Alessandro Michele’s line of reasoning has never been linear. The collections he creates are prismatic affairs, as visually diverse as they are infused by meanings sometimes impervious to easy deciphering. His fascination for layered references and his love of history make him a collector of objects and memories, an archivist of galaxies of images. Not surprisingly, he called his resort collection Cosmogonies.
At Gucci, Michele has brought his collections to places of esoteric, disquieting charm—the Promenade des Alycamps in Arles, an ancient necropolis, or Rome’s Musei Capitolini overlooking the Fori Imperiali, where archeological remains give off vibes of splendor and decay. But as far as magical thinking goes, Castel del Monte, where he choose to show his resort, surely upstages his previous settings. A majestic fortress in the shape of an octagonal turreted crown smack in the middle of Puglia’s flat countryside, it was built around the thirteenth century by the emperor Frederick II, a maverick monarch—poet, polyglot, mathematician, and magician—who presided over a sophisticated multicultural court of astronomers, artists, and warriors. In the castle’s construction, the number eight was obsessively repeated as an arcane bearer of meaning. It goes without saying that Michele was drawn to the genius loci of this rather extraordinary setting.
“I was looking for a place which gave grace to the mythological,” he explained. “It’s a site where measurements and proportions cross each other as if by magic—the same way measurements of collars and jackets can be somehow magical.” For Michele, the mystery of Castel del Monte resonates with the enigmatic genesis of his creativity, “which operates through the need of putting together constellations of signs and symbols.”
Michele’s collections seem to be part of a complex, well orchestrated flux of consciousness, gelled into attractive visual dénouements. While widely Instagram-compelling and immediate, they’re often substantiated by high-falutin, erudite citations. The idea of “cosmogonies of constellations” was born after a reading of German philosopher Hannah Arendt’s essay on Walter Benjamin, whose library was confiscated by the Gestapo, leaving him unable to access to the eclectic network of other people’s thoughts that nurtured his entire oeuvre.
Michele has often built on the tension and vitality of the past to write his own version of the present. “Clothes are mediums, strata of languages,” he said. “Today, ‘making fashion’ doesn’t mean just being a tailor, or chronicling just a one-dimensional narration. Putting together a collection has to do with talking about your idea of the world, because fashion is deeply connected to life and to humanity. Fashion isn’t just a hieroglyph that only élites can understand. It’s about life, it speaks a multitude of idioms, it’s like a huge choir from which nobody has to be excluded. It’s like being at sea, in the ocean, and casting out someone or something is not being fair to the complexity of life.”