Gucci under the creative direction of Tom Ford was, arguably, one of the sexiest eras in fashion history. From 1994 to 2004, Ford, with the help of our own Carine Roitfeld, transformed the storied Italian house into a bastion of hedonism, seduction, and eroticism. Season after season, he presented garments with higher hemlines, more creative cutouts, sheerer fabrics, and more sleek silhouettes that oozed sensuality and empowered clients to embrace their sexuality in the chicest way possible.
However, when Alessandro Michele took the reins at Gucci in 2015, he gave the brand an entirely different ethos. Simply put, the minimalist, seductive aesthetic Gucci embodied under Ford was swapped for a bold, campy, and vibrant one. And, after roughly seven years of exploring this novel maximalism, it seemed as though the house had ceased to be sexy…until now, that is.
As of late, Gucci has undergone a second “sexual awakening,” if you will. In his most recent collections and campaigns, Michele has whole-heartedly embraced the brand’s erotic past. In addition to paying homage to Ford’s aesthetic by referencing some of his most iconic styles, he has brought his own pension for extravagance to the sexy ethos. This has resulted in Michele presenting eroticism in the most bold way possible, sending BDSM-inspired looks down the runway one after the other, as well as looking to bondage for inspiration in his campaign imagery.
The Gucci Aria collection, which saw the brand collaborate with (or get “hacked” by) Balenciaga for the Fall/Winter 2021 season, witnessed this resurgence of sexuality come to fruition in a truly unabashed way. The first look of the collection saw Ford’s beloved red velvet suit from the Fall/Winter 1996 return, indicating Michele’s intention to reestablish Gucci as a sexy label. However, the addition of the black leather horse bit-embellished harness hinted that he meant to re-establish this famous eroticism in his own, more extravagant way. From there, models were sent town the runway donning various bondage-themed accessories and garments. While also referencing the brand’s equestrian past, Michele’s looks featured more iterations of the leather harness, whips, headpieces, and chokers.
Likewise, the campaign for the Aria collection, shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, showed this new and revamped eroticism showcased in both a physical and psychological way. Based on the Greek god Eros, who is the son of Aphrodite and the god of sexual desire and love, the images demonstrated a heightened connection between the mind and body in Michele’s vision of sexuality. Specifically, the models and muses were captured browsing or posing with essays related to sex, including, “Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex” by Sigmund Freud, “Bodies that Matter” by Judith Butler, and “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by Walter Benjamin. Michele also delved further into his foray into the bondage aesthetic as leather whips and harnesses were heavily featured.
Most recently, with its Spring/Summer 2022 show, dubbed “Love Parade,” Gucci continued showcasing its renewed sexiness. Once again, the BDSM and kink theme was emphasized, as models were sent down the runway donning silver butt plug pendants and vaginal beads that hung from necklaces. Others casually carried gilded anal beads as if they were handbags. Michele also built upon this fetishism with new fabrics and erotic silhouettes. Lace was presented numerous times, paying homage to the traditional conception of lingerie through bustier-style dresses, suits, layered skirts, and thigh-high stockings. Latex was also a significant player, as it appeared in the form of crop tops paired with fingerless leather gloves. Another sexy accessory to make its runway debut for Gucci was pasties. Under sheer tops or blazers, select models sported star-shaped pasties that added an extra touch of bold seductiveness to already erotic looks.
Gucci has even managed to adapt this rediscovered sexuality to the red carpet as well. The 2021 Los Angeles County Museum of Art Gala saw the brand styling several celebs in a risqué way. Perhaps the best examples of this sexy styling were Elle Fanning and Billie Eilish who both attended the event in sheer, lace or tulle lingerie-inspired gowns. However, more recently, at the 2021 EMAs, Gucci dressed the beloved Italian rock group Måneskin with this erotic sensibility in mind. Although the entire band sported Gucci garments, lead singer Damiano David’s look was particularly hot. The jaw-dropping ensemble saw the vocalist in a sheer tied-up button down, lace panties, a leather garter belt, fishnet thigh-highs, latex gloves, and a studded codpiece. Needless to say, it was epitomized the novel, bold sex appeal that Michele is now trying to channel in each of his new collections.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Tom Ford sparked Gucci’s first sexual awakening, with a sleek, sensual, and minimal aesthetic. Now, much to everyone’s surprise, the campy and maximalist Alessandro Michele is giving the brand its second, but in an altogether different way. By boldly dabbling in the typically taboo realm of bondage and exploring sexuality in a psychological way, Michele has undoubtedly built on the legacy of Ford’s hedonistic and more subdued seductive vision. However, more than this, he is proving that Gucci will always be a sexy house, capable of tapping into and honoring different erotic sensibilities in a truly unapologetic way.END
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