In episode three of Ouverture of Something That Never Ended, the miniseries that Gus Van Sant and Alessandro Michele codirected to promote the spring 2021 Gucci collection, the pop star and cultural avatar Harry Styles makes a cameo wearing a pink Gucci tee tucked into eco denim washed shorts. “When it comes to making art it’s about finding the thing you’ve always wanted to see that has never been made,” Styles speaks into a phone. “It’s always an uncomfortable moment, I think, when you find the thing. You don’t know if you love it or hate it because you don’t really know what it is yet. But I think that’s the most exciting place to work in.”
The words could’ve come out of his friend Alessandro Michele’s mouth this season. Faced with the impossibility of a runway show amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gucci creative director organized a collaboration with Van Sant, a filmmaker whose circuitous, oblique storytelling he’s long admired. “I could see through his eyes,” Michele said at a joint press conference earlier this month. In a season of experimentation both analog and digital, Gucci’s project—90 edited minutes shot in Rome over a period of 20 days—ranks among the most ambitious and the most esoteric.
The miniseries streamed on a dedicated site dubbed GucciFest, where the brand also supported videos made by 15 emerging designers from around the world. Both Ouverture and the platform the company created to showcase it, signify the shifting role of fashion brands mid-pandemic (and in the hypothetical post-consumer future, too). Gucci and its fashion company peers are no longer just product makers, they’re also content providers. Collina Strada’s Hillary Taymour, one of the designers Michele selected for GucciFest, crystalised the change that’s now in motion: “We’re still artists and people are still looking at what we’re going to do next,” Taymour told my Vogue Runway colleague Brooke Bobb. “But… there’s a way to create a more educational model or expressive model, rather than a product model.”
Though it’s considerably less elaborately plotted than that other fashionable miniseries that aired this week, The Crown, Ouverture’s impressionistic episodes are nonetheless highly watchable: Florence Welch gliding through a vintage store slipping handwritten notes into the pockets of jeans or the purse of a passerby… Billie Eilish frolicking with her pet robot dogs in what looks like the exurbs of LA… the miniseries’ star Silvia Calderoni’s tour through Rome’s empty ancient streets by scooter at night… Each of those vignettes charmed and in every scene the characters were wearing head-to-toe Gucci.
Does a seven-episode miniseries do the work of a 10-minute runway show, though? The reappearance of familiar looks from Michele’s Gucci debut circa 2015 might seem to suggest otherwise. (Certainly, the diffuse nature of the spring 2021 collections, which began in New York in early September and won’t wrap until early December when some of Michele’s fellow Kering designers launch their collections, makes the work that editors do of summing up the season’s overall fashion message more challenging.) Still, there are glimmers of something potentially game changing for not just Gucci, but also the industry in Ouverture.
What if these videos were shoppable? What if you could scroll over the faux fur-lined loafers in episode three, Welch’s pleated lamé dress in episode six, or Calderoni’s three-piece suit in the series finale, and click to purchase? What if you could binge watch and buy at the same time? For years and years the industry has problematized the months’ long gap between runway shows and shipments, and the disconnection between desire and deliverability. These videos could solve for that. At the very least, they open the door to any number of additional collaborations between fashion and Hollywood. That’s an ouverture to get excited about.