Gucci hasn’t broken the internet, but it has cracked Instagram. And we can’t get enough.
Photographs by Martin Paar
For its new Instagram campaign, Gucci commissioned British photographer Martin Parr to capture its new watches at nine so-called Gucci Places—sites of brand inspiration, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Maison Assouline in London, and Gucci’s own Florentine garden. As with all of Parr’s work, the photos are hyper-saturated, acerbic, precisely observed. It’s the only luxury watch campaign this year co-starring a stale croissant, a pigeon’s gnarled claw, and a few spots of a tourist’s acne. #TimeToParr is as visually successful as it is ambitious. Which is saying something.
The collaboration between Gucci, a brand that’s as Italian as bus strike, and Martin Parr, documentarian of British kitsch and quirk, was not self-evident. It owes its existence to one Roman Anglophile: Alessandro Michele, the visionary, maximally-coiffed creative director of Gucci.
Michele’s love of the British is foundational. His very first collections featured models that looked as if they were honey-dipped then dragged through the Elizabethan, Victorian and Edwardian eras; above the shoulders alone, accessories included ruffled collars, slips of tartan and silk scarves knotted under the neck, a look recognizable to viewers of The Crown. Another dream, realized in 2016, was a Gucci show staged at Westminster Abbey, the sight of all English coronations since William the Conqueror’s ascent in 1066. Cool, Britannia.
Now we have these Martin Parr pictures, which—not to put too fine a point on it—are about perfect. Timely, technicolor, absurd and charming. From the company that sells four-figure jackets embroidered with the Yankees logo, commissioning the former president of the Magnum photography collective to shoot an Instagram campaign makes a perverse kind of sense. It’s the full glory of high-low.
But there are many British photographers. What bound Michele’s cavalcade of prints, ruffles and horse-bit everything specifically to Martin Parr is a two-part epoxy: one part robust Anglophilia, one part dense, referential, mordant wit. Parr’s work is most often described as anthropological and satirical. What are Michele’s silhouettes, pulled from Renaissance paintings, if not anthropology? What is an interlocked-G Gucci logo the size of a focaccia if not satire?
Rather than flying in a phalanx of models, Parr cast subjects via their proximity to Gucci’s chosen locales and, in the case of one Chatsworth House groundskeeper, for the proximity of the green of his jacket to Gucci’s own trademarked hue. The man, gray and gentle, sweeps the pavement. Peeking from beneath the sleeve of his fleece: a 38mm G-Timeless, its band a perfect match to the worn broom handle.
Another photo from Chatsworth is a portrait-of-a-portrait: two teens taking a selfie. They’re demure and apple-cheeked. The boy’s phone case,
Across the Atlantic, a different shot shows a woman head to toe in pink: clothes, nails, eyeglasses, jewelry, hairdo, notably taut face. Whatever she’s regarding is out of frame, but it could be one of LACMA’s Rodins—her hand clasps her chin in homage to the sculptor’s “The Thinker.” The watch, Gucci’s Le Marché Des Merveilles, is appropriately Pepto-Bismol, plus serpents, studs, and shoe-leather from one of Shirley Temple’s old Mary Janes.
Was commissioning Martin Parr, famed for biting meta-portraits of the leisure class, to photograph luxury goods a wise idea? Can such a surfeit of irony—Gucci’s current retro-indulgence plus Parr’s wicked perspective plus The Internet—trick the laws of metaphysics, piercing through layer after layer of critique, parody and burlesque, and end up engendering the glamour that makes a buyer point to a bauble, and say, Mine?
And so one might wonder: Is this #TimetoParr campaign the best Anglo-Italian collaboration since Spaghetti Westerns?
Indeed, we say. Decisamente, si.