Alessandro Michele’s Gucci Autumn/Winter 2020 show opened Milan Fashion Week by reinventing the conventional fashion show. The first course of action was the invitation, which was delivered to guests via WhatsApp in the form of a personal voice note and selfie from Michele — a move that was both sustainable and intimate in a way so finely attuned to the digital age. Then, at the show arrivals, bemused guests entered the Gucci Hub space through the backstage area, where scores of dressers, technicians, and hair and makeup teams hustled to prepare the models for their debut.

“I have always considered the fashion show as an event bursting with enchantment,” the creative director said in his show notes, which were handwritten on lined paper. “There’s something though, in this ceremony, that usually stays buried: the struggle of the parturient that accompanies the tremble of creation; the mother’s womb where poetry blooms, from shape to shape. Therefore, I decided to unveil what lies behind the curtains.”

On that note, Michele’s presentation, entitled ‘The Ritual’, turned a seasonal experience into a  ‘meta’ spectacle. Instead of a traditional runway, models were dressed on a rotating round platform as scenes of backstage action played out in the middle, complete with clothing racks and digital screens displaying what was happening on the “runway.” A voiceover by Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini boomed through the speakers, accompanied by Ravel’s “Bolero”, until the music reached a climax as models emerged from the glass structure onto a circular runway. “We were your show, you were our show,” Michele announced.

As for the collection itself, Michele’s signature irreverence came through with maximalist construction and eerie romanticism. A kaleidoscope of Renaissance shapes, ‘70s bohemia and ‘90s grunge mingled with a heavy hand of kink. There were prairie dresses worn with leather harnesses, schoolgirl uniforms with ripped tights, and Edwardian tops with disco pants.