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

VOGUE Living Australia - - Contents - By BECKY SUN­SHINE Pho­tographed by NIGEL LOUGH Style by JOSEPH GARD­NER

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...

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