In recent years, the world’s top brands have made brand exhibitions their go-to when seeking to create deeper connections with consumers. Gucci Cosmos, fresh from Shanghai, is an immersive dive into the 102-year history of the brand.
Designed by the legendary Es Devlin, known for multi-disciplinary stage and set designs, the exhibition feels special. It’s a showcase of beautifully synchronized sound, motion, light and (of course), product design. The exhibition’s themes get progressively more conceptual, starting with core influences and progressing to the philosophical.
The Ascending Room:
After stepping through the entrance that includes a replica of the Duomo in Florence, guests are welcomed into a recreation of the Savoy Hotel lobby.
It’s here that Guccio Gucci once worked as a bellboy and elevator attendant, providing him the perfect front row seat to observe the rich – their style, and (most importantly), their luggage. The first electric elevator, which took a leisurely seven minutes, was transformed into a sensory experience by the Savoy. This seems like a fitting analogy for what luxury brands do best – transforming the banal into the sensational. Animation behind screens give guests the convincing sensation of ascension, and transportation into the Gucci universe.
“The elevator room feels like a fitting analogy for what luxury brands do best – transforming the banal into the sensational.”
In the attached Portal room is a romanticized airport terminal, and luggage carousel.
The carousel beautifully showcases archival Gucci luggage and emphasizes how luggage serves as a symbol of individual lives and experiences – and a life to aspire to. It seems striking that luggage, now a key product for a number of the top luxury fashion houses, is firstly practical item and has been transformed by luxury brands into the ultimate status signal. Motion and sound design is sensory, slow (and evocative) making the room feel like a truly luxury space.
“Luggage serves as a symbol of individual lives and experiences – and a life to aspire to.”
The exhibition delves into the relationship between Gucci design and equestrianism.
The room pays tribute to the synergy between humans and horses, with immersive 360-degree projections and the sound of galloping horses surrounding the clothes on display. The name ‘Zoetrope’ originates from a 19th-century optical tool device creates the illusion of movement when spun. Horse bits and leatherwork used within the clothing embed equestrianism (wealth) irreversibly into the brand.
“Horse bits and leatherwork used within the clothing embed equestrianism (and wealth) eternally into the Gucci brand.”
The Eden room explores another key theme, the natural world, with a focus on botanicals and animals. ‘The Garden’ also being another heritage symbol of wealth, exudes opulence, custom prints, and flamboyance. The monochromatic design in each room ensures that the opulence of the Gucci’s items take centre stage. Additional attendants guide visitors through specific custom prints, elevating the level of service to one comparative to the retail counterpart.
“Additional attendants guide visitors through custom prints, elevating the level of service to one comparative to Gucci’s retail counterpart.”
The exhibition becomes more conceptual. 10-meter-tall statues, laid horizontally are on an awe-inspiring scale – without the need for super-high ceilings.
‘Clothes’ are projected onto them, with outfits and prints constantly changing. This room symbolizes humans as celestial bodies and cosmic beings, exploring the houses interest in the higher self.
Representing the Gucci archive in Florence, this room features interactive drawers and blurred-out cabinets, fuelling the traditional luxury paradigm of exclusivity and mystery.
Visitors can examine objects as precious artifacts, and peek inside the brands rich design history.
Cabinet of Wonders:
The climax of the archive, this room slowly unveils rare and famous Gucci pieces.
Illuminated from within, it resembles a glowing treasure chest slowly spinning and opening and closing. The continuous visual language of showmanship, like the ‘zoetrope’, references a 19th-century fascination with illusion and divination, seeking to evoke awe and intrigue from visitors.
“A continuous language of showmanship references a 19th-century fascination with illusion and divination – seeking to evoke awe and intrigue.”
The term ‘Ancora’ translates to ‘also now, also then.’
According to Gucci’s new creative director Sobato de Sarno, ‘It’s not something you lost, it’s something that you still have, but you want more of it, because it makes you happy’. This embodies Gucci’s philosophy of embracing life, flamboyance, and style for the sheer joy of it. The exhibition ends with an ‘Ancora’ card vending machine, which cleverly leaves guests with a philosophy (and conversation) to take away.
“It’s not something you lost, it’s something that you still have, but you want more of it, because it makes you happy”.
The Gucci Cosmos Exhibition demonstrates that sophisticated technology is not a must for creating engaging brand environments.
It masterfully uses light, sound, projection, and scale in imaginative ways to make the experience feel truly immersive, and luxurious. The level of production quality, and attention to detail throughout the exhibition was key in reflecting the brand values of commitment to quality and experience.
With a large team of exhibition attendants helping each guest, the experience mirrors the level of retail care associated with luxury brands in-store. It’s an opportunity to appreciate and explore the creative commercial and design work of luxury brands, and their mastery of desire and transformation. The exhibition invites us to explore Gucci’s deeper philosophies in a way that feels refreshing, and authentic.
Large brand budgets can lead to amazing experiences, but even brands with smaller budgets can learn valuable lessons from global mega-brands; by observing key themes, and how to connect customers in a meaningful way.
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