We’re out east in the old Communist zone of Berlin, waiting in the car park of a disused warehouse that nestles up to the municipal train tracks which circle around the city. Inside, walls are whitewashed, the warehouse’s roof is held up with aged wooden buttresses, and the floor is covered in dust, brick and fallen plaster.
Near one of the windows is a large, plain white DJ booth on a wooden palette. The warehouse is a far cry from the resplendent opulence of Gucci’s recent cerise and sequin-drenched SS17 show in Milan, yet both locations share, in their own way, aspects of Alessandro Michele’s new vision for the legendary Italian fashion house.
Like guests at a reception, slowly people begin to arrive: Gucci’s marketing team in taxis, a bunch of skaters on board and bikes, and then, eventually, a black Mercedes with tinted windows as the sun sets behind the towering nearby apartment blocks. Out steps GucciGhost, the Canadian former professional snowboarder-turned-NYC skater and graffiti artist who’s just the latest recruit to join the house of Gucci.
The reason why we’re all here is so we can watch the man at work as he designs and decorates said DJ booth for the following night’s party. Held at Gucci’s Berlin flagship out west on the lush Ku’Damm boulevard, the Friday night event will celebrate the release of the new GucciGhost capsule collection that he co-designed. Oh, GucciGhost DJs as well.
Ever since Alessandro Michele took over the reigns of Gucci back in January 2015, the designer has picked an eclectic range of fellow creatives to work with: from his campaign work with Berlin-based filmmaker Matt Lambert to roping in model/actress/writer Hari Nef for his runway shows.
However, it’s arguable that GucciGhost, aka "Trouble Andrew," aka Trevor Andrew, is his most interesting and controversial. Not because of who Andrew is or what he says – he’s actually a super chill, incredibly nice and annoyingly talented guy who just seems to be having fun – but of what he does.
Debuting his work with Michele during the FW17 womenswear show, Andrew daubed pieces from the new collection with inverted, simplified and playful reinterpretations of Gucci’s famous double G logo, a "Gucci Ghost" motif that looks like it was lifted straight out of Pac-Man, and the word "REAL" scrawled across handbags, tees and other garms.
The collection slotted perfectly into the reemergence of doodling and the heavy lean back toward individual customization we’re seeing across the streetwear scene and now, by extension, the fashion industry (Gucci recently opened a luxe customization boutique in Milan back in the summer, designed for this very purpose of course).
Yet, by co-opting Andrew’s artistic persona of the "GucciGhost," arguably Michele is subtly raising questions about authenticity in fashion, as well as exploring the blurred line of the real and the surreal. If a fake Gucci bag is marked by GucciGhost with one of his designs (as apparently is what happened at the earlier release party in Barcelona the night before we meet, according to one of Andrew's crew), does that make it a genuine Gucci piece? Of course not, but perhaps in a parallel world, maybe it does...? Suddenly that dreaminess that runs through Michele's collections all start to coalesce.
"He just understood what I was doing, he completely got it," says Andrew of Michele. "When I arrived at Gucci, he never made it feel like 'oh I’m taking a big risk doing this'. It was just so welcoming and so, like, 'oh my God I love what you’re doing! Let’s do this!'." We’re outside now, looking in at the DJ booth and smoking cigarettes as he takes a break and reevaluates what he’s going to paint on the booth next. "So," he says eventually, "we just kinda had fun."
Fun is probably the key element here. Under Michele, gallons of virtual ink have already been spent writing about the brand’s bohemian and playfully whimsical new direction, often positioning that in sharp contrast to the equally sharp luxe of predecessor Frida Giannini’s Gucci, and the sex-soaked era that was Tom Ford's time. This latter period was the one that GucciGhost first came into contact with his namesake after winning a professional snowboarding competition and stepping into a mall jewelry store to blow his winnings.
What he bought was a Gucci watch and this, says Andrew, ignited his passion for the brand and helped fuel his work on the capsule: "Just that feeling of wearing it, y’know?" he says. "I kind of feel that I was chasing that feeling for years later. So I really brought that into this collection. I wanted to revisit those feelings of excitement."
The collection itself consists of elemental wardrobe basics: sweaters, tees, a V-neck jersey, scarf, backpack, sneakers and assorted luscious footwear, all of which sport GucciGhost’s irreverent, brightly-colored scribblings. The aforementioned Pac-Man ghost and the rhetorical "REAL" sit next to bright skulls, gold stars, and a simplified image of success: a diamond. "Life is GUCCI" also appears, with the "Gucci" written backward, again, almost in playful defiance.
"What Gucci means is greatness. It’s all about what it represents. Even people say it, like, 'everything’s Gucci, everything's good, everything's great, life’s Gucci', y’know?" Hence Gucci Mane and hence Andrew and his crew’s creative squat in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy, the Gucci Trap House, where Andrew worked on his designs in between his surf-rock meets lo-fi trap band, also known as Trouble Andrew, as well as his collaborative work with wife Santigold, Diplo, Theophilus London and shooting videos with Miley Cyrus on old VHS recorders.
However, despite the irreverence that GucciGhost and Michele's vision seems to encapsulate, what the new Gucci and what Michele is doing seems very deliberate. Between the new customization boutiques and the welcoming of GucciGhost and his ethos into the fold, Michele seems to be opening the doors of the sumptuous house to new players and people so they can make the label their own.
Expression, individuality, and authenticity are of course what true fashion has at its core – whether it’s haute couture or streetwear – but GucciGhost’s capsule feels like there’s now an open invitation for all of us to go and make Gucci our own.
Which is exactly what we did when Highsnobiety's Berlin crew, along with dozens of others that comprise the local fashion scene, headed to the brand's Ku'Damm's flagship to celebrate the collaboration and party with GucciGhost himself. Capturing the event on instant film, Andrew scrawled across each one just like he did across the collection itself.
Gucci’s collaborative capsule collection is available now.