“Gucci’s long history can’t be contained within a single inaugural act.”
So said Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s creative director, in a statement that followed the brand’s 100th anniversary fashion show last night. And he’s right: a century is a long time, enough time for a Florentine leather goods shop to evolve into the sexiest fashion label of the Nineties, and then again into the phenomenon it is today that has people dressing in colourful, romantic and even gender-blurring clothes.
We saw glimpses of that history in Aria, Gucci’s Fall/Winter 2021 collection, which was unveiled through a supercharged fashion film. Models walked through walls of flashing lights — the kind of showy display you’d expect from Gucci’s erstwhile designer, Tom Ford — that lit up their equestrian-turned-fetish accessories like leather whips, harnesses and riding boots. Soon came the Tom Ford suits as well as the matching monogrammed ensembles that become second skin for the likes of Lil’ Kim in the aughts. And then, the future: the Gucci and Balenciaga collaboration.
Or “hacking”, to use Michele’s words. We saw a crossover of both his and Balenciaga designer Demna Gvasalia’s signatures (the draped dresses, the wraparound sunglasses, the boxy coats with bold shoulders) throughout the collection. There was also logomania like we’ve never seen before, not even when Louis Vuitton teamed up with Supreme.
And indeed this collaboration is bigger than that, or the Moncler Genius projects, or Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons working together. With two of luxury fashion’s heavyweights joining forces, we’ve entered a whole new level of commerciality that might just set the standard of collaborations in the 2020s. Gucci didn’t just reflect on its history; it made history.
You already know that the Gucci x Balenciaga collection is going to be everywhere. You’ll see it flaunted by celebrities and influencers on Instagram. You’ll recognise it on the streets, worn by rich kids sporting equally coveted thousand-dollar sneakers. You’ll hear it name-dropped in the years to come by hypebeasts scouring for resellers on Grailed and StockX. Which brings us to the question: what on Earth do you cop when the collection finally drops?
To give you an idea, we’ve listed some of the coolest merchandise we spotted in the fashion film — and what makes them a collectible piece of fashion history.
Look no further for the most accessible and wearable pieces from the collaboration. Cuban link chain accessories have recently been popularised by the likes of A$AP Rocky and Timothée Chalamet, and plenty of fashion brands have cashed in on the trend, including Kim Jones’ Dior, Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton and Matthew Williams’ Givenchy. Now, Alessandro Michele and Demna Gvasalia does them one better by adding their respective brand logos — or combining them, in the case of the BALENCIAGA choker. We don’t know a more hype-worthy accessory.
The Jackie 1961 bag
Gucci’s sleek hobo bag was only revived from the Italian brand’s archives two seasons ago, but it has become an instant classic. The Jackie 1961 bag has found famous fans like Cate Blanchett and Elle Fanning; with this new style, covered in Balenciaga’s logo, it’s sure to attract even more. The bag retains the elegance and polish of its original form, but that all-over print adds a dose of Balenciaga cool that makes it perfect for the streets.
The Hourglass bag
It’s not just Gucci’s signature bags that made the collaboration. The Balenciaga Hourglass handbag, first introduced in 2019 by Demna Gvasalia and has been a hit for seasons now, got the Gucci treatment in two versions. One comes in the brand’s GG Supreme canvas, which shows off the now ubiquitous monogram.
The other version, truer to Gucci’s romantic side, is lavishly adorned with a floral print from the ’60s that first appeared on a Gucci silk scarf commissioned for Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco. (It was later brought back for the Cruise 2019 collection.) For the collab, the floral print is now intertwined with Balenciaga’s logo, layering both brands’ histories over each other — as if the top-handle bag didn’t stand out enough already.
Both Alessandro Michele and Demna Gvasalia have shown a predilection for colourful footwear and hosiery — think colourful tights from the first, and skin-tight, thigh-high boots from the latter. This pair of boots, featuring the same floral print we mentioned above, is the inevitable result of the two designers coming together. It’s definitely going to give Marine Serre’s trendy boots a run for its money.
The oversized jacket
If you missed out on the jackets from the Gucci x The North Face collection, consider this an upgraded alternative. The hooded outerwear piece not only makes a statement with its voluminous shape, but also with Gucci’s GG Supreme canvas remixed with an all-over Balenciaga print. This September, the jacket is coming to a hypebeast near you.
The sequin suit
Finally, the most ostentatious look from the collaboration: the sequin ensemble covered in both brand’s logos. The stunning suit is done up in sequins, a key element of the Aria collection and also a nod to Michele’s love for vintage glamour. But the silhouette of the jacket, with its cinched waist and power shoulders, as well as those second-skin boots, are classic Gvasalia. We can’t wait to see which celebrity pulls this look off first — hopefully, they do so with one of Gucci’s crystalized heart minaudières.
Header photo credit: Gucci