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Earlier this week, Gucci’s fall 2016 collection hit the Milan runway. Looking past the garments’ usual vintage feel, there was something distinctly different about this collection. Biker jackets and midi skirts were branded with a graffiti-esque double G. What would normally be a bland leather bag was splashed with a dripping gold "REAL" above the Gucci name.
This was all the work of Brooklyn-based artist GucciGhost. Who is he? Why was he given a studio at Gucci HQ? And more importantly, how did a brand steeped in heritage come to let a street artist loose on its latest designs?
It’s hard to ignore the bond between fashion and art. After all, Prada has an entire art foundation, the late Alexander McQueen collaborated with none other than artist Damien Hirst, and who can forget Louis Vuitton’s logo rejuvenation by Takashi Murakami?
GucciGhost, real name Trevor ‘Trouble’ Andrew, is a rather elusive character. Google his name and you’ll be met with only a few relevant results. One thing that’s crystal clear is that Andrew has been obsessed with Gucci and its GG logo ever since he bought his first Gucci watch as a skateboarding teenager. One Halloween, he cut two holes in a Gucci sheet (apparently, they do exist), threw it on and patrolled Manhattan to the shouts of "Gucci ghost!" Hence his alter ego was born.Yet collaborating with relatively unknown artists is still a fairly new concept. Hedi Slimane is arguably the pioneer, recently partnering with 18-year-old Lucia Santina Ribisi on a series of coveted bomber jackets for Saint Laurent. Of course, this makes sense, as Hedi is obsessed with youth. Gucci’s Alessandro Michele seemingly is not, making his decision to collaborate appear even odder.
Andrew’s logo obsession led him to create his very own insignia: a cartoon Gucci-eyed ghost that would be drawn wherever he could lay his hands on. "There’s a lot of power behind logos. They represent beauty and greatness," he recently told WWD. This understanding of branding and influence came from Andrew’s entry into skate culture. As a young professional skateboarder, Andrew was skilled enough to warrant attention from various brands, leading him to walk right into the world of design.
Since then, he’s ventured into music, releasing his first album in 2007 and an entire GucciGhost EP in 2014. After striking up a friendship with Zoë Kravitz and her band Lolawolf, music video director was next to be crossed off his to do list. Never losing his love for one of fashion’s biggest houses, Andrew’s studio became known as the 'Gucci Trap House.' His album artwork frequently uses Gucci’s mirrored logo. In fact, he’s so into the word ‘Gucci’ that anything relating to it is fair game, including imprisoned rapper Gucci Mane, who became the subject of one of Andrew’s collage art projects.
It’s Andrew’s art that gets everyone talking. His Instagram and Tumblr are full of vibrant double G’s graffitied on dumpsters and Gucci print-clad ghosts drawn on dingy walls. Reminders of his adolescence feature heavily with illustrated skateboards present throughout. He even profits off of the Gucci logo through an online store selling GucciGhost apparel and accessories, including several hand-painted vintage pieces that seem to sum up the anarchy of youth.
Speaking of love, one thing fashion (possibly) adores more than art is raising eyebrows. If the entire industry is against copycats, what better way to shock than by embracing appropriation? Perhaps that’s why Gucci’s previously unknown name bet on another. For where Chanel issues lawsuits for misuse of its name, the new Gucci blares it for all to see.
Alessandro Michele was clearly impressed as was president and CEO, Marco Bizarre, who was said to be "quite in love" with the thought of a possible alliance.
"I saw the way Trevor was using the symbol of the company and I thought it was quite genius. It’s completely different than the idea of copying. It’s the idea that you try to [take to] the street the symbols of the company," Michele told WWD. His designs may be rooted in the eclecticism of the past but that doesn’t deter Michele’s goal of reaching out to the youth.
Just like GucciGhost’s predisposition for strange attachments, Michele is infatuated with street style. Not the type of street style seen on fashion week peacockers but the authentic style of real people on the streets. Michele wants (some would say needs) Gucci to be wearable. Let’s forget the extortionate price tag of his designs for a minute. Most of what he creates is undeniably easy to wear; something that’s becoming more and more important to young people.
By collaborating with "cool" artists, fashion brands tie themselves in with youth culture. And although teenagers and twenty-somethings are unlikely to splurge thousands, their opinion matters. Let’s face it, if your label’s not on a young person’s radar, you might as well be a relic. And that is one thing Alessandro Michele will not stand for.