In the darkened halls of Rome’s Capitoline Museums on Tuesday evening, designer Alessandro Michele presented Gucci’s Cruise collection on a group of somber-faced models sporting an eclectic mix of fashions.
On a white sheet hung in the entryway, a quote by French historian Paul Veyne welcomed viewers: “Because only pagan antiquity could arouse my desire. Because it was the world of the past, because it was a world that no longer exists.”
With styles referencing seemingly every fashion from every decade—and with a special emphasis on the history of Italian dress—the collection was a feast for the eyes. But it also came with a stark and unprecedented social message: that Gucci and Michele stand in support of abortion rights.
In place of cutting-edge design and artful embellishment, three deceptively simple looks brought to light Michele and Gucci’s stance. In one, a purple jacquard pantsuit proclaimed “My Body, My Choice” on the back, in homage to a popular feminist slogan. In another, a capelet over a a silk pajama set was emblazoned with “22.05.1978” in crimson block letters, noting the date on which abortion became protected by Italian courts. And in a third, the midsection of a white dress featured an embroidered uterus, from which pink flowers bloomed.
Although the show took place in Italy, the political messaging, it seems, was intended for a decidedly non-Italian audience. In the US, the question over abortion rights has roiled American politics in recent weeks, and in states such as Missouri, Ohio, Georgia, and Alabama, hardline legislators are passing or proposing strict anti-abortion laws.
Some of the female models in the show had scarf motifs painted across their mouths, as if they were being silenced. At the same time, their fashions reflected a free-spirited style from decades past. “There is a strong reference to the 1970s because in this time women, through what they wore, freed themselves of everything enforced on them from previous centuries,” Michele explained on Twitter.
While the iconoclastic Michele is perhaps unsurprisingly the first designer this season to weigh in on the abortion debate, his move is likely to inspire others to consider their own messaging.
In a bold move, Gucci is also taking a further financial stand on the issue. In collaboration with Italian muralist MP5, Michele designed a graphic t-shirt (it was also featured in the collection) that will be sold to benefit projects around the world that support women’s rights. All sales proceeds will go to those causes.
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