FLORENCE — At Gucci, people like to call Alessandro Michele the renaissance man. Since his ascent to the role of creative director just over two years ago, the soft-spoken Roman has been hailed as a design visionary, responsible for a dazzling turnaround in fortunes at the Italian luxury house.
It felt fitting, then, that Mr. Michele chose Florence at sunset as the backdrop for his 2018 cruise collection.
And not just because Gucci was founded in Florence in 1921 as a leather goods company. Beginning in the 14th century, this city was the place where art was first seen as a way to show intellect and imagination beyond a purpose as decoration or religious tribute. At the center of it all was the Palazzo Pitti, home to the Medici family, a dynasty of bankers, popes and royalty who were patrons to the greatest artists and thinkers of the Renaissance period, including Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. And home, on Monday, to the Gucci resort show.
Mr. Michele chose to make that Medici palace his own, paving its cloistered staircases with deep magenta carpets and serving fizzing pink cocktails and prosecco amid palm fronds and silk parasols on its roof terrace before models took to the runway. (It is probably not a coincidence that Gucci announced less than two months ago that it was underwriting an extensive restoration project in the Boboli Gardens, which surround the Palazzo Pitti.)
“I have always felt connected to the Renaissance, because it transformed everything,” Mr. Michele said backstage, surrounded by an army of well-wishers. His long dark hair and heavy beard were topped by a baseball cap; nestled under gold aviators that dangled amid scores of gold necklaces was a T-shirt with the slogan “Guccify Yourself” in pink.
“Pink is very powerful. It makes you feel sweet and sexy, also if you are a man,” he offered by way of explanation.
Initial ideas for what might shape this collection, Mr. Michele said, had focused on the might and power of ancient Greece and Rome. But the Acropolis was not available (and Chanel, whose Greek-themed resort show took place a few weeks ago, already did that). So he opted for what he considered the next best thing.
“The only era to compare to those epochs, I think, was the Renaissance,” Mr. Michele said. “It was the other big step. And Florence was at the center of that change — like California is now. It heaved with beauty, creativity, energy and a power to shape the future, all fueled by money.”
The same could be said of the Gucci resort scene. Hundreds of guests, including the actresses Kirsten Dunst, Saoirse Ronan and Dakota Johnson, and the singer Elton John — many of whom had earlier been treated to an after-hours private tour of the Uffizi Gallery, just over the river — perched in the Palatine portrait galleries on rainbow-hued canvas stools inscribed with words from a poem by Lorenzo de’ Medici to watch the show go by.
It included billowing gowns for a modern princess in striped Pepto-Bismol pink and violet, caped, buttoned and decorated by bejeweled gold bows that were also wound in the models’ hair. Diaphanous gold and black chiffon dresses, bound with winding ribbons, pleated and worn with metallic cithara garlands. And pearls — unthinkably rare during the Renaissance but plentiful for Florentines with money and influence, Mr. Michele said — were scattered everywhere: on jackets, on necklaces and even fashioned as a balaclava.
This being an Alessandro Michele show, however, it didn’t stop there. Cruise collections, which are notionally intended to be transseasonal wardrobes for jet set shoppers who flit between climates, tend to err on the lighter side. Not here. In 90-degree Tuscan heat, boys and girls drifted past in high ruffled necklines and heavy-duty felt military coats covered in rich brocade, kitschy brown double-G emblazoned PVC and fur striped jackets and oversized white shearling leather bombers with fringing on the arms. An eccentric, sequined menagerie of snakes, tigers, butterflies, dragons and bees ran riot down sleeves, up chests and across shoulder blades, while the sound of harps hung heavy in the air.
Afterward, guests traveled to a cocktail party in a private garden on the outskirts of the city, complete with a concert from the singer Beth Ditto.
“I am always connected with the Renaissance, so I feel very comfortable here,” Mr. Michele said. “It is also the right moment for the brand, which started here, and where what I am doing is closer to heart of Florence than other moments in its history. It is not about the past. I wanted to paint a new kind of renaissance. The Gucci renaissance: injected with rock ‘n’ roll.” That desire makes him, presumably, its new crown prince.