Straight jackets and elegance, Gucci SS20 decoded

The mis-en-scene was a red-lit room when an aggregation of models, 21 to be exact, came dressed in straight jacket uniforms, some bare foot, and walked down a conveyor to open the Gucci SS20 show.

Clad in all white, models were strapped, harnessed and sullen, raising their palms to photographers at the end of the catwalk, which were inked with the slogan "Mental Health is not Fashion."

Straight jackets and elegance, Gucci SS20 decoded

And that was just the beginning. Alessandro Michele backstage revealed his biggest fear is that of boredom. Better to cause an earthquake than not try to shift the tectonic plates of fashion.

Straight jackets and elegance, Gucci SS20 decoded

A new era of elegance

And shift they did. Perhaps not seismologically, but Michele moved Gucci in a new direction, with less focus on quirky, fantasist retro ensembles, to a place of new elegance, even sexiness. There was an echo to the mood in Milan, which called for pared-down, less-is-more collections this season.

Clashing prints were in the minority. Instead colour-blocking, clean lines, even black - a hue Michele has mostly eschewed in his collections - gave interest to tailoring that had a whiff of Tom Ford from the 90s and even the brand's 70s heyday.

Straight jackets and elegance, Gucci SS20 decoded

Slip dresses, plunging necklines, thigh-split midi skirts and long latex gloves were Michele's first foray into a territory that explored the erogenous, willfully reverberated by Madonna's "Justify My Love" permeating the soundtrack.

Graphic patches that read Orgasmique and Eterotopio were sewn onto the hems of trousers, sleeves and bags, a reference to philosopher Michel Foucault's concept for describing cultural spaces that are somehow 'other', upsetting what is outside.

Straight jackets and elegance, Gucci SS20 decoded

Gucci, in the past five years, has been transforming and contradictory to much of its past and the industry at large. Michele created an revolutionary aesthetic that reflected the zeitgeist of gender fluidity, individuality and escapism and became an instant hit. The company is now on a trajectory to become a 10 billion euro business by 2020, although it is no longer seeing the same pace of double digit growth as before.

Will this collection echo the merchandising genius of previous seasons? Some argue that Gucci is 'cooling off', as all mega-brands tend to do in the cycle that is fashion. The numbers, in the end, will tell all.

Photos courtesy of Gucci