WORDS BY NERYS D’ESCLERCS
What happens when two fashion powerhouse brands merge? They create history (and break the internet). Gucci’s Aria collection, which celebrated the brand’s 100th anniversary, invaded our Instagram feeds with its Balenciaga-inspired, logo-heavy, sequinned pieces — a move that creative director Alessandro Michele called a ‘hack’ of Demna Gvasalia’s signature details. Accompanied by a viral short film and a killer soundtrack, it was a fitting event for show-stopping looks, worthy of the global attention it received. Here, find out more about the history of Gucci, the history of Balenciaga and all the details behind the new Gucci Aria collection.
The history of Gucci
Founded in 1921 in Florence, Tuscany, by Guccio Gucci, the house started as a leather goods shop. Gradually attracting more and more artisans, Gucci established itself as a master of craftsmanship, which earned the reputation we still know of the brand today.
The house remained a family-run business until the 1990s, before family feuds (which dominated the press in the 1980s) resulted in a reshuffle. The scandals involved CEO Maurizio Gucci, who was later murdered — a story that is the subject of a highly-anticipated biographical crime drama film, House of Gucci.
The house was then helmed by CEO Domenico De Sole, who hired Tom Ford as creative director. This sparked a major revival for Gucci, with Ford pushing the boundaries of what was accepted in fashion and in media, producing groundbreaking, hyper-sexualised campaigns.
In May 1999, François Pinault’s group, Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (now known as Kering) bought a controlling 42 percent stake in Gucci. In December 2014, the group appointed Marco Bizzarri, former CEO of Bottega Veneta, as CEO. He brought Alessandro Michele on board as creative director to reinvent the brand once more, and the duo still runs the house to this day. Michele created the geek-chic Gucci aesthetic we know today, often drawing inspiration from the 1970s.
The Balenciaga ‘hack’
Dubbed The Hacking Project, Gucci celebrated its 100th anniversary with a new collection, Aria, in which some of the pieces borrowed signature details associated with Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga.
Since his appointment as creative director of Balenciaga in October 2015, Georgian designer Gvasalia has developed a unique style for the brand — think sculptural looks with exaggerated shoulders, sports-infused pieces and a wide range of cult accessories and sneakers. Merged with Gucci’s quintessential house codes, the hack collection resulted in powerful pieces, splashed with both houses’ logos all-over.
Read more about the history of Balenciaga here.
The Gucci Aria collection
With Demna Gvasalia’s permission, Gucci’s Alessandro Michele used some of Balenciaga’s iconic shapes and symbols, including the padded hip jacket of fall 2016 and spring 2017’s spandex peplum top and leggings. Mixed with Gucci’s own iconic symbols such as glittered looks, equestrian-inspired pieces and elements of classic tailoring, the Gucci Aria collection was a real feast for our eyes — and our social media feeds.
Our highlights? The unmissable Gucci x Balenciaga bag; a red velvet suit, which Michele reinvented from Tom Ford’s fall 1996 show and that is said to have ‘made Gwyneth Paltrow famous’; a yellow jumper with functional zips at the elbows; and a cropped tweed jacket that works as a modernized version of the jockey attire.
The Gucci icons
Gucci is the master of iconic, instant-sell-out pieces. With shoes, the house’s cult styles range from the timeless Princetown slippers to this year’s colorful rubber slides and mules which have been seen on influential feet the world over. In accessories, highly-coveted styles like the Horsebit totes, Soho crossbody bags and the Dionysus range all come with or without the GG Supreme monogram pattern. The same iconic monogram motif also comes splashed across tracksuits and more classic looks, proving that everyone can find their own individual style as part of the Gucci gang.