Saturday, July 4, 2009
The holy water of the fashion world....
She's got sass... Gucci’s Frida Giannini understands the essence of modern sexiness so well, she’s bottled it The New York Times April 12, 2009 by Edwina Ings-Chambers It’s only the second time I’ve met Frida Giannini, creative director of Gucci, and I’m late. Oh, the horror! The mortification! It’s my own fault. I turned up at Claridge’s assuming that a designer of her standing would have taken over a fancy suite for her interviews. So I head straight to reception to ask for her, and am directed upstairs — to the wrong room. The door is answered by a bleary-eyed member of the general, non-fashion-designing, public. More mortification. It turns out that Giannini, 36, is sitting downstairs in a corner of the breakfast room being decidedly ungrand. She greets me warmly with two kisses. “How lovely to see you again!” No hint of irritation. No mention of the time. Just an open, friendly smile. This, it quickly transpires, is typical. She is the epitome of calm — so much so that I ask her if she’s a yoga devotee; she isn’t, but she does have a trainer who comes round to her home in Rome at 7.30am three times a week “to do exercises for the back, for my posture, because I’m always like that . . .” She hunches over. All her apparent calmness belies the fact that she’s a very busy woman. Her London schedule, before whizzing to China in 10 days’ time, includes interviews to talk about the new fragrance, Flora (inspired by the print she famously revived from the Gucci archives when she headed up the accessories section under Tom Ford), as well as overseeing the shoot for the new advertising campaign and hosting a party for the refurbished Gucci store in Sloane Street — gone is the black decor of the Ford era, in is a golden hue. Gold, I say, seems to be an important colour for her. “It’s warm,” she says, laughing. “I looked at the archives from the 1920s and 1930s, and there was a lot of gold, so I wanted to bring it back to life.” It is also the colour of the Gucci woman. Her catwalks, for instance, are usually strutted by models with long, wavy golden hair (her own is similar, although usually straight), sun-kissed skin and smoky eyes; it’s almost as much a part of the Gucci look as the clothes — neat trouser suits, short dresses, colourful prints. She laughs again — something she does a lot of. “Make-up and hair are definitely so important to the final look, the final story. And it’s important, from season to season, when telling a different story, that there is a link in the communication,” she explains. “It’s a reflection of a very confident woman — strong, independent — and something that is a message of our generation. That’s why I think it’s very appropriate for Gucci.” So appropriate, in fact, that she is even keen on the idea of a Gucci cosmetics line. “I would love to. We are discussing plans and we will see. I already have the packaging I want in my mind.” Dressed in black (a Giannini trademark) from her ankle boots and leggings to her draped batwing top, but topped off with a splash of colour, courtesy of a large printed shawl wrapped around her neck, she looks, as you’d expect, the epitome of the modern-day Gucci girl. Yet it is also the beloved image of almost every career woman, from here to Beijing, who juggles work with a private life (Giannini is married), travel and a love of fashion. All of which is perhaps why, under her stewardship, Gucci is booming, with a turnover of $2.2 billion (£2 billion). That ability to speak to real women means that Giannini’s fashion shows are often criticised by the fashion press for not being high impact or directional enough. It’s a state of affairs with which she’s at ease. “I’m not criticised by all the world — it is a very small niche of people. And I will never change for them. I want to stay close to my thoughts. When someone wants to offend me by saying I’m copied by the high street — well, for me, it’s a huge compliment.” Why should she feel otherwise? Giannini has become the arbiter of popular taste. She understands what women want and observes them constantly to gauge their needs. “It’s instinctive,” she says. “There is no magic word to explain it, but it’s something you feel and something that probably comes from the fact that I travel quite often, and I’m always looking at women in the street, in a restaurant, having coffee, from America to Japan. I’m curious to see what they’re wearing, what kind of bag they’re carrying, their shoes, their attitude.” More than that, though, Giannini sums up modern femininity: the perfect balance of toughness, happiness and success. Her glamour, her life, seems attainable; it’s real. So she is the figurehead of a huge brand, yet it’s not all about her —“My team is very important to me — we’re like a family.” She is phenomenally successful, but not calculating. “No, I don’t see myself as ambitious. Things just happen in my life, and the story of my career at Gucci is a consequence of very special timing. But I was very happy when I was the head of accessories, too. And I was very happy when I was at Fendi.” She is not on an ego trip either, and has no plans for her own label. “I like working for a big company or big name,” she says “It gives you the opportunity to have a 360-degree view on the world.” And children? “I’ve always seen myself as a mother one day, but not in this moment. I have other priorities, other things to do.” She is groomed, but it’s done with consummate ease — she even freely admits that her long, black lashes are partly false and coated in YSL mascara. No wonder she is so attuned to that Flora print — it is feminine but bold. The new fragrance is merely Frida distilled.
Contributed by Jessica