When you’re a designer in charge of an iconic fashion brand, you’re generally expected to affirm your deep and long-standing personal connection to the label’s history and heritage. Frida Giannini, who’s now in the seventh year of a successful run as the creative director at Gucci, would seem to be doing her bit by sitting for an interview in a suite at the Hotel Cipriani during the Venice Film Festival in August. Evoking Gucci’s tradition of equestrian glamour, she speaks affectionately of the horse she rides on weekends near her country house, south of Rome. And there’s evidence that Giannini really has been hanging out at the stables: Her Gucci resort collection blouse is accessorized with the blindingly white standard-issue neck brace she has worn since getting whiplash from a fall while riding a few days ago.
But Giannini makes a surprise admission regarding another key element of the Gucci image—its high-profile ties to the film world. Although the company has cultivated a Hollywood connection since the 1940s and in recent years has been pouring money into a wide range of cinema-related ventures—including two that are being feted in Venice—the truth is that Giannini can’t stand going to the movies. “I’m always fighting with someone,” she says, noting that Italian audiences tend to be particularly loud and unruly during screenings. “I really hate people talking, phones ringing, that kind of stuff. So I prefer not to get nervous and to stay at home.”
Fortunately for Giannini, she has a comfortable screening room at her house in Rome, where she watches movies of all sorts. And it turns out she is the driving force behind the company’s current film fixation. Since 2006, Gucci has donated more than $2 million to Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, which has preserved and restored classics ranging from John Cassavetes’s 1974 A Woman Under the Influence to Francesco Rosi’s riveting 1972 thriller Il Caso Mattei, which was screened at the Venice Film Festival last year. The annual Gucci Award for Women in Cinema recognizes achievers in an industry that remains stubbornly male-dominated. (In 2011, Madonna presented the award in Venice to the actress Jessica Chastain; last year, Salma Hayek handed it to the film editor Thelma Schoonmaker.) There’s also a partnership with New York’s Tribeca Film Institute to provide finishing funds for documentaries; in December Gucci sponsored MoMA’s major retrospective of the filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini; and every year, the label underwrites the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Art + Film Gala, the splashy fundraiser that was particularly celeb-studded in 2012, luring the likes of Jack Nicholson, Cameron Diaz, and Robert Pattinson.
“What Gucci has done is truly extraordinary,” says Scorsese. “The resources they’ve put toward film preservation have been invaluable and have helped remind people of the transformative power of cinema.”