Gucci and rock stars: Frida Giannini cultivates music connections

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“I’m a person who can’t live without music,” said Frida Giannini, creative director of Gucci, tucked into a cushy chair inside a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.

And judging by the brand’s enduring presence on red carpets, in music videos and on worldwide concert stages, it seems the music industry can’t live without the legendary Italian fashion label, either.


The brand, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, has had its fair share of splashy red-carpet moments in recent memory, courtesy of Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, Rihanna and -- at the Feb. 13 Grammy Awards -- John Legend and Kings of Leon.

And though Gucci has a long legacy of dressing rockers, including Ringo Starr and Mick Jagger in the brand’s infancy, its fresh-faced 38-year-old designer is plugged into modern music and perennially inspired by its players.

Giannini, who was visiting Los Angeles for the first time in six years, was one of three designers chosen to step into the (huge) shoes of designer Tom Ford (who left the brand in 2004), but by 2006, she had ascended to the sole creative director role, overseeing the house’s women’s and men’s collections.

Her visit to L.A. was packed with music-industry-related events.

She collected the first annual Women of Compassion award from Unicef for Gucci’s ongoing contributions to the organization, presented to her by Jennifer Lopez; hosted a pre-Grammy lunch with Roc Nation and its founder, Jay-Z; and attended the Grammys for the first time -- having her own red-carpet moment, above, wearing a Gucci gown, of course.

Chatting up music’s biggest stars is all in a day’s work for Gianinni, even when she’s at the company’s headquarters in Rome. The company regularly collaborates with music artists on custom designs for public appearances and concerts. After all, “this relationship with music, it’s in the brand’s DNA,” said the designer, outfitted in an Army-green silk-pants jumpsuit and towering heels, a chunky silver Gucci watch encircling her wrist.

She loves the process of collaborating with musicians, “especially when … you have a connection with the other person. If he or she doesn’t like a certain part of their body, you know’ about it, she said. ‘The more personal, the more intimate approach,’ she said, is the reason musicians like collaborating.


The process of creating a custom look usually starts with a conference call with Giannini or her team, and “from that moment, there is this constant relationship. They ask for their needs, we send sketches.”

But pop (and rock) stars can be fickle, and “it’s a process that can be also very long,” she conceded. “The worst part for us, once they have a clear idea of what they want, [is] they want the dress in two days,” she added, laughing. “But it’s part of the game. We need to be very flexible.”

Still, Giannini views the relationship as a two-way street. “Music and musicians are very inspiring for my job, and probably fashion is very inspiring for them,” she said. “The uniqueness of a musician’ is different from actors, she said. ‘Actors are surrounded by people telling them what to do -- managers, stylists. Music artists have their own personal style.”

Though she noted that true authenticity of style -- the kind that birthed David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character, is lacking today. “I have to say,” she said, “I’m still waiting for the next Madonna.”

-- Emili Vesilind

Photos, from top: Frida Giannini at this year’s Grammy Awards. Jennifer Lopez, in Gucci, is among music stars who wear the label. Credit: Gucci