Fee, fi, fo, fum, I hear the wit of an Englishman. (Pronounce that with a British accent so that “man” rhymes with “fum.”)
While many of you, no doubt, are excited that your holey Wolford tights can finally be put to good use (not for robbing banks, but in imitation of John Galliano’s latest skullcaps and hairnets for Margiela, in 13 out of 33 looks, I’ve put on a different kind of thinking cap, slowly, and I’ve come to the conclusion that…
What Mark Leckey is to the art, Mr. Gucci is to fashion.
Let me unpack that: Mark Leckey is my all-time favorite artist, Alessandro Michele my favorite designer. And in every way that Leckey is the weird image prophet of the art world, my Gucci pimp Alessandro Michele is the same to fashion.
Here’s the weird thing: on the runway in Milan the Gucci theme was what Alessandro Michele declared as being influenced by Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizomatic thinking. What’s that, you might ask? All those random things in life yoked together into a jacquard of thought, topped off with lots of brooches, bows and furry patches to fondle in quieter moments at the café. Mark Leckey’s thinking is cut from the same cloth: his work largely comprises the wildly divergent image of thought, his own thought as informed by the internet, his own biography in subcultural not-London, England, shaken, not stirred. And this is why I think Alessandro Michele’s most recent “rhizomatic display” is more along the lines of Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition. Now where are we going with this? Be patient. I’m getting there.
Take Gucci’s trompe l’oeil jabot (that fancy word for lacy, or whatever, bib) on this sea-nymph green cape versus Leckey’s similar aesthetic, a talking almost-garbage can and a pair of throbbing newspaper stands on the street. Or how about this: the title for a show Leckey did called “The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things.” Call it “The Universal DRESSability of Dumb Things” et voilá, you’re able to follow my own rhizomatic pattern of thought.
Let’s take that a little further. I’m a big fan of hats, and here Alessandro Michele has plugged into the cosmic energy I’ve been sending his way, a selfish plea, more millinery, please. No berets! (One has to fidget with them too much.) What did he come up with? A new take on Pharrell Williams’s oversized Peruvian fedora (thanks to Vivienne Westwood), my favorite in the aforementioned sea-nymph green.
And this other veiled cappy, what’s that? I’m seeing influences from Tudor England all over everything else (the pearl and jeweled details on the clothing, the Henry VIII oversized shoulders) so I’m trying to place it there and instead find influence from Burgundy, 15th century, in fact, and it’s shaped too much like a vulva to be ignored:
While everyone decrees the influence of Catherine de Medici (whom short women of the world thank as the fairy godmother of high heels), I’m sticking to my English version, the Tudors. It was Catherine, after all, who gave up the fashion of wearing underwear in preference of really long knickers. Ugh. (Michele himself says the influence was actually found in Dutch paintings.)
Leckey became famous with his nightclubbing film Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore in 1999. He said in an interview published, quite a coincidence, at Rhizome magazine:
“What the title Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (1999) still means to me is that to invest all your energies into something as ultimately banal and fleeting as a jeans label – Fiorucci was big in the 1970s and 1980s – creates this intensity that is transcendent, that is beyond the brand and beyond the mundane everyday. It takes you somewhere else, and that’s still where I want to go.”
That’s why I’m calling this feeling which has penetrated my inner soul ever since last summer when I first saw the new Mr. Gucci’s first creations: “Gucci Made Me Hardcore.” It did! Alessandro Michele makes me boldly go where I would have never gone before.
In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari tell us that “the brain itself is much more a grass than a tree.” All I want to say, really, is that in our otherwise really bleak world, Leckey and Michele plunder the Wunderkammer and come out as unicorns: esoteric without being corny. Imagine that the rest of the world had these kind of renewed Renaissance brains. The brains of a burnt medieval book of laws manuscript? Backing away from the categorical tree-thinking of the Enlightenment mutated into I-don’t-know-whatness. Rootless! And here I’ll go out on a limb: No more passports. Then, and only then, would all be safe again.
In the meanwhile, I’m trying to make my pink-suede-thin-braid headband look more Versace Fall 2016 (in 53 out of 58 looks), more Olivia Newton John. I don’t know why everyone is mismatching shoes these days, from Miu Miu to Jacquemus to Galliano, but I am loving it and, yes, less is bore.
PS: By the way, Leckey seems to have pre-dated Gucci’s penchant for Tudor England. At the risk of looking like Elton John, look at this portrait of him wearing a pearl drop earring. It fits to Gucci’s Tudor scheme. After all, it was fashionable around 1600 for men (daring, raffish men) to wear a single earring. And that shirt. Looks like Versace. (And I later learn: it is!)
Here’s another picture of him, an artwork from 2013, that better captures the spirit:
See Gucci’s Fall 2016 show here.
And more Mark Leckey online here:
Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, 1999.
And where he imagines a talking refrigerator, “60,000 watts of power, all alone, here in the dark…” see GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction, 2010.
April von Stauffenberg is an American writer who moved to Berlin in 1998. As a journalist, she has written about art, architecture, and fashion (under her maiden name April Elizabeth Lamm) for artforum.com, frieze, Weltkunst, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Sleek, and the German edition of Vanity Fair. She has curated shows at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt and the Schinkel Pavillon in Berlin, among others, and is currently working on her art-world novel, The Collector.
Portrait: Semra Sevin