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A first look inside Gucci’s Cosmos exhibition extravaganza in London

 (Gucci)
(Gucci)

Gucci’s travelling Cosmos circus has landed in London — and this slice of the Italian house’s acclaimed Florence archive, now sprawling the basements of 180 The Strand, are as Instagrammable as anyone who has been to Italy’s Gucci Garden will recall.

The best advertisement, on its opening press morning (October 10), was Gucci’s new creative director Sabato De Sarno, whose debut show only came last month. “Bellissimo,” he cooed, looking genuinely in awe at his surroundings, to a huddled team. A number of De Sarno’s designs, in his updated house ‘ancora’ red,  have made it into this exhibition before they hit shop floors next year. The final space, new for the exhibit’s London iteration, has also been dedicated to his vision.

That evening he happily showed it all off to a roster of Gucci A-listers including Normal People’s Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones, Top Boy’s Michael Ward, models Lila Moss and Adwoa Aboah and the Lionessess captain, Leah Williamson.

Yeah, ok: he obviously has skin in the game. But as a whole, this visual feast of a show will be a sure hit for brand devotees. At times, it’s easy to forget it is really an extra-sparkling advert for Gucci’s 102-years of merch.

The Alessandro Michele-designed rainbow disc jumpsuit, worn by Harry Styles at Coachella last year (Gucci)
The Alessandro Michele-designed rainbow disc jumpsuit, worn by Harry Styles at Coachella last year (Gucci)

The clothes, as expected, are fabulous — highlights include Tom Ford-designed red velvet suits, as championed by Gwetheth Paltrow at the 1996 VMAs; the Alessandro Michele-designed rainbow disc jumpsuit, worn by Harry Styles at Coachella last year; and the floral silk scarf made, in 24 hours, for Princess Grace of Monaco in 1966 — but it is the set, created by British artist Es Devlin, that is most impressive.

It can be packed up and shipped anywhere — this 11 section show first opened in Shanghai in April this year, and will move on from London on 31 December — which is quite bewildering given its scale. It is transportive as it is transportable in places, too; guests enter a recreated Savoy Hotel lobby, where founder Guccio Gucci worked in the 1890s, before sections focus on specialties of the house.

The Archivo room displays Gucci’s best known bags (Gucci)
The Archivo room displays Gucci’s best known bags (Gucci)

Decades worth of leather goods spin in carousel rooms; horse-bit bags and equestrian-intonated designs are invigorated as lights go down and life-size horses are projected galloping in the round; two 10-metre-tall white statues lie horizontal and have outfits projected on them; a blinding blue and mirrored archival room presents all the classic bags (Bamboo 1947, the Jackie 1961, the Horsebit 1955, the Dionysus — you get the picture) while drawers pull out to reveal silk scarves, sketches, and gems from Tom Ford’s advertising campaigns. No shortage of visual stimulation, then.

After a red rubix cube style ‘Cabinet of Wonders’ spins to reveal assorted accessories and Met Gala gowns, a concluding catwalk style line up runs through 25 of the greatest hits since the 1970s (recent favourites include Michele’s model baby dragon, from autumn winter 2018, and the pleated, purple frock Lady Gaga wore to the London premiere of The House of Gucci film, in 2021) projected with illustrations of London based artists, mixed with some of those chosen for Shanghai.

A carousel of 25 greatest hits looks wraps up the Cosmos exhibition (Gucci)
A carousel of 25 greatest hits looks wraps up the Cosmos exhibition (Gucci)

It is worth noting, this is a shiny shrine to the company’s output over the years. Those who have watched the Adam Driver, Gaga and Jared Leto blockbuster House of Gucci will know with the founding family comes a history of hitmen and power struggles; the exhibition studiously avoids any mention of this in favour of the Instagram-friendly, sparkling work. But Instagram this exhibition, London surely will.

Gucci Cosmos opens at 180 Studios, 180 The Strand, in London, on 11 October and runs until 31 December 2023, tickets £18, gucci.com