c.2015 New York Times News Service

c.2015 New York Times News Service

MILAN — It began with a new beginning.

As Alessandro Michele’s first show as creative director of Gucci — possibly the most anticipated of Milan Fashion Week, certainly the one with the highest stakes — opened the Italian fall womenswear season, even the entry seemed a declaration of intent.

All black, it served as a portal to ferry the audience to the main theater, where the traditional black velvet bleachers and central catwalk had been replaced by central bleachers framed by an industrial metal catwalk. And on each seat: a sheet of paper that mused on time and disconnection, framed by two quotes — one from Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben and one from French philosopher Roland Barthes — and titled after the latter: “The Contemporary Is the Untimely.”

It may not have entirely made sense, but on one level the point was easy to understand: This was not your grandmother’s (or even last season’s) Gucci anymore. Except actually it was.

In his debut womenswear collection, Michele delved into an imaginary attic trunk full of vintage treasures, recombining the elements for the girls and boys of a haute flea market world.

There were see-through point d’esprit blouses paired with below-the-knee pleated leather skirts; pink and red chevron minks and floral print trouser suits; rose-speckled chiffon tea dresses and red crepes with asymmetric tiers of pleats. Here were Lurex skirts and sweater vests, pussy bow shirts and lace minidresses and rabbit coats; there were male and female models on the runway who looked almost interchangeable.

It was all merchandised to the nth degree, with nerdy oversize tortoiseshell eyeglasses, knit beanie hats and brocade turbans, floral hair combs dripping wisteria, rings on every finger, canvas double-G chain-strap bags, horse-bit loafer/slippers and clogs lined in fur at the back, hairy bedroom slippers fit for Cousin Itt, and, and — and it was all, said Michele backstage before the show, intended for sale. And then he said something else.

His boyfriend, he said, likes to read him excerpts from his own books, and that’s where Michele first heard the Barthes and Agamben words. “I’m not really interested about philosophy,” he admitted, right before he also said he was “a lot nervous.” His connection to the relatively abstruse texts, in other words, was a human one.

Which was also the thing about this collection: While it was dressed up in the language and atmosphere (and expectations) of the Next Big Thing, it actually had the unpretentious feel of the comfortably familiar. It wasn’t Fashion, it was fashion; a parade of pieces with a nostalgic romance that could be plucked from a wardrobe, or plunked into one, with ease.

In this, Michele shares an approach with Nicolas Ghesquière of Louis Vuitton and Phoebe Philo of Céline, both of whom have been much applauded for their willingness to make clothes. (This sounds ridiculous, but in the through-the-looking-glass logic of the runway world makes sense: It describes pieces that put the wearer, as opposed to the concept, first.)

The results are easy to buy, in both senses of that word. But at this point in the swiftly turning fashion cycle, they are not, by any definition, actually new.