Exclusive: Gucci’s Alessandro Michele On How To Shoot A Fashion Campaign During Lockdown
What happens when Gucci’s creative director gave a bunch of models carte blanche to create the maison’s Fall/Winter 2020 campaign in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic? This teaser shows the power of collaboration and trusting the process.
While the fashion industry grapples with an existential crisis of how to go about the usual business of producing campaign images during this coronavirus pandemic, Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele was already ahead of the curve. You see, this time of the year is usually when fashion houses would have wrapped up the production of their Fall/Winter 2020 ad campaigns. But then Covid-19 struck, making photoshoots impossible. Instead, virtual photoshoots have become the new normal in this age of social distancing. But as Michele shared in this exclusive preview with Female, that idea of models taking self-portraits to show their P.O.Vs was already an idea he had toyed with from the time he worked on the Fall/Winter 2020 collection early on in the year pre-coronavirus.
With no hair and makeup team on hand, nobody from the Gucci camp to supervise the shoot, and no photographer on set, this DIY project took place during the peak of Europe’s lockdown (Michele was himself was grounded at home in Rome). “For once, I decided to abdicate my role of obsessive director. I chose to let go, to renounce building the scene and the action, to escape the manic supervision,” he said in a statement. “I surrendered to the idea that beauty can appear, unpredictably and wonderfully imperfect, through the absence of control.”
The story I began to tell throughout the last show, continues. On that occasion, I played at
reversing perspective, unveiling what lies behind the curtains, making the heartbeats visible, as
well as the gestures and the minute mechanisms that shape a ritual. Now, the same idea of looking
at things from a different point of view stimulates the possibility of a further displacement.
I decided, in fact, to let the clothes travel towards the houses of the cast of models that usually
bring my campaigns to life. I imagined that the magic and the dream they are made of, may break
through the world and be observed while coming alive, while seizing new spaces and taking root
inside new existences.
In the past, I controlled every detail of the story I wanted to tell; this time, the creative
experimentation goes beyond, towards a further point of no return. For once, I decided to abdicate
my role of obsessive director. I chose to let go, to renounce building the scene and the action, to
escape the manic supervision. I surrendered to the idea that beauty can appear, unpredictably and
wonderfully imperfect, through the absence of control.
So I let my models build their own images. To act as photographers and storytellers, producers
and scenographers. I asked them to represent the idea they have of themselves. To go public with
it, shaping the poetry that accompanies them. I encouraged them to play, improvising with their life.
My creative act took shape through the careful building of an experiment of magic neorealism, with
undetermined outcomes. This time I gave no script to follow. I rather forged the conditions for a
combustion: because I longed for a spark able to set a splendidly eccentric human potential on fire.
And this human potential nourished the campaign with enchantment. The protagonists are, in fact,
the characters that have embodied my stories for years. Individuals I chose precisely, over time, for
their uniqueness. I picked them, once more, because they can’t stop emanating energy and
expression. Because they radiate joy and cheerfulness. Because they have intense passions and
The result was extraordinary for me. In this game of mirrors, that reverses the roles and redefines
the functions, every shot breathes as a fresco. Every gaze, every corner of every house, every
gesture resonates with a beauty that stands out of the ordinary, though living in an ultra ordinary
world. There’s adherence to life, in its more unexpected emotional shades.
The extravagant hyper-naturalism that I have always tried to depict, now emerges even more
authentically and more amazingly. The overturning, in fact, creates a paradoxical effect: loosening
control produced a narration that seems to overcome, in intensity, my own ability to build fiction.
I am thankful for this imaginative experimentation, because it restored the power of a dream: mine.
For the campaign, Gucci turned to its favourite model posse. They included our July 2019 cover girl Mae Lapres who posed in a black pilgrim hat and white gloves holding her pet African grey parrot; the Cologne-based male model and photographer Florian W who sprawled himself on the roof of a trailer; and the elfin model Delphi McNicol who captured herself on the rooftop with her partner, the singer Lawrence Perry.
The campaign’s meta approach towards dressing up and reversing perspectives neatly ties in with the brand’s blockbuster runway show in February. Titled Rituals, that show upended the conventional notion of what a fashion show should be. Show attendees entered the arena only to encounter models getting their hair and makeup done backstage while the runway set was a revolving carousel that showed the backstage crew dressing the models in real-time.
And what about that all-important video commercial, you ask? Well, everybody pitched in to record their own home video-slash-MTV clip to the tune of Alright, the feel-good ditty by British alt-rock band Supergrass. Spot Michele making a cameo in the montage.
Creative Director Alessandro Michele Art Director Christopher Simmonds Video Music Sony/ATV: “Alright” Writers: Gareth Coombes, Daniel Goffey, Michael Quinn © 1995 EMI Music Publishing Italia Srl on behalf of EMI Music Publishing LTD BMG: Supergrass “Alright” (P) 1995 The Echo Label Limited, a BMG Company. Courtesy of BMG Rights Management (Italy) Srl