Milan Fashion Week: Gucci celebrates 90 years

By Harriet Walker

Milan Fashion Week opened yesterday with a show of strength and sparkle from an international mega-brand steeped in history.

Gucci celebrates its 90th anniversary this year, and the company's creative director, Frida Giannini, presented a collection that nodded to the label's fashionable roots and formidable reputation.

References included Metropolis and Blade Runner, with fringed shift dresses dripping metallic beads and chains combining the flapper styles prevalent during the early years of the house with the sleek, urban aesthetic for which it has become known latterly.

Bugle beads, carved Plexiglass and crystals snaked over black silk in linear art deco patterns, while slash necks and drop waists undercut the excesses to create a loose, almost boyish, silhouette.

"I wanted to explore an optical side of femininity by creating a sculptural glamour," explained Giannini.

"Fusing elements of our DNA, from design history - making them current with a strong sense of personality."

It is personality that lies at the label's heart, to which the interlocking 'G's of its signature print attest. They stand for Guccio Gucci, a dishwasher turned leather merchant who set up a saddlery shop in Florence in 1906 and founded the label there in 1921.

Having worked at the Savoy hotel in London, he was aware of the tastes of the jet set, for whom his bags and valises became a must-have.

Success was cemented during the war, when the next generation of Guccis introduced a low-cost, printed canvas range, and the label then diversified into clothing during the 1960s. It was a favourite with Jackie Onassis, after whom a handbag is named.

Since then, Gucci has been synonymous with high-end hedonism. During the late Nineties it became famous under the designer Tom Ford for its sexualised campaign imagery and tight-fitting opulence.

But Frida Giannini has carefully woven the label's divergent high-glitz and heritage strands together since taking over in 2005, picking up where Ford left off in the glamour stakes but adding some of the bohemian and equestrian influences of the brand's origins, all finished with a characteristically slick Italianate gloss.

Yesterday's collection was evidence enough: gold chains, scarf prints, frogging and enamel found in the house's archives adorned slim-fitting jackets and deconstructed tuxedos paired with narrow-leg and pin-tucked silk trousers.

The label's signature shade of green was rendered in Chrysler motifs and stripes, as well as abstracted animal prints merged together on shift dresses and chiffon blouses.

- INDEPENDENT

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