Ford successor settles into her new role at Gucci

Times Staff Writer

Alessandra Facchinetti didn’t sleep a wink before her first show Thursday as head designer for Gucci. Although her famous predecessor, Tom Ford, didn’t call to wish her good luck, he sent his trademark white roses, “along with a really, really, really nice card,” she said.

Looking rested and relaxed at the Gucci offices on Saturday, Facchinetti said she’s relieved to have the first collection behind her. The 32-year-old designer speaks English, though a limited vocabulary seems to prevent her from fully expressing herself. “It was important for me to show the people that I can keep certain elements and go on,” she said. “If there is something to change, it’s because fashion is changing and it’s a part of the process.”

Her vision is still evolving. “For a long time, the Gucci image has been very hard. It’s time to offer women the possibility to express themselves with personalized pieces. It’s not necessary to buy a uniform.” Indeed, her collection was conspicuously free of GG logos, though she did bring back the house’s half-bit hardware on handbags and shoes. “There will always be some icon,” she said.


A frequent traveler to New York and L.A., she is looking forward to meeting the celebrity crowd with which Gucci has such a strong, successful relationship. Though the pressure has been enormous, she said she never considered turning down the job. “I trusted that they wouldn’t have given it to me if they didn’t have confidence in me.”

Facchinetti grew up outside of Milan. Her father, Roby Facchinetti, is a rock musician of note who sings and plays keyboard with the ‘60s-era pop group Pooh. In the ‘80s, when he decided to record a solo album, 11-year-old Alessandra contributed backup vocals. “I was really horrible,” she laughs.

Clothes have always been her passion. “I loved to dress up all the time, wearing high heels when I was super young.” A favorite designer is Azzedine Alaia, though she offers that there is something in every collection that inspires her. She has never been to Japan but is an avid collector of kimonos, which she wears with jeans. Most of the 80 pieces in her kimono collection were bought at flea markets, which she also scours for interesting jewelry, like the impressive 6-inch gold cuff from India she wears on her left wrist.

As an Italian, she has always considered Gucci to be lustworthy. She remembers her first purchase -- super-tight, low-slung black velvet pants. “From one of the very first Tom collections.”

He’s mad about his Method

What was Dennis Hopper doing in Milan telling a rapt audience about his experience in the 1950s at the Actors Studio in New York? He came over to pitch for his pal Emanuele della Valle, young chief of Hogan, the sporty offshoot of accessories house Tod’s. Della Valle is in the early stages of collaborating with Hopper on a film, and the actor’s daughter Marin, a former fashion director of Elle magazine who helped popularize Hogan’s script bag, is a good friend. So Della Valle and his staff (known for hosting offbeat parties) got the idea to collaborate with Anna Strasberg, who continues the work of her husband, Lee, the legendary Method acting coach who trained Hopper, Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift at the Actors Studio. As part of the collaboration, Hogan will offer scholarships in directing and acting to three Italian students.

The bash was held in a warehouse space in a trendy area of Milan. Video monitors showed footage of famous Strasberg students Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, and glass cases displayed Hogan’s spring product offerings, such as old-school “Olympia” sneakers with Converse-like rubber toe caps, and the new “Scout” bag with plenty of room for scripts.


Away from the cocktail hubbub, Hopper and Strasberg led partygoers in abbreviated lessons in concentration and emotional memory. (No, Anna Wintour did not participate.) Hopper also reminisced about the first time he performed onstage, at age 13 at San Diego’s Old Globe. By age 18 he had been signed at Warner Bros., but he didn’t really know a thing about acting, he said, until he met Dean on the set of “Rebel Without a Cause.”

“I saw this young actor improvising, doing things not written on the page and doing each take differently. I came from a world of gestures, but when I saw him, things changed.” Dean became Hopper’s mentor, until he died in a car crash on California 46 in 1955.

“I thought I would go on with his work, but I didn’t know what it was. He blocked his own scenes, so I started blocking my own scenes, and eventually I got blacklisted because I became known as difficult,” Hopper said. To find out what Method acting was really all about, he went to New York, where he was among 15,000 actors auditioning for just three available spots at the studio. It was 4 1/2 months before he could even get an appointment with Strasberg. “Finally, I got to meet him, and when he saw how nervous I was, that I couldn’t even speak, he said, ‘You’ll be in class tomorrow.’ ”