“Cruise” seems, by definition, a supremely happy season, but not for Gucci. Their cruise 2019 show, rounding out the season’s circuit in the South of France, was an ode to death with a beautiful 1930s Hollywood-funeral vibe. The rich references combined with the modern Gucci clothes brought new life to eras of the past.
Guests arrived at the location after sundown, greeted by lit candles and a medieval church in the distance. Gregorian chants replaced the upbeat DJ music that normally scores runway shows.
Michele designed a whopping 114 looks for the show. From the macabre details (teddy bears, death masks, rosary chokers) to the streetwear-ready ensembles (dirty sneakers and glamorous overcoats), each of the looks was on theme. Some of the models in opulent dresses walked uncomfortably close to the flames, which only added dramatic effect.
Designer Michele was inspired by the fascination with death, specifically in rock and roll and goth culture. So the show was rife with references to death — below are some of the best, from The Divine Comedy to John Belushi.
The show was held at a graveyard in Arles, France. The Alyscamps is a UNESCO World Heritage site, honoring a fourth-century Roman burial ground. Michele was inspired both by the origin of the site and the fact that it had been made into a chic travel destination in the 18th century. “It is hybridized, it does not look like a cemetery because it is and it isn’t,” Michele said on Instagram. “I like things that seem like something but are not.”
The Chateau Marmont
Michele is known to throw in odd references in his show (the Yankees logo in the middle of his show featuring dragons comes to mind). This time, the Chateau Marmont logo appeared on several outfits, including the hotel’s unofficial mascot Pan, the god of the wild, shepherds, and flocks. The famous L.A. hotel is said to be haunted by the ghost of John Belushi, who died on the premises.
Gucci wrote in their show notes that the flames and and flowers are inspired by symbols left on ancient graves found in Scotland.
The Divine Comedy
Passages from the famous work about the afterlife were embroidered onto clothes. The passage in question references Arles by name.
Of the great multitude of either train,
Christened or paynim, killed in that last fight,
Though in unequal parts (for, of the slain,
By far more Saracens were killed in flight,
By hands of those redoubted damsels twain),
Signs even to this day remain in sight:
For, hard by Arles, where sleeps the lazy Rhone,
The plain with rising sepulchres is strown.
Inferno IX, 112-117
The beautiful, slightly wilted bouquets were meant to represent widows carrying flowers down to their husbands’ gravesites. Many of the models holding bouquets also were shrouded in black veils, furthering the analogy.
Out of the 114 looks for the show, one that stood out was a pair of pants embroidered with “memento mori,” Latin for “remember death.” It is an important idea in Stoicism, medieval Christianity, and art history.
One particularly spooky look included a glittering mask made of pantyhose material. Despite its blow-up-doll look, it was a reference to ancient death masks, just Gucci-fied.
Many of the early looks were adorned with glittering crosses, as earrings, chokers, brooches, and necklaces. Others carried the crosses by hand, as if in prayer.
All these references serve to represent the fascination and costuming around death that inspired Michele more than the afterlife itself. After the show, Sir Elton John performed at the after-party for celebrities like A$AP Rocky, Saoirse Ronan, and Salma Hayek. He dedicated “Rocket Man” to Michele and “Tiny Dancer” to Saoirse Ronan. Gucci truly embraced the rockstar lifestyle and also threw an after-after party, DJed by Keira Knightley’s husband James Righton.