James Franco's Latest Project? A Fashion Documentary!
After being the face of Gucci for five years, James Franco has decided to produce a film about the iconic Italian fashion house. Directed by Franco's close friend Christina Voros (Kink), the fashion documentary premiered just last week at the Tribeca Film Festival and chronicles a year in the life of Frida Giannini, Gucci's creative director, as she oversees the the legendary brand's latest collections from inital sketches to runway shows. Voros takes a hands-off approach to directing, giving audiences a rare glimpse into the life of one of fashion's most powerful women. In The Director, Giannini is revealed to be a surprisingly down to earth character with a quick wit, deep family ties and a decisive vision for the future of the Florentine fashion house. Although Voros describes her own style as laid-back and centered around jeans and tank tops, she comes from a family of Hungarian costume designers and is no stranger to the realm of couture. Voros chatted with Lucky about her obsession with boots, her newfound appreciation for luxury goods and what it was like to direct the director of Gucci.
Lucky: Why did you choose to make a film specifically about Gucci?
Christina Voros: If it wasn't Gucci, it wouldn't have been [anyone] at all. I had been working with James as a cinematographer on his projects, and I was shooting a feature film for him and his relationship with Gucci is about the same length as his relationship with me. It was his idea. Frida and Gucci had helped to restore the film La Dolce Vita, and he had just come from a screening of it. He showed up on set on the movie that we were working on and said we should do a documentary about Frida. We had just finished shooting a documentary on the making of Saturday Night Live, and he was interested in doing the same about a different industry and a different creative person. Without that preexisting friendship between Frida and him and the house, it wouldn't have existed.
How familiar with the fashion world were you before shooting this film?
My background was in documentaries, but also in fashion. My great-aunts were dressmakers and designers in Hungary and used to design for the opera and the circus there. They moved to the States in the '60s and opened a couture shop on Lexington Avenue, so I grew up running errands to the Garment District to pick up buttons and zippers and sequins. It seemed like the right fit to put me on this project.
What is it like directing someone who is used to being the boss?
When I do documentaries I try not to direct. I try to disappear. The greatest compliment someone can give me is that they forget that I'm there. The way that I try to make films, I observe and allow the audience to feel like they are a fly on a wall in a place where they wouldn't otherwise find themselves. This is my second documentary this year and they are similar in the sense that you get to go to a place where normally you wouldn't go. The directing came in more when Frida wasn't present. How do we cover this fashion show and not make it seem the same as this fashion show? What music do we pick? I wouldn't begin to try to direct Frida. We did one long interview and that was the last thing that we shot. That was great because I had filmed her for so long, and it was great to get to ask questions that hadn't been answered yet.
People in the fashion industry are sometimes labeled as eccentric. Was it suprising that Frida is so down to earth?
Women who watched the film want to be like Frida, and the men who watch it fall in love with her. She's just great. She's super down to earth, she doesn't have the massive ego you might expect someone in her position to have. She is a tremendous collaborator, she has a lot of respect for the people who work with her and a lot of respect for other artists and creative people. It is sort of amazing to say, "Wow, this is your world, and you are one of the most powerful people in this industry, but we can sit down at your kitchen table and eat spaghetti alla vongole and tell stories and drink wine and joke." She's just a really genuine human being.
Did making this film change your perspective of the fashion industry?
Even coming from a background where fashion had been a part of my life, I don't think I ever really understood how much goes into a luxury brand. Specifically a massive house with an incredible history and archive. It really is a collaborative art form. Frida is an incredible artist and designer, but also a tremendous collaborator. I think I was really struck by how many similarities there are between a director of a movie and a creative director. It's not just the hems and embroidery, it's working with the DJ to figure out the music, making sure the people in the clothing fit the clothing and that the ambiance of the show fits the clothing. A massive series of decisions go into every photograph that you see in a fashion magazine. Even just the number of hands that object has passed through. Gucci has always been known for its craftsmanship, and upholding that is very important to Frida. Making sure it is made in Italy, and is made by small artisans that do very specific things. Every time I see a billboard now it's like, "God, how much went into that!"
Did you own any Gucci pieces before shooting?
I remember my dad had a pair of Gucci loafers when I was a kid and I thought they were the coolest thing in the world because I loved horses and the idea of horsebits on shoes, I thought, was so cool. I remember clomping around the house in those loafers as a kid. As Frida talked about Gucci's connection to cinema, I noticed Gucci started popping up everywhere. My boyfriend lives on a ranch in Texas, and on my day off we were there watching Blazing Saddles, and partway though the movie my boyfriend was like, "Does the sheriff have Gucci saddlebags on his horse? He totally does!" Gucci has such a cache to it—when you see that logo, it says something about luxury and about that moment, that person, that place. It's been there culturally for a long time.
Has working so closely with Gucci changed your style?
I wore a Gucci dress last night and I've never felt more like a rock star in my entire life. I have these boots in six colors. I usually am in jeans and my hair is up in a knot and I have a black tank top and that is my getup. My mom, especially since we grew up in a house of designers, has been like, "Can you wear makeup? Do you think you can buy a pair of pants without a rip in them?" But I don't need to look pretty for my job.
Do you have any shopping weaknesses?
I am a huge shoe person. I am a boot person. I have more boots than there are days in a month. That's my weakness. I've been a big fan of John Fluevog boots my whole life. I was talking to a friend of mine at Gucci about what I should wear last night, and I was like, "I just don't want to wear heels." And he was like, "It's not my fault you made a movie about Gucci. You have to wear heels." For someone who doesn't wear heels that often, I was really surprised. They were more comfortable than I thought.
Do you tend to shop high or low?
I am more a thrift shopper. I am not a brand person. Growing up around designers, I would modify my own stuff. I've always sort of designed some of my own stuff, but in general I've had to wear a dress more in the last three months than I have in a really long time.
What has been your best thrift store find?
There was a great place a friend took me to in Rome that had the most amazing leather jackets. It's just a hole in the wall and it had the most incredible leather jackets.
What do you want audiences to take away from this film?
Frida is a remarkable character, and fascinating person to get to know. I don't think people understand how much is involved in what you see hanging on a rack at Saks Fifth Avenue. It's really amazing, the amount of work and craft that goes into it. Every dress has gone through 75 revisions to get to where it is. Every piece is a very select vision. What you are paying for is an incredibly selective process.
Watch the trailer for The Director below.