Milan Fashion Week usually begins with a runway extravaganza by Gucci that sets the tone for the shows to come that season. Its final pre-pandemic spectacle, which had guests walk through the backstage area with creative director Alessandro Michele himself before the house’s ateliers put the finishing touches on models in the middle of the runway, was by far the most-talked-about event of the season. But after taking time out to reflect on the way forward for Gucci in terms of sustainability during Covid, Michele announced the brand would no longer be adhering to the seasonal fashion calendar. Instead of staging five shows a year, now there would be two in an effort to reduce waste.

Though his announcement was made in May 2020, just a few months into the pandemic, this week marks Milan’s first return to a somewhat normal fashion week since then, and Gucci’s absence on day one was definitely felt. Thankfully, on Saturday night—the final evening before editors, models, photographers and stylists moved on to Paris—Gucci reappeared in the city, albeit momentarily. 

Opting to use the opportunity of the influx of fashion people in the city, Gucci launched its latest project, Gucci Vault, a digital concept store, with a physical event staged in Milan. An exhibit was created specifically for the event and thereafter, Gucci Vault will exist long-term at, as an “experimental online space”. 

Michele being the rule-bending creative that he is, Gucci Vault isn’t any run of the mill online designer store. Instead, it’s focused on vintage, in keeping with his sustainability mindset. It will offer a selection of one-off vintage pieces from across the 100-year history of the house that are freshly refurbished by Gucci artisans and both customised and curated by Michele himself.

Furthermore, also available for purchase on the site will be a range of pieces—some made exclusively—from 13-strong global emerging designers. Those lucky enough to be handpicked for the project include Ahluwalia, Bianca Saunders, Boramy Viguier, Charles de Vilmorin, Collina Strada, Cormio, Gui Rosa, Jordanluca, Rave Review, Rui Zhou, Shanel Campbell, Stefan Cooke, and Yueqi Qi, all of whom first partnered with the brand for the Gucci Fest short film programme that ran in November 2020.

Michele has publicly endorsed a fusing of brands through collaborations many times and earlier this year, Gucci teamed up with Balenciaga—dubbing the collaboration a “mutual contamination”. There was a viral range released with The North Face, too. But though other brands, such as Moncler, routinely work with designers outside of their walls, Gucci choosing to spotlight and support a group of next-gen creatives in such a highly visible way and in such a long-term, ongoing basis is unique.

Of course, the transaction isn’t one-sided: by partnering with this group of up-and-coming designers, Gucci will no doubt prick the attention of younger millennials and Gen Z, who would currently look to the likes of SSENSE to shop these brands and similar. Though Gucci likely isn’t looking to set its sites on creating a huge e-tailer to rival the current industry heavyweights, it has noted that the 13 designers chosen for the Vault’s debut will likely in time be joined by others. Watch this space.