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The relationship between cinema and fashion according to Luca Guadagnino

From Raf Simons to JW Anderson

The relationship between cinema and fashion according to Luca Guadagnino  From Raf Simons to JW Anderson
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009)
Undercover FW19
Undercover FW19
Undercover FW19
Undercover FW19
Undercover FW19
Undercover FW19
Undercover FW19
Undercover FW19
Undercover FW19
I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009)
I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009)
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009)
I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009)

Yesterday Jonathan Anderson, celebrated creative director of JW Anderson and Loewe, announced that he will be signing the costumes for Challengers, Luca Guadagnino's new film starring Zendaya. The news made quite a sensation given that Anderson is one of the most critically and commercially appreciated designers of recent years, responsible for injecting a new dose of surrealism into Loewe, but also a pioneer of a type of fashion communication based on books, show-in-a-box, photo meta-campaigns and lookbooks presented as calendars as well as shot by Juergen Teller.

But this collaboration between director and fashion designer is by no means new for Guadagnino who already in 2005 lent his directorial eye to Silvia Venturini Fendi for the short film The First Sun with which Fendi's SS06 collection was presented - a collaboration renewed in 2019 with the creation of a print by Guadagnino used for the brand's SS20. Also Guadagnino signed a series of artist's videocampaigns for Armani, Cartier and Salvatore Ferragamo over the years although his most significant contribution in this sense was the medium-length film The Staggering Girl signed in 2019 in collaboration with Valentino and with an all-star cast that included Julianne Moore, Kyle MacLachlan and Mia Goth.

I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009)
I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009)
I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009)
I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009)
I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009)

But this is only the surface of the deep and sometimes complex connection that binds Guadagnino and his cinema to fashion. Certainly his aestheticizing perspective, his romantic exploration of love in the circles of the cultured Italian upper class accomplished with the Trilogy of Desire (which includes I Am Love, A Bigger Splash and the iconic Call Me by Your Name) has necessarily led him to confront the aesthetic and sartorial languages of the upper middle class. This relationship begins to become more dense and significant with I Am Love, the 2009 film, set in an aristocratic and elegant Milan, with the protagonist, Tilda Swinton, who wears a series of extraordinary re-editions of Jil Sander's SS08 collection commissioned by the costume designer Antonella Cannarozzi to Raf Simons, who at the time was the creative director of the brand. Along with jewelry by Damiani (a delightful touch, since Damiani, although technically Piedmontese, is a very Milanese brand since it has its boutique practically in the center of Via Montenapolone) and pieces from the Fendi archive, Guadagnino and costume designer Cannarozzi expressed the classic aesthetic of the "sciura" of Montenapolone (the fictional family in the film lived in Villa Necchi!) but in a vision so minimalist and bright in color as to abstract the figure out of time.

A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)

Raf Simons returned to collaborate with Guadagnino in 2015 for A Bigger Splash, again starring Tilda Swinton but this time set against the spectacular backdrop of the Sicilian islands. At the time, Simons had become the creative director of Dior - who therefore signed the costumes for the film. The operation set in motion by custom designer Giulia Piersanti (ex-knitwear designer for Fendi and Balenciaga, among others) was very close to Simons' sensibility: in the film Swinton plays a rock star on vacation in Pantelleria. There is therefore a double representation: in public life and on stage the character is clearly inspired by David Bowie, personal friend of the actress but also Simons' icon, while in her private life her costumes are inspired by the bourgeois codes of the 50s. Precisely these outfits are in themselves a citation to Rossellini's Journey to Italy which has Ingmar Bergman as its protagonist. «When people think fashion is just the surface of things, I disagree, very politely», said the director to Another Magazine. Here more than in the previous film, the costumes possess a Simons-ian vibe: futuristic glasses, oversized shirts, draped and knotted cotton dresses but also tulip skirts and multi-patterned caftans. Also in this film, Swinton's character, who is temporarily mute, can only speak through her gestures and clothing - which is why, unlike in I Am Love, the film's costumes resonate in an entirely different way.

Piersanti also collaborated with Guadagnino on his later films and the miniseries We Are Who We Are. In Call Me by Your Name the link with fashion is much more subtle: striving to faithfully reconstruct the clothing of the 1980s in Italy, Piersanti was inspired by old photo albums of the time and the photos of Charles H. Traub. For example, he made Timothèe Chalamet's character wear a huge number of Lacoste polo shirts, which were very popular in Italy at the time; but for Armie Hammer's character, who was American, it came from the blueprint of Charles Hix's style guides whose photos were taken by Bruce Weber. Things were different for We Are Who We Are where fashion plays a very important role because it aims to faithfully portray the aesthetic taste of the new generations. The mini-series explores contemporary youth culture and especially the issues of sexuality and gender, and has been for menswear what, on a fashion level, Euphoria has been for womenswear. To narrate this kind of variety, Piersanti once again relied on Raf Simons who offered some pieces from his archive, but introduced into the style vocabulary of the protagonist Jack Dylan Grazer garments from Japanese brands such as Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto, Human Made and Kapital but also pieces from Celine, Rick Owens, Vetements and Saint Laurent as well as streetwear brands such as Noah, Aries, Stussy, Cactus Plant Flea Market. 

Undercover FW19
Undercover FW19
Undercover FW19
Undercover FW19
Undercover FW19
Undercover FW19
Undercover FW19
Undercover FW19
Undercover FW19

The relationship with fashion is reversed with Suspiria. The costumes of the film, set in Cold War Berlin, were created by Piersanti drawing inspiration from the reports of Sibylle, a Soviet fashion magazine that the costume designer herself defined as «the socialist Vogue», but also from the works of Christo for the costumes of the dance scene, the draperies of Madame Grès and included, for the final scenes, even clothes made with human hair. But this time it was the film that inspired fashion and specifically Jun Takahashi who for Undercover's FW19 collection, presented through a lookbook, silkscreened some images from the film on many of the items in the collection which culminated in a coat that reproduced the entire figure of Tilda Swinton in her enormous red dress. This was both interesting and unusual given that Takahashi, used to filling his collections with film references, did not use a film from the past (normally his quotes are dedicated to films by Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa and recently even Nosferatu) but from the present, released only the year before. For fans of Undercover, Suspiria's appearance in the collection could amount to Takahashi's judgment of the film - as if to say that, like the others he mentions, Suspiria was already a classic. Certainly the overall aesthetic of the film, while completely dissociated from Takahashi's work, came very close to his aesthetic taste: the distressing, the naiveté of the vintage clothing, the violent subversive charge of witchcraft symbolized by the flashes of red seen both on screen and in the lookbook. 

But if in all the previous films the osmosis between fashion and cinema took place in central but semi-invisible terms (the understated luxury of the Milanese bourgeoisie, the looks of a rock star on vacation, the wardrobe of teenagers) the new Challengers, whose costumes will be designed by Jonathan Anderson, could be the film that makes the proverbial leap forward. Anderson is an extremely versatile and brilliant designer, but he also has a very strong and recognizable personality, and it's hard to imagine that his witty surrealism, intricate garment construction and pop sensibility won't ooze onto the screen. Especially, then, if his muse is Zendaya.