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Gucci x Balenciaga: Behind the Hacker

Feature: Long Read
Words by Susanna Lau

A period like no other calls for an unprecedented shake-up of the fashion system. Say hello to the fashion-house “hack” spearheaded by Italian brand Gucci and Paris-based maison Balenciaga, each helmed by one of fashion’s biggest renegades.

While digital shows were in full flow during the pandemic, we were all yearning for a jolt, and in the run-up to Gucci’s 100th-anniversary show last April – being presented digitally – there were rumours swirling around on social media about a potential tie-up with Gucci’s Kering stablemate Balenciaga. Neither brand made a comment. And the ‘Gucci-aga’ alliance seemed such a wild proposition. But when the Gucci show finally took place online, a short film – co-directed by award-winning director Floria Sigismondi – kicked off with a teaser direct-message conversation between creative directors Alessandro Michele of Gucci and Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga. “What a perfect occasion to play with your creativity for Balenciaga in the show!” Michele texted to Gvasalia. The anticipation sky-rocketed.

Gucci x Balenciaga matching floral outfit and bag

Gucci AW21

“What a perfect occasion to play with your creativity for Balenciaga in the show!” – Alessandro Michele

Gucci x Balenciaga matching floral outfit and bag

Then we were transported to The Savoy Club (founder Guccio Gucci once worked as a bellboy at The Savoy), complete with paparazzi flashbulbs and a soundtrack of Lil Pump’s Gucci Gang rap heralding Michele’s personal homage to Gucci greats. Michele called it Aria – a solo opera set piece; but this clearly wasn’t going to be a solo effort. And there it was, 10 looks in: Balenciaga’s knife boot-leggings rendered in Gucci’s GG. Two powerhouses coming together seamlessly. For Gucci, it was an especially gutsy move: it’s traditional for an anniversary show to be solely about one house, with attention focused fully on its legacy, but Michele instead chose to leave his own mark by ‘hacking’ Balenciaga. (Most definitely no ‘c-word’ in this playbook.)

Model wearing Gucci x Balenciaga black blazer and mustard hat

Gucci AW21

Gvasalia’s signature silhouettes for Balenciaga are now rendered in Gucci house colours with GG print. The dropped-shouldered anorak, exaggerated peplum jacket and slit skirt have all been Gucci-fied. The accessories in the Gucci Hacker capsule are also a 50/50 mash-up, with Balenciaga’s hourglass bag in Gucci’s iconic flora print and, conversely, the Gucci Jackie bag in the stark Balenciaga sans-serif logo sure to become fashion collectables. As for the pièce de résistance of this house hack that duly broke the fashion internet-sphere and was instantly memed? A sharp silver skirt-suit and matching leggings bearing both Gucci and Balenciaga logos. With demand already whipped up to fever pitch, Gucci-aga pieces are nailed on to be the ultimate ‘flex’ of the season.

Model wearing Gucci x Balenciaga heart bag and suit in sparkling silver

Gucci AW21

The visceral image of the Balenciaga and Gucci insignias interwoven is the equivalent of giving two fingers to supposed house codes and rigid systems. Ironic? Transgressive? Cynical? It’s all of that, but also an era-defining move in the fashion world that chimes with pop culture at large, rife with sampled music, mash-upped art, co-directed films and cross-pollinations. Could it be that nothing is sacred any more? Hack away, we say.

In Gvasalia, Michele saw a fellow ‘thief’ – a borrower of ideas and concepts.

Gucci x Balenciaga heart bag and jacket in sparkling silver

The visceral image of the Balenciaga and Gucci insignias interwoven is the equivalent of giving two fingers to supposed house codes and rigid systems. Ironic? Transgressive? Cynical? It’s all of that, but also an era-defining move in the fashion world that chimes with pop culture at large, rife with sampled music, mash-upped art, co-directed films and cross-pollinations. Could it be that nothing is sacred any more? Hack away, we say.

Shop GucciShop Balenciaga
Gucci x Balenciaga floral hourglass bag
There’s More In-Store
The Hacker Project Pop-up

Experience the collection in real life. Exclusively at Harrods, part one of the Gucci x Balenciaga Hacker Project is available to shop in the Exhibition Windows on the Ground Floor.

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