, blending Renaissance art with the spirit of post-humanism. Entitled “Cyborg,” the show drew on Donna Haraway’s 1984 essay “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.”
Gucci’s bizarre-looking runway show generated a huge response on Chinese social media sites. On one hand, the show was admired for its use of cutting-edged technologies, such as 3D-printing, for its stage props. The sheer joy in the designs made the line suitable for everyone ranging from “six to 60,” as popular fashion commentator Gogoboi put it. On the other hand, many commenters on Weibo were grossed out, finding the show more like a “horror movie.”
Others were more pragmatic and price-conscious, concerned that some of the designs could be easily copied by Taobao stores, making them not worth their high price tags.
It is clear that luxury brands are working hard to reach the younger generation, and their insatiable appetite for novelty. Conventional wisdom says luxury brands should create items that are timeless, but Gucci has demonstrated a willingness to abandon its chic, classic designs to bring in a younger, braver audience.
Chinese consumers, like consumers around the world, are looking for different things. The question is, can Gucci cater to all of them?