‘Gucci Love Parade’ came to Hollywood: Here’s what it was like

On Hollywood Boulevard, inside the belly of Tinseltown’s tourist district, the scene is different. Above, there’s a burnt-orange sky. Below, the pink terrazzo stars of the Walk of Fame. And surrounding us, the area’s most iconic buildings — the Chinese theatre, its 90-foot pagoda-shaped roof and bright red columns guarded by foo dogs, and the famous El Capitan and Dolby theatres. Well, what’s different, you ask? There’s not a single vehicle on the road. And if you’ve lived or even visited Los Angeles in the past, you must know that going through the bad-tempered congestion of Hollywood traffic is always an exercise in frustration. And you must also know that when said gridlock disappears, it usually means that some special event is underway. 

Tonight, that stretch of the city’s most popular boulevard is shut down to make way for Gucci’s “Love Parade” runway show. It was not too long ago that the luxury house, helmed by Alessandro Michele, announced Hollywood as its location of choice for the show that commemorates the centenary year of the house. (Through the “Gucci Changemakers” program, the fashion house is also committing its philanthropic efforts to the issues of homelessness and mental health in Los Angeles.) For LA fashionistas, it felt like a bit of a win. After all, it’s typically New York, the country’s fashion mecca, that gets all of the good stuff. 

But Hollywood makes sense. To the Italian fashion designer, it holds special meaning. His mother, who worked as an assistant in a film production company, had a lifelong love for cinema and supplied him with all the escapist, sepia-era inspiration he needed growing up. “I thought about the adoration of beauty she fed me,” Alessandro writes in his show notes. “About the irrevocable gift of dreams and the mythopoetic aura of cinema. That’s why I chose Hollywood Boulevard.” Or as he calls it, the “temple of the gods.” 

Setting the stage

Rows of bright teal director’s chairs with back-and-seat canvases featuring the fashion houses’ iconic interlocking “G” monogram line the street on both sides. They’re empty, for now — the show doesn’t start for an hour or so — but rehearsals are already underway. Models in their robes and casual wear, and still makeup-free faces march down the blocked-off road. For the most part, they’re focused and silent, until of course, Jared Leto walks the runway to the cheer and woo-hoo of the crowd. He breaks his stride, turns around, smiles and waves at passersby. 

A producer, clad in black with an important-looking headset, is constantly running up and down the street. The model-to-model distance has to be perfect, and it’s his job to make sure of it. Whenever he sees an anomaly, he corrects it. Look, he moves his arms closer then away from each other as if playing an accordion. Closer, tighter, he gestures, and the model nods, shuffling hurriedly ahead. When the rehearsal draws to a close, we hear this blaring from the speakers: “A little faster, more speed, more energy,” a man’s voice instructs, telling the models where the cameras will be, where to pay close attention and how to walk in the finale of the show. “That’s it. It’s amazing. You’re amazing. It’s going to be fantastic.” 

And the show begins

The last of the star-studded guest list — including Lizzo, Dakota Johnson, Salma Hayek, Billie Eilish, Miley Cyrus and Gwyneth Paltrow — have been seated, and we’re told the show’s about to start. A large crowd has gathered to watch, too. In an unusual move for the fashion industry, a pedestrian alley is left open for the public. Some have come specifically for the show. Others are just here out of spur-of-the-moment curiosity. There are so many lights, so much fuss, how could you not stop to sneak a peek? 

Personally, I’m so excited, I can’t help but let out a sharp, happy yip. We hear the echoing base of Bjork’s Big Time Sensuality, which makes way to her funky, impish voice. Phones fly into the air. In the corner of my own screen, I see the first look: a pistachio green cardigan with a shaggy collar, razor-sharp cat-eye shades, thigh-high stockings peeking through the slit of black skirt and towering platforms. Oh, and a tuck-under-your-arm studded shoulder purse straight from the ‘90s. It’s cool. It’s nostalgic. 

More buttery pastels follow, and look by look, the inner workings of Alessandro’s mind begin to unfurl in front of us. If the venue didn’t already make it clear: This is a nod to Hollywood, through its lores and tropes, and its many decades of grit and glamor. There are looks that exude pure silver-screen elegance: sweeping boudoir gowns with exuberant feather trims, layered lace frocks, pin-up stockings, oversized boas and sequins shimmering under the marquee lights. (There are even tiaras. So Audrey Hepburn.) A personal favorite: This green number, with fluttering plumes of gorgeous marabou and ruffles that fall into a dramatic, floor-pooling hem. 

At the end of the show, the models walk energetically up and down the iconic Hollywood boulevard, making attendees feel as though they’ve truly walked into an active set.

But we also see references to the Westerns by way of cowboy hats, boots and fringed jackets. There’s a smattering of erotica, too, in the form of — yes, you’re reading this right — butt plug necklaces and lotsa latex. We skip into the ’70s with large-and-loud specs and bright prints, then stumble into the set of Cleopatra, with an ivory silk gown and cascading headdress that will, no doubt, remind you of Elizabeth Taylor. 

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And speaking of celebrities, there are quite a few. Jodie Turner-Smith glides down the sidewalk-slash-runway in a larger-than-life, orange-and-green hyperbole of a feather coat. Macaulay Culkin rocks a Hawaiian shirt underneath a metallic bomber jacket and easygoing camel pants. And as I mentioned earlier, Jared Leto (who will appear in the film House of Gucci later this year) dons a double-breasted gray blazer, white laced-up pants, white boots and retro aviators. (The poetry of stars walking on stars isn’t lost on me.)

While truly an adventure into the past, there are flashes of the now and present-day. Think: sartorial blazers mixed with modern monogrammed leggings, and bow ties comfortably coexisting with colorful tennis shoes in the same look. In short, the collection is all over time, all over the place but also very much of it. We dive into a decade, a genre, a mood and come out of another — and yet, it all feels cohesive, half-old and half-new but wonderfully whole. 

This explosive barrage of looks feels like an announcement of Hollywood’s beauty. Direct, yet no less complex in its mission to make us remember that cinema is a powerful machine, one that churns out magic and fantasy, but is grounded in something real. And that it’s tied to our city with an umbilical cord. Sometimes it takes seeing it through another’s eyes to call this to mind. Sometimes, it takes Gucci. 

LA-based journalist and blogger sharing her deep-seated, honest love for fashion and travel. Check in every week for new stories of exploration and roundups!

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