A lot of otherwise eminently celebrateable anniversaries have simply come and gone over the past fifteen months (Art Basel turned 50 last June, to little fanfare), as lockdown conditions have stifled any possibility of proper in-person commemorations…and a lot of champagne has gone undrunk.
But the news of Gucci turning 100 could surely not be overcome by even these so very devastating pandemic conditions. So the exalted Italian fashion house enlisted that reigning queen of visual iconoclasm herself, director-photographer Floria Sigismondi, to conjure a not-really-so-short film to ballyhoo its new Aria collection, a historic creative partnership with Balenciaga.
Guccio Gucci, of course, founded his namesake brand in a postwar Florence in 1921 – but it was actually his son Aldo who elevated it to international attention during Italy’s age of La Dolce Vita (the late 1950s to early ’60s). Infighting ultimately led to the family being ousted from its own company during the ’90s, and Pinault Printemps Redoute (now Kering) purchased it in 1999. As of 2020 it was a $13 billion concern.
Fittingly, the Aria collection is a landmark collaboration between Balenciaga Creative Director Demna Gvasalia and Gucci’s own Alessandro Michele – as a 100th birthday would obviously demand nothing less. And Sigismondi’s film, despite an opening moment of her signature surrealism (and a possible nod to Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou), plays it pretty straight, creating a glittering runway – at the Savoy Club at London’s Savoy Hotel, where Guccio was an elevator operator in his youth – of flashing (unmanned) cameras and photographic lights, and letting the clothes speak for themselves.
It gets a little freaky at the end, with models and white horses flitting about a fantastical forest – and we’ll defer on analyzing the symbolism. The soundtrack was assembled by Michele himself, and mixed by Lawrence Rothman.
As the designer so perfectly sums it all up, “It’s rather like a deep and ecstatic diving in everything we yearningly miss today… a jubilee of breath.”
Happy Birthday, Gucci.