Although it was significantly less buzzy than it might’ve been if one of the name-brand designers rumored to have been in the running had gotten the gig—Tisci, Kane, Altuzarra, Ford, even—Alessandro Michele’s Gucci show today still qualified as a moment. Fashion loves a debut; consider all the unanswered questions: Would Michele take Gucci in the more daring direction Kering chief François-Henri Pinault said was necessary for the cooling brand? Would his womenswear follow the androgynous lead of his hastily-put-together menswear show in January? What’s with the mop of scruffy, shoulder-length hair? Beyond the curiosity factor, there’s always a cross-your-fingers feeling to these occasions, and not just for the Gucci executives who want to put the company back in growth mode. We’re all critics, but we love having someone new to cheerlead.

And it’s not hard to get behind Michele. A brief preshow introduction suggests he’s laid-back where his predecessor, Frida Giannini, was nervy, emotional where she was more formal. The notes left on every seat quoted the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben: “Those who are truly contemporary are those who neither perfectly coincide with their time nor adapt to its demands…Contemporariness, then, is that relationship with time that adheres to it through a disconnection.” Talk about putting it all on the line. Indeed, Michele’s Fall collection felt like a very sharp break from Giannini’s Gucci. Ford’s, too—it’s the in-your-face sex of his late ’90s collections, after all, that lingers in the memory. The new man at the helm has a decidedly more romantic outlook. His Gucci girl is an ingenue with an eccentric side, one who looks as though she’s picked out her clothes at estate sales and vintage stores, and mixed them magpie-style with handfuls of heirloom rings, chunky rimmed glasses, the occasional pompom hat, and fur-lined horse-bit loafers. The ready-to-wear ranged far and wide. From best to less-so, it included colorful coats with fur cuffs and military leanings; fluttery, shapeless botanic print dresses; and unlined, skin-baring point d’esprit separates. Many of the pieces were pressed with creases at odd places—several inches above the hem of trousers, down the side of a jacket, or all over in the case of a blue plissé dress. “I love the idea that a dress has a memory,” Michele said.

The overriding impression of this collection was one of youthful naïveté. As playful and irreverent as it was, it lacked a bit for sophistication, which is as much a part of the Italian house’s heritage as the interlocking G’s that appeared on the new, rectangular bag shape. There’s a significant amount of goodwill for Michele, and it’s clear from Instagram that he wrapped a lot of the audience in his poetic embrace—from the looks of it they’ll be wrapping themselves in his fur with embroidered crystal birds on the back. But to make his vision stick, he’ll need to give it a lot more substance going forward.

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