When you run out of new locations to show at, you return to the very old. Cue Gucci and its Cruise 2024 collection — in a first for the 628-year-old heritage establishment, Gucci’s last collection by its in-House designers (before the arrival of Sabato De Sarno) showed in the courtyard of the iconic Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul. With this transitional season still in tow, the Italian House’s reprised focus on archival silhouettes stood out as the perfect opportunity for Gucci to immerse itself in the sense and sensibilities of Hallyu and its roots — what is arguably fashion, luxury and global culture’s leading source of influence, at present.
There’s almost no need to prove the importance of the Korean market in this industry when Gucci’s debut runway in Seoul was only months behind Dior and Louis Vuitton’s own first shows. In fact, Gucci would have been the second on this list had previous creative director Alessandro Michele’s Cosmogenie Collection showed in Seoul last October. The history between the brand and country started in 1998, when the House opened its first flagship in the country almost exactly 25 years ago from this show. But it wasn’t until they appointed EXO member Kai as the House’s first Korean global brand ambassador in 2019 that Gucci grew its contemporary presence, becoming the host of fashion’s biggest cohort of Korean ambassadors and VIPs — rising as one of the few luxury brands to court, succeed and rise with the tides of Hallyu.
Showing in the de facto tourist destination of South Korea’s capital is thus more symbolic than an amplification of brand presence. The Gyeongbokgung Palace was the birthplace of hangul (the Korean alphabet), the centre of the nation’s early developments in the arts and sciences, and the place foreign diplomats and VIPs were hosted during the Joseon dynasty. Gucci showing its Cruise 2024 collection to fashion’s foreign dignitaries in this historically significant venue is in itself an embrace of the bold, mix-and-match spirit of the Korean fashion landscape that the design of the Cruise 2024 collection was informed with. This is perhaps why a serendipitous synchrony in dress and design is extra apparent this season, which lays proof the youthful, experimental and shapeshifting nature Gucci has come to hone in recent months.
Backed by the nostalgic scores from “Oldboy”, “Parasite” and “Squid Game”, the Cruise 2024 collection integrated sights from the streets of Seoul with the customs of South Korean traditional dress, putting together a layered exploration of archival silhouettes from the late 1990s, expressed with the colours of the 2010s.
Despite the bevy of influence, the show was tight, clear, and a cultural homage done right. Thick silk bands above the chest simulated the goreum (a single-earred ribbon), while charms that were hung on an assortment of the attendees’ Gucci bags reminded of the norigae (traditional decorative pendants). Even the Gucci Web was magnified to a size that brought to mind the saekdong (a satin with coloured vertical bands); the hanbok was undeniably referenced, but not without the grace and austerity it commands as the most important artefact of Korea’s fashion history.
The in-house design team were also quick to punctuate tributes to history with displays of insa (or insider) knowledge of today’s fashion scene. Lots of modular pieces edged out what would have been delicate evening gowns and demure bouclé skirt suits, while bomber jackets and hoodies were elongated into dresses. South Korean artist Ram Han was also invited to decorate dresses and hoodies with hyper-sensory biomorphic motifs that married both Oriental art and Y2K sentiments, pulling a leaf out of Korean street style’s books on duality and hybridity and topping these looks off Gucci’s characteristic bourgeois effects of shiny metallics, glimmering crystals and shimmering sequins.
Skateboarding wear’s roomy fits were also found aplenty and aplomb in many variations, giving extra volume to coats, dress shirts and billowy trousers. Caps even hinted at a collaboration with French workwear brand Danton — which comes as no surprise following Gucci’s adventurous collaboration with Dickies last year. Splices of the scuba wetsuit were also transformed into bodices, one-pieces and shorts — simultaneously recalling the material’s archival presence from the 1990s, and Seoul’s uptake of windsurfing and jet-skiing in the Han River over the recent years.
From the emergence of a new trapezoid Gucci Horsebit in austere concoctions of iridescent and precious leather, to the presence of cyber-goth stomper boots, it was clear that this show was a sundown affair that was both cognisant of global trends, and exclusively singing to the praises of the high-profile locals in attendance — aligning the timeless qualities of the in-House team’s design tendencies with the consistently hybrid nature of Korean fashion.
If the amount of media attention and esteemed front row of this show is anything to go by, the Gucci Cruise 2024 collection has made for a magical spectacle that successfully clears the stage — while currying the favours of fashion’s darling city and its global fans — for the House’s new creative direction.
This article first appeared on Men’s Folio.
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