One woman holds the reins at Gucci.
Behind the walls of the storied Italian fashion house, creative director Frida Giannini quietly controls all aspects of the label, from discovering—and rediscovering—fabrics to casting models for its runway shows. An up-close portrait of her artistic process is the focus of a new documentary, The Director, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on Sunday night.
Directed by Christina Voros and produced by James Franco (former classmates at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts) the film, composed in three acts, spans 18 months with Giannini and shows how she transitions between her role as the public face of the company and the creative brain of the brand—as well as her ability to conquer the feminist hurdle of balancing a demanding job with a fruitful family life.
“I’ve always been fascinated by characters who love what they do as much as they love who they are or love other people in their life,” Voros told The Daily Beast. “Frida loves what she does—it’s part of who she is. If you took that away from her, something would be missing. I think it’s fascinating to watch someone who’s that committed and who lives and breathes their craft.”
A graduate of Rome’s Academy of Costume and Fashion, Giannini began her career in 1997 designing ready-to-wear clothing at Fendi, where she quickly rose through the ranks and became a designer of leather goods. In 2002, she joined Gucci to design handbags, and two years later was named the head of accessories. In 2006, she was promoted to creative director of the label.
“I think she’s really a self-made woman,” Voros said. “She’s not in the position she’s in because anyone gave her a break—she’s worked really, really hard for a really long time and she’s very good at what she does…[the movie is] more about the woman than it is about the brand.”
The film opens with Giannini presiding over a chaotic scene backstage at Gucci’s spring 2012 runway show, before quickly reverting to the past—with the house’s humble beginnings as a small leather goods shop in the early 1920s. Archival photographs of Hollywood actors in the 1960s and 1970s wearing iconic Gucci accessories reveal how the brand was launched onto a global market. The intersection between fashion and film is further highlighted through Giannini’s relationship with Franco, who appears in the beginning of the film modeling on a photo shoot at Cinecittà, a legendary film studio in Rome, and interacting with Giannini and her team as the face of the brand. Throughout the first act, we see how Giannini actively involves herself in every step of the creative process: digging through Gucci’s archives, coaching new talent, and meeting with editors (including Anna Wintour).
The second act looks toward the future, with Giannini traveling to Shanghai to stage the brand’s first-ever fashion show in China and to introduce its new advertising campaign with actress Fan Bingbing. Amidst hectic scenes of runway shows, high-profile events, and staff meetings—shot with a mix of vintage and modern lenses—Giannini publicly steps out with Gucci’s CEO, Patrizio di Marco, and admits to a co-worker that she’s pregnant with her first child. Act three, which takes place in the recent past, offers a closer look at Giannini the person, with commentary from her parents and scenes of her picturesque beach house in Sabaudia, Italy. In a one-on-one interview, her father commends his daughter’s ability to achieve fame and success without compromising her character.
Voros also admires Giannini’s humility and the appreciation she has for the legacy she’s stepped into. “She didn’t want to have Frida Giannini on Fifth Avenue,” Voros said. “She wanted to design for a brand that had its own legacy—and part of the desire to do that is being okay with the brand coming first and your name coming second. I think that’s very the kind of person she is.”