Thursday 17th October

| BY Dino Bonacic

Gucci Grip Is A Timepeace Encapsulating The Radical Spirit of Skateboarding Culture

In case you haven’t heard – skateboarding is having quite a moment, and I’m not just talking about the queues in front of Palace, Stüssy and Supreme in Soho. In fact, skateboarding is one of the five new sports added to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. What once was a totem of a subculture has now officially entered the mainstream in more than one way – its style, perhaps, being one of the biggest instruments transforming the activity from a niche interest into a main stage attraction. We’ve all come a long way since Tony Hawk’s Play Station One game series and Avril Lavigne’s Sk8er Boi. But while some brands jump on board (get it?) in an attempt to adapt skateboarder style to their luxury audience, Gucci’s Alessandro Michele approached the subject in a way that could only be described as totally his own. Instead of borrowing stylistic elements, the Italian designer looked at the tool that makes skateboarders who they are.

Photograph by Noah Dillon

Originally unveiled at the world’s biggest watch convention, Baselworld 2019, Gucci Grip embodies the radical spirit of skateboarding by taking inspirations from the board itself, particularly the rugged tape covering the top of the decks from which it borrowed its name. It’s also the the first timepiece design Michele launched at Gucci, which comes as part of the new expansion on watches and jewellery in the past year. The piece is a retro-futuristic take on 1970s frame shapes, and is available in both gold and silver with a whole variety of metal and leather straps. What makes it innovative is the fact that the time is shown in a way similar to a scale – showing you exactly what time and date it is, without the troubles of tracing which is the big hand and which is the small one. Instead of a large, rounded glass front, the watch carries a flat metal one, which is a reference to the board as well as 1920s watches and a time before glass was developed enough to be used as a material in timepieces.

Photograph by Dora Diamant & Marilou Chabert

“It’s like something you’ve seen before, because it looks quite retro but it’s really not,” Kieron Livingstone describes it, a British artist, designer and art director who worked with Gucci on their next mural. As part of their ongoing Art Wall project, Livingstone imagined a graphic dedicated to the new watch standing tall on one of the buildings down Brick Lane in Shoreditch. Colourful, fantastical and perfectly in-tune with the brand’s own visual discourse, the large-scale illustration sees parts of skateboards exploding into the zig-zag clouds, with bunnies and clowns surrounding the gold version of the watch. “Magic and transformation served as inspirations,” Livingstone explains. He is best known for his work in the naughties with Zoltar the Magnificent, a cult brand that was one of the first to mix art, fashion and streetwear into once. The fantastical elements that sit at the interjection of all those fields pour into Michele’s work today. Even Livingstone, who was the art director of the London-based multimedia collective since its inception, agrees: “[Gucci] reminds me a bit of some of the Zoltar stuff because there are some sort of maverick ideas going on there and thats kind of what we did so [the collaboration] seemed quite natural.”

In addition to the Art Wall, Gucci also created a global campaign celebrating the launch. And when I say global, I do really mean it. Taking place across seven global cultural hubs – New York City, Seoul, Paris, Tokyo, Rome, Shanghai and London – the brand focused on seven different communities of skateboarders, each captured by a different image maker. Gucci Grip is a unisex product, and to celebrate that, photographer Dasom Han captured an all-female group of skateboarders in South Korea’s capital. In Paris, Dora Diamant and Marilou Chabert shot Unity, a travelling (and ever-expanding) queer skateboarding community, during one of their monthly skates. The spotlight on community instead of just a singular activity of doing flips down at the skate park makes this project unique and different from just a luxury brand introducing their streetwear-infused garments.

Photograph by Dasom Han

The fact is – Gucci Grip is a watch for everyone and not just skateboarders, despite its inspirations. The London part of the campaign probably encapsulates the trans-generational aspect of the product best. Shot by emerging talent Clémentine Schneidermann, London’s coolest gang of sk8ters are joined by grannies in a tongue-in-cheek impression of all the action. One of the protagonists in that story is Dan Fischer Eustance, who got involved thanks to a DM from Gucci. “When Gucci hits you up you can’t really say no,” he says. And if skating with a £1.4k watch on your hands sounds a bit excessive, at least there’s a bit less of a chance of breaking the watch because, well most of its front is made out of metal… That’s what luxury sounds like.

The Gucci Grip watches are available to shop online and in selected stores. Top photograph by Clémentine-Schneidermann.

Photograph by Clémentine-Schneidermann