Elton John, Kirsten Dunst indulge in Gucci's Renaissance

FLORENCE, Italy — Alessandro Michele's midseason Cruise 2018 collection was as artistically eccentric as the portraits hanging in the Medici's private Vasari Corridor that guests took to arrive at the exclusive runway show Monday evening at the Pitti Palace venue.

It was a night of Renaissance indulgence for the Gucci crowd, with celebrity guests including Elton John, Kirsten Dunst, Jared Leto, Dakota Johnson, accompanied by sisters Stella Banderas and Grace Johnson.

Before they runway show, guests were treated to private time with Botticelli's masterpieces in the Uffizi Gallery and a guided walk along the Vasari Corridor built by the Medicis to connect the Uffizi with the Pitti Palace that is otherwise closed to the public for renovations.

The evening concluded with a performance by singer-songwriter Beth Ditto in a private garden.

Before heading off to entertain his guests, Michele, wearing the season's "Guccify Yourself" T-shirt said he shoots for eccentricity.

"You have to make everything, you know, crazy," Michele said backstage after the show. "There is no time. You can do what you want. "

Michele referenced the Mediterranean basin's most heroic eras in the collection, from ancient Greece and Rome through the Renaissance. For Michele, the references represented a form of modernity.

"Those kinds of faces, like you know Vespucci and all the models from the Renaissance, they were the most eccentric rock 'n roll of the time. It is in our culture. It is still here. Greeks and Romans are still inside everywhere," he said.

They were fitting monikers for a brand that has been enjoying a renaissance of its own under Michele, who is in his third year at the brand.

Renaissance-style princesses in flowing gowns, their faces ornately framed by pearls, glided through the 19th century galleries, their stiletto heels muffled by the Gucci-installed yellow carpet to protect the marble and terracotta floors.

There were followed by hapless tourists in Michele's Gucci geek-wear of oversized stripes, with Gucci pouches hung around their necks like passport holders, or foreign emissaries to the palace in exotic tunics worn belted over palazzo pants.

Long golden fringe on the back of leather jackets gave the impression of putti wings. Courtly puff sleeves bellowed exaggeratedly on a furry jacket.

In an era when head coverings are often a political statement, Michele's millinery was full of fancy, including golden and silvery laurel garlands, furry hoods, pearl studded caps, metallic turbans and headpieces with stars shooting upward.

The Gucci logo has a central role in Michele's rendering of the brand, along with the iconic snake. He called the double G logo "the hieroglyphics of the company. It is a kind of pop symbol. It makes everything powerful."

Michele chose the Pitti Palace as the venue in homage to the brand's Florentine birthplace, but also after Greek authorities wouldn't allow the fashion house to host the event at the Parthenon.

"Florence is still one of the most fascinating metropoli of the past. I always say it is like the Napa Valley now," the designer said. "Everything is here. Beauty, money, everything. The power of the good money. It is still fascinating."

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This story has been amended to correct the spellings of Kirsten Dunst and the Vasari Corridor.

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