Image: Courtesy of Gucci

As the world moved indoors in March, fashion creatives were forced to drastically rethink the way they did business. How to quickly innovate their e-commerce offerings, when all retail spaces were indefinitely closed? How to showcase the transcendental power of clothing, during a time where everyone was living in loungewear? And how to change the frenetic nature of our consumption habits—when the cost of not doing so was becoming more and more abundantly clear?

Perhaps no one took this period of soul-searching quite as seriously as Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s enigmatic creative director. In the early days of lockdown, the Rome-born designer—who has been at the helm of Gucci since 2015—began to reimagine Gucci’s relationship with fashion month. In May, he revealed plans to condense the brand’s runway offering from five to two shows per year, eschewing ‘Cruise’ and combining the menswear and womenswear shows.

Michele also revealed plans for an ambitious week-long digital project known as GucciFest, which would replace the traditional runway show during the spring summer 21 season. Yesterday evening, GucciFest came to life.
Image: Courtesy of Gucci

The project mimics a traditional film festival, with Michele releasing one short film—each a composite part of a larger project called Ouverture of Something that Never Ended—per day over a seven-day period. These 20-minute episodes are directed by the pioneering New Queer Cinema filmmaker Gus Van Sant, and written by Michele himself. The first installment, aptly titled ‘At Home,’ was released last night (each episode will be released at 9PM CET for the rest of the week) and depicted the Italian performance artist Silvia Calderoni and an assortment of other Gucci-clad characters as they moved through a chic, leafy abode in the heart of Rome.

If the first episode is anything to go by, Ouverture of Something that Never Ended will explore the spectrum of gender identityan ongoing topic of fascination for 48-year-old Michele. One could convincingly argue that his designswith their eclectic blend of 70s-style tailoring, feminine sex appeal, and unapologetic dandyism—have helped pave the way for a more mainstream acceptance of gender-neutral dressing. Harry Styles’ much-discussed Vogue coverin which the singer wears a bespoke gown, designed by Michelebeing the most recent example.

Image: Courtesy of Gucci

Among other things, the pioneering spirit of GucciFest is its accessibility. I wrote in September about how the traditional fashion month model felt strangely outdated in the era of COVID-19. It felt particularly exclusive to watch the runway shows take place this season—seeing as everyone was stuck indoors, in desperate need of a little distraction. The immersive experiences created by Prada, Loewe and Moschino felt extremely modern—inviting their brands’ dedicated customers into a space previously blocked off for anyone who wasn’t an editor, A-lister or influencer.

And why shouldn’t everyone be invited? Bi-annual runway shows serve a practical purpose for an industry that is able to travel. But as we continue to discuss the calamitous cost of fashion’s waste problem, the value of traditional fashion week seems increasingly questionable. An interactive film festival, in which the whole world is invited to share in Alessandro Michele’s exquisite vision of a high-camp, gender-less future, is a reminder of the exact reason people fall in love with fashion in the first place. We can’t wait to see more.

You can watch GucciFest here.