If you’ve browsed through my other blog posts you’ll know how much I love a good fashion exhibition. So top of my list of places to visit in Florence (yep that’s BEFORE the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio etc etc) was the incredible Gucci Garden which opened in January.
Created by Gucci Creative Director Alessandro Michele and Maria Luisa Frisa of Venice University, the exhibition playfully presents clothing and accessories alongside art, artefacts, memorabilia, ephemera and documents. A series of beautifully curated rooms cleverly dissect and celebrate the brand’s icons, symbols and themes, demonstrating how the facets of the Florentine brand and its artisan heritage date back to 1921 and founder Guccio Gucci, whilst also presenting the ever evolving philosophy and aesthetic.
The garden is real, but it belongs above all to the mind, populated with plants and animals: like the snake, which slips in everywhere, and in a sense, symbolizes a perpetual beginning and a perpetual return. Alessandro Michele
1. a sequence of real or imaginary images like that seen in a dream.
Set over three floors of the historic Palazzo della Mercanzia (just across the piazza from the Uffizi Gallery and dating back to 1337), the exhibition takes about an hour to get around – plus you’ll need a bit of time at the end to drool over the wonderful one of a kind Gucci Garden gift shop featuring furniture, cushions and trinkets alongside shoes, bags and clothing – or grab a bite to eat in Gucci Osteria, the new restaurant headed up by Michelin chef Massimo Bottura.
In addition there are two exhibition rooms that change on rotation, presenting work by different artists and designers.
The first floor, entitled ‘Guccification‘ opens up with a large wall mural by artist Trouble Andrew for Gucci Ghost.
The room features the varied use of the double G logos – from a 1970s dolphin print dress to the work of stylist Simon Foxton.
The next room ‘Paraphernalia‘ explores the signature codes and iconic symbols connected to the brand’s identity. Horse bits, stirrups, striped ribbon and floral prints are all featured, alongside a personal favourite of mine, the bamboo handled bags.
I invested in a bamboo top handle bag in 2011 and was fascinated to see that the design really hasn’t changed at all – the one shown above is from the 1940s. As the bags age with time, the bamboo darkens from use which I love. The bag was originally designed during World War II when materials were scarce, but surprisingly Japanese bamboo was still being imported. The Gucci craftspeople experimented and found a way to use it as a feature on the bag and the rest is history.
The next room ‘Cosmorama‘ features luggage, trunks, hatboxes, beauty cases and travel accessories related to the ‘jet set’ nature of the brand’s clientele and the House’s origin as a maker of leather goods.
On the second floor are the ‘De Rerum Natura‘ rooms, which resemble a natural history museum, reflecting on Alessandro Michele’s interest in animals and gardens which have long been part of the brand’s narrative. The use of flora and fauna is shown through vintage and current garments, silver animal statuettes from the 1950s and original artwork by Vittorio Accornero de Testa, who was commissioned to create the Gucci Flora print in the 1960s.
The wallpaper has been brought alive with tiny bird projections.
A vintage zebra print coat sits alongside a more recent orange coat with zebra motif.The final room ‘Ephemera‘ presents landscapes of objects, videos and memorabilia that retrace the history of the House.
In addition to the Gucci rooms, there are two rotating presentation spaces – one featuring a bespoke dress made for Bjork’s The Gate video (separate blog post coming soon). And the second a red velvet draped screening room named ‘Cinema de Camera‘, featureing ‘Kolossos‘, the second in the film series ‘Zeus Machine’ by the Zapruder group. Filmed in the historic Italian Olympic wrestling club, the film reinterprets the labors of Hercules and the training of the Graeco-Roman athletes.
Finally there is the Gucci Garden store….
The store is more like a bazaar, a concept which I love; I wanted to convey a spirit of fluidity, of authenticity, of vivacious energy, a place full of life which welcomes you and invites you in. Florence is a very powerful place for Gucci. It’s almost mythical. Alessandro Michele
Art features throughout Gucci Garden with wonderful murals and illustrations by Jayde Fish and Coco Capitán.
I loved the romantic, poetic and historic sensibility of Gucci Garden. Its accessible, engaging, eclectic and informative – and its impressive to see the continuity of the brand from its in creation in 1921 through to the present day. This exhibition draws out the various dialogues and themes that embody Gucci in both past collections and contemporary renditions. Its worth a special trip (and whilst you’re in Florence don’t forget to check out this place….).
The Gucci Garden Galleria and boutique are open from 10am to 7.30pm; entry to the galleries is €8, half of which will be donated to support restoration projects around Florence. Gucci Osteria is open from noon to 8.30pm; entry to the restaurant and the boutique is free of charge.