It is universally accepted that William Shakespeare is the greatest writer of all time. Contrary to literature, film and music are far more irresolute. Everybody has their favourite film, and many acknowledge various films as the best; despite what you read on the internet, the greatest film of all time according to a given website will be divisive amongst readers. Similarly, music is a medium in which people’s tastes overcome their ability to distinguish ’the greatest musicians of all time’. However, if I was going to go out on a limb here, I might suggest David Bowie and Prince to be the most popular musicians in modern history. Tragically, the world lost the two music juggernauts this year.
David Bowie’s spirit has long pervaded Alessandro Michele’s work at Gucci. A self-proclaimed Anglophile, Michele’s approach at Gucci has always had a British sensibility, despite it being an Italian house. He operates with an innate Britishness in mind, often exploring the 80s, the punk movement in his work. David Bowie, from Brixton, is readily apparent in his work.
At another Italian house, Versace, the ghost of Prince can be found. For her Spring 2017 menswear show, Donatella Versace paid tribute to her dear friend. Once upon a time, the story goes, he rented out a club for just the two of them to listen to his music. Close friends, it was a bittersweet moment to have Donatella present an ode to the late singer. Not only was this a celebration of Prince, an unreleased, never-before-heard song by him intoned a distinct mood overhead.
Everything about Versace is distinct. The men in the Spring 2017 show were macho, to say the least. They were that archaical portrayal of masculinity: aggressively muscular, broad-shouldered, butch; many of them essentially emitting bullish testosterone with every stride. This sharply contrasted with the notion of Prince, who underscored this collection. A man famed for his amorphous expression of his sexuality and defiance of gender roles, the Versace man is strictly bound by gender norms, he is emphatically masculine. Other than the music and the sentiment, the colour purple, naturally, was peppered into the collection, a decisive and predictable homage.
The landscape of the urban jungle was the underlying influence in this collection. Inspired by photographer Bruce Weber, whose own sexually-charged vision of masculinity frequently lends itself to fashion, many of the models wore activewear. Presumably, they were en route to the gym in their feather-light fabrics, decorative raincoats and airy tees. Merging the gym and the workman, Versace blended activewear and formalwear. As evidenced by morning commuters, well, everywhere, the art of going straight to work via the gym is perfected by many. Gym shorts with a tuxedo jacket, anyone?
“Men of the world, men of character and individual attitude.” That was who the prescribed personhood with this collection. Prince was an embodiment of similar sentiments, one concurs. His atypical approach to imagery idiosyncratically skewered gender ambiguity and sexuality. There was copious amounts of the latter to be found here, even if it is becoming outdated. He was a dear friend to Donatella Versace and paying homage to a friend imbued emotion into an otherwise unfeeling collection.