Alessandro Michele’s Spring/Summer 2023 offering for Gucci featured dozens of sets of twins—and a powerful political message. Here, British Vogue’s fashion critic Anders Christian Madsen recaps the designer’s most personal collection to date.
The show built up to a big surprise
Twinning is winning. At least if you ask Alessandro Michele, who—at the end of a 68-look Gucci collection presented on individual models—raised a wall placed at the center of his runway to reveal that another audience had been watching the same show on the other side… on identical twin models. You could literally hear a gasp penetrating the soundtrack as his guests realized what was going on. Titled Twinsburg, the show was Michele’s ode to the duality he said exists within us all. As the shock settled in the audience, each of the twins joined hands and started the show from scratch, walking the runway together as Marianne Faithfull recited a nursery rhyme to cinematic music on the soundtrack. “We are two totally opposite, different, identical twins.” For Michele, it was personal. “Sometimes I meet my other me in the dark of night,” he admitted.
Alessandro Michele is the son of twins
Michele grew up knowing two mothers: his biological mother and her twin sister, who looked and dressed identically, lived in the same house, and both played an equal maternal role in his life. When he was seven years old, in 1979, his aunt died. “Day after day, I was waiting for my other mother to come back,” he recalled in an interview after the show. “One of the two had disappeared but nobody told me my aunt was not my mum.” It instilled in Michele a lifelong fascination with twindom, not just from a biological point of view but in spirit: the idea that two personas inhabit our souls and make up our characters. “Twinsburg is us. It’s a viewpoint. It’s my home. Yours too,” he said. “It’s a reflection on otherness: the other person who lives inside of you when you dig inside yourself.” And, he noted, a message about finding common ground. “If you make an effort, there’s somebody out there who’s like you. That’s the idea.”
The collection drew on Michele’s 1980s upbringing—and the Gremlins
Because it was a personal collection for Michele, it materialized in the aesthetics you suspected he grew up with. It was a view of the 1980s expressed in a decidedly thrift store-y take on his time-traveling Gucci street style: oversized droopy-shouldered blousons resembling Members Only jackets, voluminous leather joggers, two-piece wrap suits cut like samue, flouncy broad-shouldered jumpsuits, and a wealth of power prints, a lot of which could have been fished out of a West London vintage store. “We all have some objects that have made the world of clothing fascinating,” he said. “My cross-references are self-explanatory. I like to say they’re so clear they’re pornographic.” He adorned the collection’s accessories with a fluffy 1980s mascot: the Gremlins. “It’s a pop reference that can transform and become very evil and naughty, and also multiply,” as he put it. It was, naturally, timely—next year, a series reboot of the film is set to premiere on HBO.
Slogans protested the rise of the far-right in Italy
The show opened with an expression of the duality Michele was investigating: a gentleman’s suit with trousers cut in the memory of a lady’s suspender belt. “I’m fascinated with the relationship between the garment and the male body,” Michele said. “The suit reveals a part of the male body that’s normally covered. It’s the twin of the formal suit with the same body, but different.” With Italy on the brink of a seismic election that could put in power its most right-wing government since the Second World War and threaten LGBTQIA+ rights, amongst others freedoms, those types of garments were loaded with importance for Michele, who also emblazoned pieces with the word “Fuori!” Meaning “out”, it’s the name of the first homosexual organization in the country founded in 1971. “The election shows that freedom is being eroded. There was a time when we achieved a lot, but now it’s very complex,” he said. “We should not take anything for granted.”
It was Michele’s most personal collection to date
While Michele’s work for Gucci has always been reflective of his own life, this collection was his most overtly personal to date. Not only did he speak about his twin mothers, but about the process he has been going through in therapy trying to understand his own duality. “When I started seeing my therapist, she knew I was afraid of going to events,” he said, revealing a part of his character that would perhaps surprise many. “One day, I told her I had finally had fun at an event, and she said, ‘You were with another version of yourself. That’s why.’” For that reason, it seemed like a cathartic show for Michele, who said he had cried during the finale. “Working is becoming more and more intense for me. Trying to do things in a significant way requires a lot of passion. It’s much more complex, now, doing this job. There’s a time when you ask yourself, why am I doing this? But in a world where politics is a catastrophe and the planet is a disaster, as human beings, the only weapon we have is to imagine something else and make it happen. You’re not just working on shoes and bags and outfits.”
This post was originally published on Vogue UK