Easily one of the most hyped movies for the fashion community and cinephiles alike is “House of Gucci,” from director Ridley Scott. The movie, out at last this Friday, was obviously a major fashion undertaking, which Scott tasked his longtime costume designer Janty Yates with. Below, Yates chats working with Lady Gaga (whom she calls LG) on 54 looks, Zegna suits for Adam Driver and mining eBay for vintage Gucci accessories.
WWD: What is it like these final few days leading up to the release?
Janty Yates: I love talking about the movie. It makes me so happy. And the interest is just phenomenal. It’s extraordinary and it’s wonderful. I’m so happy for Ridley and LG and everybody. It’s just great.
WWD: What do you think it is about the movie that creates such interest among people?
J.Y.: To be honest, I think there are about three factors. One is the fact that it’s about a huge fashion brand. Two, it’s about a murder that nobody in America has ever heard about. Everyone in Italy, from the four-year-olds to the grannies, knows it inside out but nowhere else in the world. Gianni Versace went global because he was shot in Miami. So it was just global news but poor Maurizio didn’t get his fair share of publicity about his death.
And then the third thing, of course, is the LG factor. Gaga has an enormous following. I mean, it’s extraordinary. I think she’s probably the most famous person in the world next to our Queen [Elizabeth].
WWD: You’ve been aware of this project for a while now and it’s been circulating around you, correct?
J.Y.: Something like that. Giannina [Scott, Ridley’s wife] has stated that she’s had the project for 20 years, which I didn’t know about, but I’d known about it for the last, I don’t know, six, eight years. But it would come and it would go and it would come and it would go and it came a year earlier to our shooting. And then Matt Damon rang Ridley and said, “Oh, Ben [Affleck] and I have just written this script. Would you like to do it? We want to do it now.” So it got pushed a year.
WWD: As a costume designer, what is the interest of doing a project that is specifically about a major fashion house like Gucci?
J.Y.: The basic thing was it was more about the family dynamics of the house rather than the actual design for the house because, frankly, in the ’70s, Gucci design was very what I call “round and brown.” It’s very tweedy and very conservative, to be honest and Patrizia Reggiani never wore Gucci hardly at all. She wore Yves Saint Laurent. She wore Dior. But obviously the bags, obviously the belts, the accessories [are Gucci], which are always probably top of their tree I would imagine, from the ’40s on. But it was only Tom Ford cutting through the slog of browns and burgundies and bringing us this new revolution, which is phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal.
WWD: It’s so fun to see the Tom Ford collection reenacted in the movie.
J.Y.: Well, that 1995 show was just absolutely groundbreaking. My associate designer, Stefano De Nardis, made everything for the Versace 1984 show and for the Tom Ford [scene], he made everything from scratch. It was phenomenal. And he found models who looked like Amber Valletta and who looked like the guy in the velvet suit. It was fantastic what he did, the work. And he also created the Paolo Gucci show, which we were trying to get tasteless, because I think Paolo in the film says “pastels and brown.” But even his models looked gorgeous. That was Stefano’s designs. They were possibly too gorgeous.
WWD: What is the balance of vintage pieces and pieces that you and your team made for the costumes?
J.Y.: Well, I’ve actually been asked this only yesterday and I’ve never really thought about it, but actually I would say on camera, my cutter and his team, the brilliant Dominic Young, he probably made 60 percent, 65 percent. Then probably 30 percent was vintage pieces and 10 percent was from the Neiman Marcus of Rome. It’s called Rinascente. Funny enough, a journalist I spoke to a couple of days ago said, “Oh, well, you’ve got a Max Mara piece from the Weekend collection.” I went, “Ooh, sussed!” But we had to have a huge amount of choice because LG is very, very…she’s very collaborative but she would say, “No, I don’t want to wear that today. I want to wear this but not today,” because we did thousands of hours of fittings and she’d go just straight through everything. And she’d say, “I think a heavier lip liner,” or something like that. She’d do the whole lot. So we’d probably only get three or four costumes ascertained in that particular fitting. But she was so thorough, she’s amazing, the attention to detail. We did everything. We did the shoes, the belts, the bags way before we shot that particular day. And so we could just put them in the trailer and hope that she would put them on and go and she invariably did. Occasionally, something would be changed. Earrings would be changed or maybe an outfit but she’d come in and she’d go…I mean I’ll never forget the Yves Saint Laurent spot dress. She said, “I’ve seen that on the vintage rail and I want to wear that when I go and see Paolo.” And so we did it.
WWD: What was it like working with an actor so heavily involved in their costumes?
J.Y.: I always like to collaborate with my actors, and with Ridley, of course. Ridley always gives me a brief upfront, but a happy actor gives a happy performance. You’re forcing them into things that you think are the perfect thing. We had probably four or five full rails at each fitting. So I’d say, “Well, this is what I was thinking of for that.” Or she’d say, “What were you thinking of for that, this or the other?” Or she’d come in and she’d just go, “This is shrieking at me for so-and-so.” We’d just go, “Fine.” She had 54 looks. We had to keep nailing them down. I was happy with any help we could get.
WWD: Obviously, she’s based on a real woman, but were there other people, historical figures or films, that were inspiration for her wardrobe?
J.Y.: Yes, completely. Ridley had said, “I want her to look like Gina Lollobrigida” So all the research I did on Gina Lollobrigida were just stills of the ’60s and I’d say, “Well, this is what you want?” So we did adapt the dress and jacket that she wore at Lake Como, for Aldo’s birthday. Basically, that was a modern version of an outfit that Gina Lollobrigida wore and my buyer found this lace. I was totally in love with it and it just made the outfit, really. And then a couple of things we did that we’d seen on Patrizia: the red dress at the beginning was based on a pink dress that she wore that was very low cut, very va-va-voom. We tried to recreate that in red duchess satin, which I think worked.
WWD: When you first got the project, what was your first step? Did you go to the Gucci Museum in Florence?
J.Y.: That was exactly my first step. Well, my very first step, because I got the script when I was in Rome and I was just having a holiday there and my kind of second family is there, my costume people. I’ve done two other projects there so this is three, the third project. And I was seeing them the next day for lunch and I read the script and I went, “Holy moly, we’re going to be doing this in Italy.” So I crewed them all up there and then, and they told me about the Gucci Museum. Stefano De Nardis told me. So I got the script on the Saturday, crewed them up on the Sunday at a big lunch we had, and went to Florence on the Monday. And that was just fantastic. And then the script went away because Matt Damon came in [for “The Last Duel”].
But I’d done a huge amount of…it’s extraordinary what you can glean because they had clothes back to the ’70s. They even had a tennis anorak that we copied that Camille Cottin wears with the Double G, and they had all the jewelry, all the watches, all the shoes going way back. But the walls were the best. They were just a mass of information. There was footage of the warehouse, the workers making the bags, making the shoes. There was footage of the interiors of the shops with how the shop assistants dressed. It was great. And all, of course, the famous people, but I found out very soon after that that all the famous people never wore Gucci, but they’d have Gucci belts, Gucci luggage, Gucci shoes and Gucci scarves. Everything else would be from somewhere else, some other designer, which is very interesting.
WWD: Were you in touch with the current house of Gucci at all throughout the process?
J.Y.: To locate, in order to get to see the archive. And that took a couple of months. I wasn’t in touch with them at first. But basically, they were quite collaborative but they said their archive was moving and so they turned over a room above the museum. We went up from Rome for the day and I actually asked the woman who was in charge of the archive, “so would Alessandro Michele make something for Jared Leto? They’re best buddies, aren’t they?” She said to me, “No. Anyway, you couldn’t afford it.” So I went, “OK.”
WWD: Why was it such a quick no, do you think?
J.Y.: Because they’re so protective of him and they’re so protective of their archive.
And then we finally…Robert Triefus [Gucci’s executive vice president of brand and customer engagement], who I’d worked with on a film called “De-Lovely” way back in time, he was running Mr. Armani. And I was kind of in bed with Mr. Armani so I knew him from then and he brought all his team to Gucci and I think he’s been there for five years. But suddenly he found out that I was involved and I was doing it, so there was a certain amount of trust there and he opened doors for us. He really did. We were able to ship the archive to L.A. We tried it on Gaga. She loved everything. She looked great in everything. It was wonderful. And then when it came to shooting, we were able to collect it again from Florence. Then basically we had it locked up in our strong room under lock and key with all the bags, and she wore a different bag nearly every day.
WWD: What about for Adam Driver, for Maurizio? What were some inspiration points for him?
J.Y: Well, the photos of Maurizio are impeccable. He’s Savile Row from top to toe. He looked very conservative but beautifully cut suits always, and Aldo as well. So I have my tailor in New York who is called Len Logsdail. He had made, I think, about 60 outfits for me for Denzel Washington in “American Gangster,” and he just went to Adam’s and fit him and made 40 suits and blazers and trousers. Then he was on his second fitting with Al Pacino. He’d flown from New York to L.A. and they found a perforated tumor in his bowel area and he collapsed on the street. So Zegna then came in and they made about 14 suits for Adam and for Al. I took Al to Zegna in Milan when we were shooting there and we fit him. That was quite thrilling I think for him.
And then Len came back…we had so many suits. All the ties were Gucci vintage. My buyer was buying them off eBay and Etsy. I had about 60 ties in the end. I divvied them up between all of them. The shirts I had probably 60 shirts made for Adam and about 30 for Al. They were all made by Anto in Beverly Hills who always makes my shirts to my specific designs. And the shoes we made because Paolo’s shoes were bright blue and they were pale green and beige. And we made them at the costume house, which is the shoe rental costume house called Pompei in Rome and they were fantastic.
WWD: So where are all of the clothes now?
J.Y.: Everything is on route. It was in embargo in a warehouse in Rome and it’s now on route to L.A. to MGM, apart from 14 looks that came over early for some photo shoots. And they’re doing an exhibition in New York as well. And then I’ve been in touch with them about exhibitions sort of over America. I said, “Well, we can’t. We’ve run out of clothes that have come over from Rome. You’re going to have to ship them all over.” So I think those will be coming over in a month or something like that.
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