First on the board today was Gucci. My invitation was emailed to me at four o’clock this morning, but I wasn’t complaining; a late Gucci invite beats no Gucci invite hands down. So with plenty of time to spare, Sonny Vandevelde and I hopped aboard a 1926 tram and made the short trip to the venue, arriving a good half hour early. There were four entrances – one for press, one for buyers, one for staff and one for backstage photographers – each guarded by at least four tough guys clad in uniform black. My invite was handed to me at the press door by a lovely Hong Kong based PR agent named Natalie, who escorted me past the six-man-strong security team and through the front doors.
Tight squeeze in the seats in front
I found my spot in the bleachers, and sat down to watch as hundreds of immaculately dressed guests filed along the catwalk in search of their seats. Directly opposite me sat a 60 something year old Italian lady with primary red hair and a secondary green jacket like a feminine Oompa Loompa. Right in front of me the row was crammed, seriously jam packed with people. So when the Taiwanese guy shuffled through and tried to sit down, he missed the seat entirely and landed in the laps of two people. They looked at each awkwardly, hoping the other one would say something, but neither did, and in their laps he remained.
I was seated next to the Japanese guy who caused such a stir among the streetstyle community yesterday with his five inch heels. Only he wasn’t Japanese. Jeff was a Chinese part time student, part time journalist living in Paris and writing for a Hong Kong menswear magazine. He was upset, having lost his camera yesterday to a thief at the Vivienne Westwood show.
The lights dimmed, the crowd hushed, and Devendra Banhart came through the loudspeakers. Canadian model Marcel Castenmiller walked out in a Camel overcoat with brown cardigan, dark blue pants and chocolate Gucci loafers. This was followed by the Belgian Benoni Loos in a camel suit, dark blue shirt and tie and rich brown wingtips. A moment later, my old mate Nick Rea appeared in a tan leather shirt – the same style as the ripped and blood stained one he wore on the first day of shows – though there was no sign of blood, split lip or bruising. Guess his quick healing claim was correct. The clothing stepped up a notch. Here was a quilted suede jacket in beige. There, an ostrich bomber. I thought a knee length shaggy woolen coat in camel couldn’t be beaten, until the piece de resistance – a real leopard skin blazer – walked down the runway. Recession? What recession. Gucci was paving the way for a new era in luxury menswear. A level of luxury not seen since Tom Ford was at the company’s helm in the heady 90s.
You gotta spend money to make money, and, according to a couple of the models I chatted with after the show had finished, Gucci exemplifies that theory. The company pays boys a rate starting at three thousand Euros (and rapidly rising depending on how many of their shows a model has done), compared to the more meagre 400-1000 Euros going rate of most other designers. Modelling is one of the few industries where women are paid a markedly higher rate than men, so with that in mind, imagine what they’re paying the girls. Nothing like putting your best foot forward when the going gets tough.
Versace came next, and, in a full scale departure from normal casting practices, featured a complete lineup of skinny male models. Even Jethro Cave walked the show, though his hair had been slicked back and tamed for the occasion. The clothes had a distinct Matrix meets Robocop vibe, with geometric lazer cutting, leather, vinyl and wraparound black glasses. Very 90s futuristic. And very fast paced – the boys virtually sprinted to keep in time with the banging oonst oonst of the techno soundtrack.
But they saved the best for last. Moncler Gamme Bleu by Thom Browne. I walked in to discover 50 cots complete with grey woolen blankets adorned with the signature Thom Browne red, white and blue stripe. Beneath the blankets slept 50 models in grey onesy bed-outfits and dangly pom pom beanies. At a bugle’s call, the boys were up, making their cots, removing the contents of a dark blue bag beside each one and getting dressed in their best winter protective gears. Think the finest down puffer jackets that zip all the way up in charcoal grey; full puffer suits in red, white and blue plaids; the same again in bold yellow and white, and green and white stripes; and transparent plastic down coats where the feathers were clearly visible beneath the surface. One by one they walked the full perimeter of the enormous warehouse like toasty and very well styled Michelin men. Ideal outfits for tonight in Milan, where the temperature has dropped to an icy negative four degrees.
Three days down, one to go.
Uploaded with my Sierra Wireless data stick on Telecom XT.
All catwalk images: GQ
I LIKE YOU!