How James Franco Helped Spotlight One of Fashion's Most Press-Shy Designers, Frida Giannini

When we heard, just about a month ago, that James Franco was involved in a documentary film about Gucci, we weren't exactly like, "Oh, that makes perfect sense." But then again, that's never been a reaction to anything James Franco does, has it (we're starting to think that's the whole idea)? Anyway, the actor-slash-producer-slash-many other things put the wheels in motion for the first documentary about the historic house of Gucci and its current creative director, Frida Giannini, who flies relatively under the radar as far as creative directors of big fashion houses go. It's called The Director and will bow at the Tribeca Film Festival this weekend. We chatted with the film's director Christina Voros to find out how this documentary came about.
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When we heard, just about a month ago, that James Franco was involved in a documentary film about Gucci, we weren't exactly like, "Oh, that makes perfect sense." But then again, that's never been a reaction to anything James Franco does, has it (we're starting to think that's the whole idea)? Anyway, the actor-slash-producer-slash-many other things put the wheels in motion for the first documentary about the historic house of Gucci and its current creative director, Frida Giannini, who flies relatively under the radar as far as creative directors of big fashion houses go. It's called The Director and will bow at the Tribeca Film Festival this weekend. We chatted with the film's director Christina Voros to find out how this documentary came about.
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When we heard, just about a month ago, that James Franco was involved in a documentary film about Gucci, we weren't exactly like, "Oh, that makes perfect sense." But then again, that's never been a reaction to anything James Franco does, has it (we're starting to think that's the whole idea)?

Anyway, the actor-slash-producer-slash-many other things put the wheels in motion for the first documentary about the historic house of Gucci and its current creative director, Frida Giannini, who flies relatively under the radar as far as creative directors of big fashion houses go. It's called The Director and will bow at the Tribeca Film Festival this weekend.

Of course, Franco did have a connection to the house--he began modeling for the brand in 2009 and has pretty consistently worn Gucci to red carpet events ever since.

We chatted with the film's director Christina Voros, who has worked with Franco on several other films, on how this documentary came about, Franco's relationship with Giannini, what surprised her about the Gucci world, and what to expect from the film. Read on for our interview and watch the trailer below.

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Fashionista: How did this documentary come about? Christina Voros: James [Franco] and I have been working together for about five years. He was at an event in Rome that Gucci was hosting and I think it was then that the conversation first came up between him and Frida that he was interested in producing a documentary about the creative process behind putting together a fashion collection. James and I had done a movie about the making of Saturday Night Live several years ago and it was very much a process piece looking at what goes into creating a creative product. So the idea of exploring the fashion world through a similar lens was something that interested him. He broached it with Gucci.

Had you made films about fashion before? My first film ever in film school was actually a short documentary about my two Hungarian great aunts who had been dress makers and designers in Hungary before moving to the U.S. They came here in the '60s and opened up a couture shop on Lexington Avenue. So, between my growing up in the fashion world and coming from a documentary background, it just seemed like the right fit.

Was it difficult to gain access and get behind the scenes of the company? It took a little while in the beginning to sort of get it off the ground and to pitch the idea of letting us come behind the walls of the fashion house. James had had a really good relationship with Frida and with Gucci. I think what really allowed the door to open is that there was a friendship there to begin with. It wasn't like letting a total stranger in. That being said, I didn't know Frida. And I didn't know that world, so it took a little while in the beginning for us to get to know each other, but I think that's the case in any documentary, whether it's about a celebrity or someone who's the face of a massive brand, or if it's just an individual who is uncertain as to whether they want to open their lives for the world to see. You start on the outside and as you get to know each other and as you get to know the world more intimately, you get a closer and closer lens on what that world is actually like.

What surprised or intrigued you the most about Gucci during the filming process? I think getting an understanding about how much is involved and how many people are involved and how many steps are involved from the artisans who are working with the leather to the music that is being selected for the show to the way the runway is designed to how much goes into just casting the faces... It's such a complex world. I think most people walking into a store on Fifth Avenue never consider how many hands that design has gone through from it being an idea in someone's mind to it being a dress on a hanger.

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The film sounds like it's more about Frida--whom people don't know much about--than the brand overall. What made her an interesting subject to film? It's really a portrait of Frida and it moves with her through three different seasons. Frida is a brilliant designer and she has her hand in everything. It was important to me to try and create a portrait of her that reflected not only her involvement in the design process, but also her involvement in helming an international brand and being the mastermind behind the image of a brand that has existed for over 90 years.

One of the things that's interesting to me about Frida is that she never wanted her own label; she's always wanted to be a designer for a big brand, and I think that's a specific skill set. I think that's one of the things that was most impressive to me about watching her work is that she's a really strong leader and a strong woman.

Was it difficult shooting behind the scenes? I imagine certain scenarios, like backstage at a show, would be pretty hectic. Actually because things are so hectic backstage, you have the luxury of disappearing. People are so busy and there's so much going on. You're just one more person and you happen to be holding a camera. I always try to disappear. The greatest compliment someone can give me is that they don't notice that I'm there. In the beginning, in some of the more design meetings and casting sessions, those were places where it was a little harder to forget there was a film crew there, only because they were environments where no camera had ever been before. But towards the end, it was just like we were another piece of the furniture in the room.

What do you hope the audience takes away from the film? I mean obviously everyone in the fashion world knows who Frida Giannini is, but people outside of that world--they know Gucci, but they may not have known Frida's name and she's got a very subtle, forceful presence, but she's not in your face. I think she's a really remarkable role model and that's certainly something I took away from my experience. She feels a tremendous amount of responsibility about the history and the craftsmanship behind Gucci and that she is now the face of something that has been around for 50 years before she was born. I guess what I'm hoping people come away with is not only an appreciation and understanding for how much goes into creating that dress you see on a hanger or that bag you see on a shelf, but also what it means to be a creative person, to be a creative woman in a tremendous position of power with a lot of responsibility and how to balance that with being yourself and having a family. Frida's an incredibly genuine person and she's the same person behind the wall of the design studio as she is in front of a podium talking to press, so I think she's a really remarkable character to see a portrait of.

Watch the trailer below!