During the Gucci Spring-Summer 2024 Men’s Collection at Milan Fashion Week, Gucci presented an expansive exhibition in celebration of an icon: the Gucci Horsebit Loafer.
Titled Gucci Horsebeat Society, the immersive event marked 70 years since the creation of the emblematic Horsebit Loafer through installations featuring ten international artists, designers and creatives. The exhibition also formed the setting for the static presentation of the Men’s SS24 Collection.
The exhibition was brought to life at Spazio Maiocchi, the multi-faceted exhibition space where art, design and fashion blend in a former industrial building of over 1000 square meters in central Milan. Curated by Alessio Ascari, the Milan-based creative director and curator of Spazio Maiocchi, the exhibition was a multi-disciplinary experience exploring the iconography of the Horsebit Loafer through a combination of fashion, art and audio-visual elements. This included a durational performance by the Spanish artist and choreographer Candela Capitán, and a program of DJ sets by the renowned Parisian electronic music label Ed Banger.
Conceived by Aldo Gucci in 1953 as a loafer embellishment, the Horsebit – a miniature of the metal clamp of a horse’s bridle – has become a universal emblem for Gucci. As a signifier of the community embodied by the House, it has been interpreted over seven decades in hardware and motifs across accessories, jewellery and ready-to-wear.
Tracing the Horsebit to its equestrian roots, the Gucci Horsebeat Society re-imagines the tradition of the country club in a contemporary space fused with the spirit of artistic counterculture. The concept materialises in a multi-dimensional ‘house’- a series of sensorial, quasi-domestic environments inhabited by specially commissioned artworks.
In a diverse curation, the works of the ten artists – whose individual practices span from applied to digital arts – were displayed in unexpected dialogues with one another, providing an abstract and innovative take on the timeless Horsebit emblem.
In the courtyard of the Spazio Maiocchi, the Brooklyn-based Russian architect and multi-media artist Harry Nuriev from Crosby Studios created a conceptual ‘patio’ employing the Horsebit in furniture design, while the Italian visual artist Anna Franceschini curated a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ centred on artefacts from the Gucci archives.
Opening onto the courtyard, a ‘bedroom’ space unveiled a visually arresting image by the American photographer Charlie Engman, complemented by the only historical artwork in the exhibition: the 1998 installation Bedroom Ensemble II by Swiss artist Sylvie Fleury. The work was contextualised with a new Horsebit-pattern wallpaper designed especially for the exhibition, setting a suggestive stage for Tom Ford’s red Horsebit pump from the Gucci Fall-Winter 1995 Collection.
In the main gallery space, visitors were met by a theatrical ‘dining room’ featuring a surrealist table designed by the American sculptor Pitterpatter, and a quadreria of fantastical creatures by the Canadian digital artist Blatant Space. In the cinema room, a film by the British photographer and filmmaker Bolade Banjo traced the trajectory of the Horsebit through historical imagery and contemporary footage.
Guests were invited to immerse themselves in the viewing experience in a dark space punctuated only by ‘light sculptures’ created by the South Korean designer Gyuhan Lee, reinterpreting the Horsebit motif in the tradition of hanji paper making.
As reflected in Gucci’s archival imagery, upon its launch in 1953, the casual but elegant Horsebit Loafer became reflective of a changing, more liberal mentality towards conventional dress codes. In the 1960s, it assimilated into the wardrobes of cultural icons and stars like Francis Ford Coppola, Fred Astaire and Alain Delon before a new generation of teenagers appropriated it in the 1970s, including a skateboarding Jodie Foster photographed in 1977.
In the 1980s, it was adapted by a tone-setting culture of career women before its appeal was reshaped in line with the sensual, sophisticated language of Gucci in the 1990s. Through the House’s sumptuous lens of the 2010s, the Horsebit would grace a new classic in the shape of the shearling-lined Princetown slippers.
Aptly, it is in the ‘closet’ – a space covered floor-to-ceiling in a collage wallpaper created by Australian image-maker Ed Davis – that the Gucci Spring-Summer 2024 Men’s Collection was showcased on mannequins.