MILAN — Gucci on Friday will unveil an exhibition in Milan that celebrates seven decades of its signature horsebit loafer. The brand’s spring 2024 collection will also be presented as part of the exhibit at the expansive Spazio Maiocchi location.
Titled “Gucci Horsebeat Society,” the event will shine the spotlight on the loafer through the installations of 10 international artists, designers and creatives, who combine fashion, art and audiovisual elements.
The horsebit detail was conceived by Aldo Gucci in 1953 as an embellishment for the loafer and has been interpreted over the years in hardware and motifs across accessories, jewelry and ready-to-wear.
The exhibition is curated by Alessio Ascari, creative director and curator of Spazio Maiocchi, and reimagines the tradition of the country club revisited with the spirit of artistic counterculture through specially commissioned, imaginative and striking works. Case in point: a surrealist table designed by American sculptor Pitterpatter is sure to draw a smile, as the table stands on several legs — depicted from the knees down, donning Gucci pants and various renditions of the loafer. In the back a series of manipulated, AI-generated paintings of fantastical creatures by Canadian digital artist Blatant Space add a tongue-in-cheek dimension.
In the courtyard, architect and multimedia artist Harry Nuriev from Crosby Studios created a conceptual patio employing the horsebit in furniture design as chains on the armchairs. Visual artist Anna Franceschini conceived a cabinet of curiosities displaying the first loafer from 1953, vintage belts and bags and an intriguing set of bookends, all embellished with the storied detail.
The “Bedroom Ensemble II” by Swiss artist Sylvie Fleury, which dates to 1998, is installed in a space that also features an arresting supersized image by American photographer Charlie Engman of a beautiful white horse. The bit shines as if it were a jewel on the horse’s hair. Former creative director Tom Ford’s red horsebit pump from Gucci’s fall 1995 collection hangs from the ceiling, suspended in midair.
A horsebit-pattern wallpaper was designed especially for the exhibition, which will be open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, and carpeting throughout the venue also features the motif.
British photographer and filmmaker Bolade Banjo traced the trajectory of the horsebit through historical imagery and contemporary footage in a film that is shown in a dark room punctuated by light sculptures created by South Korean designer Gyuhan Lee, reinterpreting the motif in the tradition of hanji paper making.
The event includes a durational performance by the Spanish artist and choreographer Candela Capitán, and a program of DJ sets by the Parisian electronic music label Ed Banger.
The spring collection, displayed in a space covered floor-to-ceiling in a collage wallpaper created by Australian image-maker Ed Davis, was edited down to 20 pieces, and fits with the installations.
Ahead of the unveiling of new creative director Sabato De Sarno’s collection for the brand in September, Gucci’s design team reworked some of the label’s signature motifs, including the horsebit, but also the GG canvas and the GG web, and clearly further explored intriguing techniques and materials. Case in point: a nubuck leather pantsuit with an allover GG motif and ’70s vibe actually looked like it was made of denim. A washed denim suit sparkled with thermo-encrusted micro mosaic mirror tiles — as did the pumps. Daring and fun — one could just imagine friend of the house Jared Leto on the red carpet in the latter look.
A modern optical version of the GG motif ran across a denim look. Davis’ collage wallpaper was rendered in silk on a slightly oversize combo of Bermuda shorts and a boxy Hawaiian shirt, as was a digitally enhanced horsebit pattern with a glasslike effect.
Gucci’s green-red-green web was mixed with the GG motif in a caped windbreaker in satin jacquard. The brand’s symbols stood out on a mariner knit. Sharp double-breasted suits with boot-cut trousers integrated the horsebit motif into a traditional Prince of Wales check and the weaves of red or ivory jacquards.
The team did not forget the accessories category. Large canvas totes featured the weave of the GG boucle in a 3D version or in a semitransparent glossy design and the horsebit loafer was presented in a new bolder, rubber-soled version.