Keeping the Snakes Away, Unless They’re Gucci

I might be six months late in writing this, but the year isn’t over yet and Gucci is still a hit. I’m just going to say it: Gucci’s pre-fall campaign changed my life. Ever since its release in April, neither my fashion sense nor my wallet have ever been the same.

You’ve probably heard about this little brand named Gucci, and you’ve probably seen at least one Gucci item on Instagram this year. The pre-fall campaign made early headlines when it was first revealed that they held a casting call for only people of color. The campaign made further headlines when it was confirmed that it had only hired people of color for its campaign. The hiring decision is especially profound in a time when inclusivity is still a major problem for most fashion brands. Admittedly, it was this public statement of inclusivity from the Gucci campaign that lured me in. However, it was the authenticity of the culture depicted within the campaign that forced me to stay. It didn’t feel artificial. I felt like the campaign was asking me and people like me to actually buy their clothes.

Alessandro Michele, who is the creative director of Gucci, was inspired to create this campaign because of three things. The first inspiration was an exhibit which was showcased at the Photographer’s Gallery in London last summer titled “Made You Look.” The exhibit focused on black masculinity and dandyism (dandyism is a play off of the term “dandy” from 18th and 19th century Britain). Black dandyism in particular, refers to countering the expectations of how black men should look and dress. The second inspiration was Malick Sidibé, a famous photographer whose work focused on his experience of growing up in Bamako, Mali. The third and perhaps most referenced inspiration was the ’60s underground music movement in England called Northern Soul which was inspired by African-American soul music. The campaign itself explores the freedom of expression found within dance and music. It was accompanied by a short film staged within the Mildmay Club in London and photographed by Glen Luchford.

The film, needless to say, was stunning. This was demonstrated on multiple fronts, from the way the lights reflected off the clothes to the interplay between choreography and rhythm during excerpts  of The Night by Franki Valli and The Four Seasons. The Gucci clothing perfectly fit every occasion and each of the models brought life to their outfits with the way they walked and danced.  This was the first time I looked at a fashion campaign and wished I was in it. This was the first time I looked at fashion as something I wanted to be a part of, something I wanted to more than just wear. I wanted to experience it through dance and song, expressing my sense of freedom all the while.

The first time I saw this campaign, I was amazed. I had seen its style in old photos of my mother and grandfather. Old family videos had exposed me to the dance moves. The campaign was so well-executed, authentic, stunning and aesthetically pleasing. Gucci mastered the art of unapologetic blackness, and I am obsessed. The symbolism of the snakes and the butterflies, the mismatched prints and the white sneakers are alls statement pieces in what was a turning point in this year’s fashion. The campaign was an outright success.

Fashion is for everyone, but the constant exclusion of certain people within the industry and artistic medium has made it a hard thing to love. After this campaign, I truly I felt could walk into a Gucci store and not feel patronized or unwelcome. I often say in my head, “Did you see the campaign? I’m supposed to be here.”  I guess this just speaks volumes about the importance of representation. Appreciation should be weighed over exploitation and appropriation. In the years to come, one can only hope the fashion industry realizes that inclusion does not damper artistic excellence or sales. If anything, the evidence points in the opposite direction.