Gucci And Gus Van Sant Team Up On A Seven-Part Fashion Film "It was like a spontaneous poem," filmmaker Gus Van Sant says of his seven-part collaboration with Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele. It's the centerpiece of the virtual festival GUCCI Fest.
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With 'No Particular Roadmap,' Gus Van Sant And Gucci Make A Fashion Film

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With 'No Particular Roadmap,' Gus Van Sant And Gucci Make A Fashion Film

With 'No Particular Roadmap,' Gus Van Sant And Gucci Make A Fashion Film

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Low times cannot silence high fashion. This week, Gucci's creative director, Alessandro Michele, has released a slate of stylish short films on YouTube. As NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports, it's a new approach to showing fashion when the runways are dark.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: The seven short films follow Silvia Calderoni, a nonbinary actress, writer and dancer, as she goes about her day in Rome, casually wearing fabulous Gucci clothes. The vignettes highlight Gucci's latest collection. Calderoni starts in her apartment in black tulle lingerie and gold mules. Later, she dons a sparkly pink turban and pastel gown. In the background, Spanish philosopher Paul B. Preciado lectures about gender theory on TV.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "OUVERTURE OF SOMETHING THAT NEVER ENDED")

PAUL B PRECIADO: (Speaking Spanish).

DEL BARCO: Suddenly, he addresses her directly.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "OUVERTURE OF SOMETHING THAT NEVER ENDED")

PRECIADO: But you know what I'm talking about, Silvia. (Speaking Spanish). This revolution is going to be about love, about change in desires.

DEL BARCO: Calderoni flings a dress from her balcony that happens to be from Michele's first Gucci women's collection. On the soundtrack, a new Billie Eilish song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THEREFORE I AM")

BILLIE EILISH: (Singing) I'm not your friend or anything, damn. You think that you're the man. I think, therefore, I am.

DEL BARCO: In other episodes, Calderoni meets Gucci-clad friends at a cafe, a post office, a vintage clothing shop and, later, a theater. There are cameos by playwright Jeremy O. Harris, musician and poet Arlo Parks and pop star Harry Styles.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "OUVERTURE OF SOMETHING THAT NEVER ENDED")

HARRY STYLES: It's about finding the thing that you've always wanted to see or you've always wanted to listen to that you've - like, has never been made.

ALESSANDRO MICHELE: I was trying to experiment. I love to experiment.

DEL BARCO: Alessandro Michele spoke to us from Italy. Bearded with a mustache and long hair, he wore his signature outlaw look. Loads of bracelets and faux fur draped over his shoulders. He said this experiment takes high fashion beyond the runway.

MICHELE: It's the way to really get back to the, originally, idea and soul of the dress - kind of alive with real people. I was thinking to make this crazy story, you know, about Silvia's life every day and little gestures and movement and fascinating routine, people that she met.

DEL BARCO: Michele was born in Rome in 1972. He studied at the city's Academy of Costume and Fashion and worked at Fendi before Tom Ford poached him to design for Gucci in 2002. By 2015, he became Gucci's creative director. Michele reinvented the brand, conjuring a nostalgic and androgynous magpie look. He wasn't just innovating on the runway. In response to fashion's relentless business cycle, Michele announced Gucci would limit its collections and runway shows to just two a year. With Gucci's centennial approaching in 2021, Michele is looking back. He's also looking inward.

MICHELE: I was reflecting, especially during the lockdown, how - find, you know, a new way to work on storytelling. I mean, it's pretty crazy that for such a long, long time, fashion was like a box - completely closed.

DEL BARCO: For this experiment, Michele sought Gus Van Sant, one of his favorite directors, to collaborate.

GUS VAN SANT: I think it was a spontaneous idea to make something within just a few weeks. I sort of found that exciting, challenging and like something I had done before.

DEL BARCO: To make the Gucci films, Van Sant returned to Rome, where 30 years ago, he filmed scenes for "My Own Private Idaho."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (Non-English language spoken).

DEL BARCO: River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves play street hustlers in the film now considered an LGBTQ classic. Van Sant says the new Gucci films have elements found in his other work.

VAN SANT: There is sort of, like, an alternate reality and a dreaminess.

DEL BARCO: As with "My Own Private Idaho," Van Sant said the Gucci vignettes did not use a traditional screenplay. Instead, they worked from Michele's descriptions of his favorite looks, locations and friends.

VAN SANT: It was more emotional rather than it is a plot or a step-by-step beginning, middle, end story. You could probably play the episodes out of order, and it would still be the same.

DEL BARCO: Since they were in Rome, Van Sant added some Fellini-esque touches by dubbing over the characters' dialogue.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "OUVERTURE OF SOMETHING THAT NEVER ENDED")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (Non-English language spoken).

VAN SANT: The way that Fellini would make his films, adding the voices later, he would actually change the story, which we were also doing.

DEL BARCO: The new Gucci episodes also have a meditative rhythm. At a time when people are isolated and lonely, Michele wanted to present his collection this way, offering his romantic vision of a freer world.

MICHELE: Silvia's life is a dream time, is a magical time, is a time that doesn't exist. But it's the time that reflect our simple and fascinating life of little things. But they are very powerful, you know?

DEL BARCO: Powerful and fascinating, like wearing a Gucci outfit for a day in Rome.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

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