Home grown: the Gucci Garden cultivates a green-fingered start to Pitti Uomo 93
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Visitors to Pitti Uomo in Florence this weekend will be greeted by a giant illuminating neon-pink eye placed onto the façade of the ancient Palazzo della Mercanzia. It marks the opening of Gucci Garden, a magical, mercantile universe.
The city of Florence is widely regarded as the birthplace of the Renaissance, thanks to its role as a centre of European trade and finance in the medieval times. In the third millennium, it’s a fitting backdrop to creative director Alessandro Michele’s cultivated approach. His work is informed by a liberal embrace of the past. ‘This place makes you think that there is life here,’ he said, stood on the ground floor of the historic palazzo decorated with burnt yellow plaster walls and bright red lacquer, showcasing its arched doorways and windows. ‘This is a powerful, almost mythical place, not a dead place.’
The Gucci Garden Galleria is housed over two floors
The elegant building dates back to 1337 and was renovated by Gucci Museo in 2011. Since then it has stood as a cultural space and today will reopen in homage to the city of Florence and artisan workmanship. Part shop, part offbeat mansion – the palazzo has been reimagined as a living, collaborative monument to Gucci’s own renaissance.
On the ground floor sits a colourful bazaar, stuffed full of exclusive products. A bag is embossed with the title artwork of British illustrator and naturalist Henry Noel Humphreys’ The Genera of British Moths published in 1858; denim jackets are embellished with sacred animals, knitted jumpers have tigers, moths and butterfly’s on their fronts. Chairs embroidered with the heads of mythical beasts, ceramic plates, scented candles and bespoke stationery are all for sale too – each with their own special Gucci Garden label.
Chef Massimo Bottura's 'Gucci Osteria' restaurant on the ground floor
Across the stairs sits an intimate dining space lead by the acclaimed chef Massimo Bottura. Introducing his menu, he too talks of using past experiences to curate the now. His kitchen will be serving food that applies a range of international influences from Peru to Japan onto Italian classics. ‘Travelling the world, our kitchen interacts with everything we see, hear and taste,’ he says. ‘With eyes wide open, we look for the unexpected.’
The curator Maria Luisa Frisa has narrated the history of Gucci across six rooms. From its beginnings in Florence as a maker of leather accessories and luggage in 1921 to its modern day status as the apogee of millennial style. It is fitting that ‘Renaissance’ means rebirth. Standing in one room is a red chiffon blouse from Michele’s debut menswear collection for A/W 2015 – it is the look that has spearheaded a new interpretation of masculinity.
Frisa – whose show ‘Italiana: Narrating Italian History Through Fashion, 1971-2001’ – is due to open next month at Milan’s Palazzo Reale – has done away the hierarchy of time, displaying objects in themes rather than chronology. The first room ‘Guccification’ reclaims the iconic GG symbol as a work of pop art. In another room, Gucci’s long-standing love for flora and fauna is presented through archival and current season garments, silver animal statues made by the company in the 1950s and original artworks by the painter Vittorio Accornero – who was commissioned to create the original Gucci Flora print in 1966.
Throughout, the walls are decorated with works by artists Jayde Fish, Trevor Andrew (AKA GucciGhost) and Coco Capitán. Elsewhere a giant 19th century equestrian oil portrait, Fantino con bambina by Domenico Induno, which was acquired by the house in the 1980s, inspired a dress from the same period that stands in the exhibition. It is covered in a print of small riding boots. ‘This is a gallery and not museum,’ Frisa reminds us. The space, which opens to the public tomorrow is a marker of a brand continuously putting down creative roots.