Designer : Frida Gianinni’s Last Dance with Gucci in Her Swan Song

HER SWAN SONG. Before Frida Giannini closed the Gucci chapter of her career, the now-ex-creative director tells DA MAN what makes a great menswear collection and where she will be heading next

92-97_COLUMN_INT DESIGNER_Frida Giannini Gucci_0203_R5 (Copy)

There are very few powerful female leaders who sit at the helm of giant fashion companies. But among the handful of female creative directors who do make an impact, there is Frida Giannini. The Roman-born designer assumed the position of creative director at Gucci in 2006 after having made her mark by reinvigorating Gucci’s heritage through the Flora accessory collection. At the time, she drew inspiration from the brand’s old design for the scarf worn by none other than Grace Kelly back in the fifties. That very same year, Giannini managed to cross the bridge into men’s fashion and became the head of Gucci’s menswear empire, despite her initial lack of experience in that particular field. Throughout her eight-year stint at the top of one of the biggest fashion brands in the world, Giannini found herself constantly returning to Gucci’s historical archives. She was  considered a pioneer in the industry who would delve into the past and rework age-old elements into modern designs. This contemporary meets- artisanal vision of hers gave birth to one lucrative collection after another. Influences from the sixties and seventies were injected into various pieces without sacrificing their provocative and seductive appeal. Mod and lavishness went hand in hand, while minimalism and baroque worked in harmony, making the pieces utterly wearable yet still elegant. She basically elevated luxury like no other, paving the way for attainable everyday luxury to replace the archetypal exclusivity of this fashion class. The Italian ex-creative director also pushed the brand forward to establish itself at the front of culture and lifestyle through a number of collaborations in art, cinema and non-profit projects, among others.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and Giannini’s tenure at Gucci eventually came to an end last December. Together with Patrizio di Marco, Gucci’s chief executive and her life partner, she closed the chapter following the brand’s latest womenswear presentation in Milan. We caught up with her just before she left, talking about her spring/summer ’15 menswear installment that narrates the story of a jet setter with a rock ‘n’ roll edge. On a personal level, the collection reflects her current stage in life. She is now stronger, more confident and more mature, but she never lost her wit nor the joy of designing.

DA MAN: In Gucci’s spring/summer ’15 collection, the men’s bags almost become something like an extension of one’s outfit and life. What elements do you pay attention to when designing bags for men?

Frida Giannini: Designing bags is very instinctive to me—it comes from within. After instinct, it’s about proportion and practicality. Men today are always on the go with their gadgets, their headphones and their travel essentials, so it is the functionality of a messenger bag that I showed on the runway.

DA: Do you have any particular styling advice for those who want to pull off a statement bag?

FG: Regarding styling, my advice is to not go overboard with color coordination when choosing the right accessory. Aside from the usual black and brown, sometimes a bag in burgundy or navy blue, for example, can strike the perfect balance between subtle and striking.

DA: Nautical is a theme that has been widely explored in fashion collections, and you somehow reworked it into something entirely different for Gucci’s spring/summer ’15 offerings. What are you trying to achieve with this season’s collection?

FG: It was important for me to bring together the Gucci man’s two sides through this collection. First, is rock ‘n’ roll instincts: He is eccentric, bohemian, free-spirited. At the same time, he is elegant and has a side that loves jet-setting and aristocratic sports. The nautical inspiration allows me to explore this duality and work with a variety of elements, from pirate stripes to the marine insignias.

DA: So what makes a great menswear collection?

FG: I think it is important to observe menswear from a point of view of both masculinity and androgyny. At Gucci, I’ve always been conscious of both. Especially in the men’s collection, there is sort of a borderline, a fine line. It is skinny, very elegant, always very well done.

DA: Do you read reviews of your show?

FG: Yes, I do read the reviews. The critics only consider you as good as your last collection, so every season I evolve and take my vision further. Generally speaking, I’m very open to criticism. I believe in what I am doing, and I believe in my ideas, but I think it is very constructive to be open to understand other points of view and opinions.

Frida Ginannini (Copy)

Models donning the spring/summer ’15 pieces backstage

Double breasted jacket (Copy)

A double-breasted jacket infused with uniform-like details

Nautical inspired (Copy)

A nautical-inspired striped suit

Striking suit (Copy)

A striking suit meets striped accents

“The creative process is always ongoing. I am constantly  observing my surroundings: people, places, objects”

DA: Speaking of menswear, how do you view today’s changes in the menswear landscape if you compare it to your early days in Gucci?

FG: Nowadays there are less and less style conventions, and men are taking more liberties with their wardrobe. Men have changed their habits compared to ten years ago—for instance, now men have no problems shopping for themselves alone. The

male customer knows what he wants, and, as a matter of fact, Gucci’s Made to Measure service is aimed to cater to that rising need.

DA: With more than 10 collections a year, not to mention the kid’s, cosmetics and perfume lines, how did you divide your time and energy between all Gucci-related projects?

FG: Teamwork. Fortunately, I was surrounded by a supportive team who shared my vision. In this profession, you must surround yourself with the right people and know how to trust your team. I think that the base of everything is organization. My assistants

worked with me to analyze the priorities in myschedule. The more you are organized, the more you can manage.

DA: What are your sources of inspiration then?

FG: The creative process is always ongoing. I am constantly observing my surroundings: people, places, objects. My vision is about a certain perspective on how the past informs the future and how I take advantage of heritage as I push forward. Throughout the year I collect images and ideas that inspire me. When I started working on a new Gucci collection, I retreated to my office and spent a few days reflecting on the inspirations I had gathered and then elaborated on the more concrete ideas with my design team.

necklace (Copy)

A necklace bearing anchor symbols

leather bags (Copy)

This season, the logo on leather bags are very subtle

loafers (Copy)

Loafers remain an essential

DA: Now that you have stepped down from your role as Gucci’s creative director, what interests do you want to explore further?

FG: Architecture and interior design are together my second passion. Growing up, I was immersed in aesthetics, thanks to my parents—my father is an architect. If I had not gone into fashion, I would have surely pursued this as a career. I was actually able

to explore this aspect of my creativity by designing the architectural concept for Gucci stores across the world. This is an interest that I would like to continue exploring in the future.

DA: Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

FG: For me it’s important to evolve freely and constantly take my vision further. The best thing at this moment is having so much ahead while at the same time having had the opportunity to learn from past experiences.

finale runway (Copy)

The finale of the S/S ’15 runway