Gucci sends a rabbit down the runway: the Aria collection celebrates the Italian label's 100th anniversary

Alessandro Michele also looked to the maison's equestrian heritage as well as seeking inspiration from Tom Ford and Balenciaga

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Gucci turns 100 years old this year. Legend has it that the Italian fashion house's founder Guccio Gucci was an ardent admirer of the leather travel bags he came in contact with when he was working as a bellhop at the Savoy hotel in London. When he returned to Florence, Guccio opened his own leather goods shop, specialising in bags as well as leather equestrian equipment.

On Thursday, Gucci's creative director Alessandro Michele paid homage to both the Savoy and the house's equine heritage, as well as celebrating Gucci's milestone birthday with a collection titled Aria.

Michele, who has come to be known for his eccentric aesthetic and unusual props also sent a rabbit down the runway.

ROME, ITALY - APRIL 15: A detail from Gucci Aria collection on April 15, 2021 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Ernesto S. Ruscio/Getty Images for Gucci)
A model for Gucci's Aria collection, shown on Thursday. Photo: Ernesto S Ruscio / Getty Images for Gucci

“Gucci was born under some kind of constellation, because the power it holds is nearly inexplicable,’’ Michele said in a video press conference.

The show took place in a film-set version of at the Savoy, while its title Aria refers to Italy's famed lyric opera.

Models walked down long-corridor runways outfitted with hundreds of flashing cameras nailed to the wall in the place of absent paparazzi. A medley of Gucci-themed pop songs – proof, if needed, of the brand's enduring relevance – provided the soundtrack.

Michele also borrowed references from the Tom Ford era and from French sister-brand Balenciaga, which is part of the same parent company, Kering.

“Tom understood right from the beginning that Gucci had some kind of magnetism, this cult power,” Michele said.

Tom Ford’s 1996 red velvet suit was reworked to include a leather harness and worn over a powder blue shirt, while a glittery silver suit came out emblazoned with both Gucci and Balenciaga.

Michele also put a spin on Gucci’s trademark equestrian references, including riding caps, fringed leather riding crops and spit-polished boots mixed with glamorous sequined evening wear. Elsewhere, models sported jewellery dangling, in true Michele form, from their noses.

ROME, ITALY - APRIL 15: A detail from Gucci Aria collection on April 15, 2021 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Ernesto S. Ruscio/Getty Images for Gucci)
A detail from Gucci's Aria collection shown in Rome on April 15. Photo: Ernesto S Ruscio / Getty Images for Gucci

This was the first collection of 2021 for Gucci, which announced it will no longer follow the traditional fashion calendar and only present two collections a year, in the case of Aria in the form of a video presentation in a year when the pandemic has all but shut down in-person shows.

Reflecting on the century marker, Michele said Gucci's magic is its ability to redefine itself over time, unbeholden to any strictly defined image. “I am trying to renew for the millionth time this brand, this name, this myth, this saga, because Gucci is a complex container that holds many, many things."

With additional reporting from Associated Press