The weird, the wacky and the wonderful walked down the Gucci runway at the fashion house’s Spring/Summer 2017 Ready-To-Wear (RTW) Collection. Pink curtains, pink smoke and a pink runway created a vibrant haze through which only chunky jewelled embellishments and shiny satin structured silhouettes shone through with any clarity. This conceptual performance was the brainchild of Gucci’s Creative Director Alessandro Michele, who was appointed to his position at Gucci in 2015. Michele’s influence on Gucci cannot be understated, with the move towards eclectic arrangements of brocade flowers, metallic pleated fabrics and stiff jacquard collars, Edwardian ruffles, pussy bow details and clear silk references to the Far East. All these features were present, as well as Michele’s signature bold colour choices, playing with shades of pink and red in his ball gowns and pantsuits alike. According to his press notes, the primary vision behind this beautiful (although at times somewhat costume-y) display was not to create something ‘iconic’ or ‘unique’; he specifically chose the term phantasmagorical to accentuate the dreaminess of the headline ‘Magic Lanterns’. And a phantasmagorical display he achieved – the dreamlike state that the pink haze enshrouded the models and the audience with, could only be cut through by camera flashes that documented every step of the runway show. But why would Gucci’s mastermind choose the enveloping embrace of pink for the show?
Pink is an incredibly versatile colour, and in the setting of beaded curtains and lounge seating, it’s one that conjures up a somewhat synthetic dreamlike world – red would be too strong, yet yellow or orange would not be bold enough of a statement colour. Nevertheless, in this context, pink in no way denotes a garishly girly fashion line. The connotation of pink in modern fashion and culture as symbol of femininity is a relatively new concept, and the androgyny of so many of Michele’s looks on the models demonstrates this.
Pink has had a long and varied history in fashion. Far from being a historically universal symbol of femininity, in Biblical art the Virgin Mary herself is portrayed in blue, whereas men wore pink as it was a shade of red, the colour of blood and war and masculine passions. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the colours pink and blue became associated with binary gender identification. As late as 1920, Jay Gatsby is depicted in his iconic pink striped suit. To a context-less modern audience, it is as though Fitzgerald is picturing Gatsby as a dandy, a man in touch with his feminine touch, but Tom Buchanan’s scoff at the choice of pink wasn’t aimed at it’s unmanly connotations but at it’s association with Oxford and the working-classes.
According to Jo Paoletti, professor at the University of Maryland, it was particularly during the 90s and 00s – our generation – that gendered clothing became the norm. The children of the 70s had been brought up in the unisex clothing that was all the rage at the time, but her studies suggested that the introduction of so heavily gendered clothing for their children was largely a reaction against their own upbringing. The beginning of the century saw babies dressed in white so as to prevent the identification with gender. Franklin Roosevelt himself was dressed in white dresses as a child in the 1880s, as was the fashion at the time. But today, Barbie dolls, power puff girls and other big brand children’s toys only perpetuate and reinforce the boy/blue – girl/pink visual on future generations.
Nevertheless, high fashion is seen to be veering away from this gendered colour trend, with unisex collections coming out from Alexander Wang’s SS17 runways, more gender neutral lines appearing in high street labels as well such as American Apparel and the influence of Yeezy’s nude/beige palette on major fashion houses and cheap online stores alike. Gender and fashion are intrinsically linked, and the rise of transgender or gender neutral models is making a profound impact on this colour assumption. Pink is a powerful colour which should be used wisely, and always with passion.