Gucci and Balenciaga come together in horsey harmony for AW21


Does the Queen send out big birthday telegrams to fashion brands? One can't help but hope that on this occasion she'll make an exception (though we're aware she's probably a little preoccupied right now). 2021, after all, is the 100th anniversary of Florentine super brand Gucci and – judging by the label's AW21 presentation, mounted digitally today as a film titled Aria – it's more than deserving of a nod from Her Maj.

Not least because the show was infused with such heady aristocratic-cum-equestrian energy. It's no secret that Gucci's heritage is firmly embedded in equine pursuits – the brand introduced its now legendary horsebit loafer in 1953 and has since sponsored a wide array of horsey competitions, including the International Showjumping Competition – but today's show took the connection up to a canter, with souped-up paddock boots, harness necklaces crafted from saddle leather and pastel-hued riding helmets forming key styling notes in the collection. 

We know what you're really here for, however, and that's the news that the much touted partnership between Gucci and its Kering stablemate Balenciaga did actually come to fruition, in the form of Gucci monogram-clad takes on Balenciaga's classic bags and hourglass tailored jackets and coats plastered with joint Gucci and Balenciaga branding. 

Smart and not a little self-referential, this is the first instance we can think of that two major “high fashion” brands have come together in such a way (Prada and Raf Simons' new creative collaboration notwithstanding, well, because it doesn't really count). We're well accustomed, of course, to major labels (Louis Vuitton, Dior, Gucci) teaming up with low-fi streetwear labels (Supreme, Stüssy, The North Face) to create pleasing high-low clothes and accessories with collectable appeal, but where else the collaborative train will have left to pull in after this particular celestial collision remains as yet unclear.

It wasn't just the haute-edgy work of Balenciaga lead Demna Gvasalia that Alessandro Michele – Gucci's creative custodian of some six years – riffed off with Aria (an interesting choice of title given that the term refers to a soaring solo performance) either. In celebration of the brand's multiple metamorphoses across the span of its century in business, Michele also paid homage to his sexed-up predecessor, Tom Ford

“I have plundered the nonconformist rigour of Demna Gvasalia and the sexual tension of Tom Ford,” said Michele in the notes sent out after the show. “I have lingered over the anthropological implications of what shines, working on the brightness of fabrics; I have celebrated the equestrian world of Gucci, transfiguring it into a fetish cosmogony; I have sublimated Marilyn Monroe’s silhouette and old Hollywood’s glamour; I sabotaged the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie and the codes of men’s tailoring.”