Gucci’s Frida Giannini launches the brand’s latest fragrance with a pop-art nod to American culture: Hollywood stars, fast cars, and high indulgence
By Rachel Rosenblit August 12, 2010 8:00 a.m.
Graphic novelist Frank Miller is often called a “visionary”—a loaded, hot-air term for many but nearly an understatement for him. He dreams up worlds we’ve never fathomed, like the anarchic, crime-ridden metropolis where prostitutes mobilize in his codirecting debut, Sin City, and refashions history into timeless allegory, as with the 480 b.c. Battle of Thermopylae, sensationalized to controversial effect in 300. His noir-camp aesthetic is gritty, base, and grandiose¬—and when his drawings are brought to life on-screen, he exhausts the most cutting-edge CGI to re-create every outline, every hue. A film conceived by Miller is visual candy in the most magnificent way.
One world Miller has never dared enter is fashion, let alone fragrance. But Frida Giannini, Gucci’s creative director (and visionary in her own right) had big plans for Gucci Guilty, her new patchouli-based mandarin-lilac concoction for the “daring type—a woman who likes to take risks, not sit around and wait for things to happen,” she says. In Giannini’s four-year tenure, she’s known the payoffs of taking risks. Her fall collection mixed wintry monotones in whites and steel grays with nods to postmodern whimsy: camel hair combined with neoprene, leather woven with fox fur. It drew a fluid line between sensuality and strength: a tight, body-conscious dress with cutouts and, not two looks later, an androgynous-cool tomboy trouser suit. Giannini’s Gucci girl is a lover of classics with touches of flash, a boho hippie beholden to luxury. But where fashion fantasies leave off, the allure of fragrance can pick up, flush with the promise of sense memory, lust, and covetable identity. To capture a milieu of Guilty-ness—worthy of inspiring the most irresistible transgressions—Giannini didn’t want just an ad campaign; she wanted a graphic novel turned 3-D short film, an auteur’s take on fantasy in the guise of a 60-second commercial.
“Frank Miller is absolutely unique,” Giannini says. “He designed an entire city around Gucci Guilty. I received the storyboards directly from him and could immediately see his vision. I could smell the streets in the movie.”
Action: Driving a white ’53 Jaguar, a woman clad in tight black leather speeds across a skyscraper-flanked bridge to the hauntingly remixed electropop of Depeche Mode’s “Strangelove” (“I give in to sin/ Because you have to make this life livable…”). She screeches to a halt, steps out of the car (close-up on her Gucci leather-and-croc platform stilettos), and flashes back to a pulse-pounding encounter between herself and a smoldering stranger in a bar.
The smoldering stranger is Chris Evans, the 29-year-old actor whose classic good looks and carved-from-granite pecs helped casting agents envision him as the chiseled comic book heroes in Fantastic Four, The Losers, and next year’s Captain America: The First Avenger. Evans spent the summer filming What’s Your Number?, a romantic comedy costarring Anna Faris, in his hometown of Boston, where his family and friends still live. “I missed my high school reunion because I was filming the ad for Gucci,” he says, “but I still hang out with every person I would’ve wanted to see. Nobody moved away; they’re all still dating each other. There’s something in the water.” Evans is close with his mom (“She’s quite a lady—a ballbuster. Real Boston”), cries at Legends of the Fall (“every time”), and loves “smelling something and immediately being taken somewhere,” he says, “like, Oh my God, it’s camp! Or—Jesus—third-grade gym!” Evans is a breath of charisma, a first date you’d love to have. But in Miller’s ad, he kills with just a look.
“He’s an exceptionally wholesome, sensitive guy, but his face becomes so powerful in front of the camera,” Giannini says.
“I’ve spent my whole career designing the hero,” Miller says, “and [Evans] seems to fit the shoes beautifully.”
Enter the femme fatale: Evan Rachel Wood, the 22-year-old Golden Globe–nominated actress and star of Thirteen, The Wrestler, and Across the Universe. Choosing Wood to be the Guilty one was a slick move on Giannini’s part: Not only is she “such a talented and beautiful girl,” as Giannini says, but she brims with intrigue, famous for her unsubtly subversive transformation from a perky blond actress with a wide smile to a mysterious pinup girl with a penchant for blood red lips and black tattoos. Now engaged to Marilyn Manson, Wood starred in the singer’s “Heart-Shaped Glasses (When the Heart Guides the Hand)” video as a wide-eyed fan who has sex with Manson amid a downpour of blood.
“Guilty is about a guilty pleasure,” Wood says. “Full throttle, living in the moment, living dangerously. A girl with a bit of wild side. Scent plays a big role in what you’re turned on by. When you fall in love with someone, and you take a piece of their clothing or smell that pillow—it kills you.”
Wood recently finished filming HBO’s upcoming ’30s-set miniseries Mildred Pierce, a remake of the 1945 film noir starring Joan Crawford, an actress Wood says she’s “idolized my whole life.” Crawford didn’t exactly comprise a tidy Hollywood package, and neither does Wood—but no one could deny either woman’s devotion to her livelihood. By channeling the same fierce integrity that they would bring to a feature film, Wood, Miller, and Evans have lent Gucci’s newest fragrance an inextricable artfulness.
“A guiding rule of mine was that there would be nothing that wouldn’t be gorgeous—the car, the woman, the buildings,” Miller says. “I was on the lookout for the tiniest speck of anything that would’ve looked less than lovely. With Frida on the set, I hardly had to—she’s got an eagle eye. She knows exactly what she wants.”
“I think everyone, in the past, has had a moment—something romantic or sexy or sensual—that lasts for the rest of their lives,” Giannini says. “That’s the provocation for the commercial: the essence of the strong experience. I hope these images will stay in people’s minds for a long time.”
Photographed by Dan King