FLOWER POWER With the new Gucci Garden in Florence, creative director Alessandro Michele has launched a magical mecca for superfans of the legendary house
With new Gucci Garden in Florence, creative director Allesandro Michele has launched a magical mecca for superfans of the legendary house
When Alessandro Michele was appointed creative director of Gucci just three years ago, his bright, bold vision — seen across clothing, accessories and the new Gucci Décor line of homeware — felt like some kind of style revolution at the 97-year-old luxury house. Gone was his predecessor Frida Giannini’s penchant for sleek ultra-glamour, replaced by Michele’s flamboyant, youthful creations. Imbued with historical references, inspiration drawn from his own collection of antique furniture and art, as well as a passion for flowers and nature, it felt instantly modern, madly feminine and relevant. As part of his aesthetic overhaul, which has seen sales soar, Michele has turned his attention to Florence, the birthplace of the house in 1921. Following a three-year renovation project, the designer has reimagined what was formerly the Gucci Museo, which opened in 2011 to celebrate the company’s 90th anniversary, as the multifunctioning Gucci Garden. Housed in the precisely restored 14th-century Palazzo della Mercanzia in the centre of Florence on the Piazza della Signoria, just a stone’s throw from the Uffizi Gallery, Gucci Garden offers three storeys of retail space, a restaurant and two upper floors of galleries. All products on the ground floor boutique — womenswear, menswear, footwear, homeware and accessories — have been designed and produced exclusively for the store. “These are the things I really love,” Michele said at the launch in January. “It feels powerful and magical for the brand. This is my homage to Florence.” And that it is. Downstairs walls are painted unapologetic shades: primrose yellow and rich plum set against black
and white, hand-aged marble floor tiles and handpainted wooden floorboards. Clothes are hung or laid out in open vintage-inspired display cabinets featuring hand-painted flower motifs, while floral Gucci wallpaper adorning the walls contrasts with the fabric-covered screens and emerald-coloured, pavilion-like dressing rooms. Vast vaulted ceilings and original stone pillars recall the building’s heritage, as do the coats of arms in a second room, each one representing the merchants’ trades for whom this palazzo was originally built. At the far end of the ground floor space, through tall glass doors, is the restaurant. Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura, conceived by the three-Michelin-starred chef, is a bijou and surprisingly unpretentious place painted in apple green with velvet banquette seating and compact wooden tables supported by carved serpent pedestal legs. Tables are dressed with crisp, white linen, ideal for showcasing the new Gucci dinner service. This place is already a hotspot for both Gucci and Bottura fans. Conveniently, the chef ’s concept perfectly aligns with Michele’s vision. “Exactly the same way Gucci is playing with the historic archive, it’s what I have been doing with food since forever,” Bottura explains. “I look at the past in a critical way, rather than nostalgic. I think you have to break the rules to create new traditions. So that’s the point here: I’m taking you travelling all over the world with your mental palate.” Upstairs is the Gucci Garden Galleria, two floors of archive pieces, which Michele describes as a living, collaborative and creative space. The aim is to create a dialogue between the past and present. In among a selection of contemporary art pieces by Jayde Fish, Trevor Andrew (aka GucciGhost) and a grand-scale 19th-century oil painting by Domenico Induno, critic and curator Maria Luisa Frisa has filled each of the six gallery rooms with a selection of archive pieces that offer a clear narrative. Steering clear of chronology, Frisa has themed each space — Guccification, Paraphernalia, De Rerum Natura, and so on — each referring to key elements of Gucci’s history, such as logos, flora and fauna, fur and its origins in luxury luggage. “All of these garments tell some part of the Gucci story,” says Frisa. “When I choose pieces for exhibitions, I don’t necessarily choose the most beautiful ones, but to find those pieces that have a meaning within a story. I’m very interested in the way Alessandro thinks, so I always worked thinking about his aesthetic. And it was a truly beautiful adventure.” Visit gucci.com
“These are the things I really love. This is my homage to Florence” ALESSANDRO MICHELE
‹‹ If Gloria moulded her ‘party girl’ persona to assuage her husband’s eccentricities, two aspects of the princess’s life were resoundingly her own — her newly acquired passion for contemporary art and her devotion, paradoxically, to the Catholic Church. “Even when I was going to Studio 54, I was still attending church… maybe just not the early mass,” she once said. She began collecting contemporary art after meeting Keith Haring in the early 1980s, and his work, alongside that of Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Julian Schnabel among others, soon enlivened the gilded boiseries of the schloss. However, no artwork outshone Gloria, nor the million-dollar 60th birthday bash she threw for her husband at St Emmeram in 1986. “Titles were a deutsche mark a dozen,” wrote Bob Colacello of a three-day affair that included a white-tie-and-tiara dinner; a pontifical mass at which the princess received communion wearing a witch’s hat; a lobster luncheon followed by a parade of 5000 Thurn und Taxis subjects dressed in full Bavarian regalia; cocktails, reportedly delayed due to the late arrival of the Khashoggis; and a boat trip on the Danube. All of which was nothing more than a prelude to the main event, an 18th-century Don Giovanni- themed costume ball at which rock stars and royalty sporting powdered wigs watched the princess, dressed as Marie Antoinette, sing ‘Happy Birthday’ à la Marlene Dietrich. Following a decade of estate mismanagement, the fairytale ended when Prince Johannes died in 1990 after undergoing two unsuccessful heart transplants, leaving the princess more than half a billion dollars in debt. Studying economics and tax law with private tutors, a new Gloria emerged as she took over the running of the behemoth estate. Companies, castles and jewellery, as well as 24 of her 27 cars, were sold — and the palace staff, which included 80 liveried footmen, was slashed. After 10 years of retreat and regrouping, Princess TNT had turned the family finances around. Arguably her greatest coup was opening Schloss St Emmeram to the public. The west wing is rented out as office space, state rooms are available for hire and the splendid palace now receives around 300,000 visitors per year. Given the opportunity, could Marie Antoinette have achieved the same results with Versailles more than 200 years earlier? If her 21st-century counterpart is the guide, anything is possible.
“Even when I was going to Studio 54, I was still attending church… maybe just not the early mass” — PRINCESS GLORIA VON THURN UND TAXIS
TO SEE MORE, GO TO VOGUELIVING. COM. AU clockwise from right: embroidered velvet cushions from the Gucci Home Décor line. Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura. Limitededition handbags and readyto-wear items all bear the distinct Gucci Garden label.
The new Gucci Garden’s De Rerum Natura room features a mix of current and vintage floral motif garments offset by Gucci Tian wallpaper, whose delicate patterns reference ancient Chinese bird and flower paintings.
clockwise from left: the opulent throne room of Schloss St Emmeram. With a 1737 ceiling fresco by German painter Cosmas Damian Asam, the palace’s Baroque library contains almost 120,000 books. The princess at the April in Paris Ball at New York’s...