Death and glitter: Gucci hosts France show in Roman ruins

ARLES, France — Death and the ancient world mingled in the smoky air Gucci's 2019 cruise fashion show, where celebrity guests in the southern French city of Arles were transported through time and space to an eerie Roman cemetery.

Singer Elton John, rapper A$AP Rocky and actresses Salma Hayek and Saoirse Ronan were among the spectators at the Italian powerhouse's itinerant annual spectacle on Wednesday night. Gucci designer Alessandro Michele chose The Alyscamps, the ruins of a Roman necropolis, as his stage.

The location perfectly paid homage to both the house's Italian roots and its French parent-company, Kering, during a year in which Gucci is celebrating all things French and announced it would skip Milan Fashion Week to show in Paris in the fall.

Michele took full advantage of the dramatic backdrop of stone ruins and tombs during the nighttime presentation. Clouds of smoke blew around church-style candles and mirrored seating as haunting choral music by Monteverdi further set the scene.

Guests gasped as the show opened with coordinated bursts of fire and a line of flames that ignited all the way down the center of the 100-meter-long runway.

"Conceptually, I've never been in anything like this for a fashion show," A$AP Rocky said, marveling from the front row. "France has always had that predominance in architecture. And I'm here to absorb it all."

Michele painstakingly captured the sense of history in the clothes.

High-collared — almost ghoulish — Victorian gowns fluttered past with hanging crucifix pendants. Ethereal models wore hair ribbons, thick velvet dresses and weighty embroidered capes, sometimes holding large bouquets of white flowers.

One black cape had guests literally on the edge of their seats as it brushed treacherously close to the runway flames.

But many of the 114 looks weren't quite that spooky.

Michele served up his signature Gucci styles that twinned gothic elements with saleable street wear.

Floral prints on satin appeared alongside staple plaid skirts, leggings with sequins and tights in leopard print. For some fun, fluorescent platforms, sleeveless denim jackets and bondage pants added a Glam rock vibe.

The Pan logo from famous Los Angeles celebrity haunt the Chateau Marmont Hotel also featured on several looks that are almost guaranteed to fly off the shelves.

Aside from the clothes, Gucci's show was for a good cause.

It aimed to support the local Provencal culture and traditions and was put on in collaboration with the city of Arles.

One of the invited guests was 23-year-old Nais Lesbos, the reigning Queen of Arles — an ambassador-like role to promote the endangered Provencal language and traditions around France and the world.

Lesbos said Michele attended her crowning ceremony and was committed to what's been seen as a buoyant moment for Arles.

Architect Frank Gehry is among designers behind the creation of a new contemporary art center on a renovated industrial complex a stone's throw from the Gucci venue.

Elton John ensured the fashion show ended on a note that was more glamorous than earnest.

The 71-year-old legend took the piano before a floodlit stone edifice and joked that the featured performer was "supposed to be Lana Del Rey, but she couldn't come."

He played the night out with "Your Song" and other that kept spooked revelers going into the wee hours Thursday.

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Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamson_K

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