“House Of Gucci,” Ridley Scott’s operatic drama about the assassination of fashion heir Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) by his ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), weaves a rich tapestry out of real and fabricated events.
But there are no cutting corners when it comes to designing the costumes for a film about Italy’s most storied fashion family.
Scott’s longtime collaborator Janty Yates was given the staggering responsibility of recreating three decades worth of fashion, as well as the personal style evolutions of the main characters. “You had to have a huge arc because it was from 1975 to 1995 and my God, what an era,” she reflected in an interview with TheWrap. “It’s extraordinary how different each year was from the next.”
For Yates and her team, it wasn’t simply a matter of ringing up the luxury label and borrowing from the vault. They curated from a number of sources, such as archives, vintage stores and the closet of Lady Gaga (whom Yates calls “L.G.”). “She had one house just for Versaces,” Yates quipped.
That’s not to mention the small army of tailors, cutters, fitters and textile artists who designed more than 100 looks, or about 70 percent of the film’s total costumes, including three runway shows and a replica of Reggiani’s wedding dress.
Yates, who won an Oscar for her work on “Gladiator” (2000), did it all without recycling a single look. “If you repeat, you don’t get a feeling of time passing,” she explained.
The veteran costume designer is already working on her next project, Napoleon epic “Kitbag” starring Joaquin Phoenix and directed by Scott. She found time in her busy schedule to talk to TheWrap about collaborating with Lady Gaga, her personal favorite looks (“I rather love them all, they’re like children to me”) and the story behind that scarf scene.
How did you become involved with the project?
I got the script and I did a lot of research because I was in Rome, crewed all my Roman family up. They were gagging to do it. I went to the Gucci Museum [in Florence], did a huge amount of research there because they have costumes going back to the early days. They had masses of footage about their workshops and their bag-making, their shoemaking, the staff in the shops, the famous people that went to the shops. Then I went off and did “The Last Duel.” So I still had it in my back pocket.
How did COVID affect costumes? Did it change or impede your process at all?
During lockdown, I was contacted by MGM, and they basically said, “Would you mind just doing research and development? And I went, ‘Oh, I’d love to.’ I could do it from my front room.’” Then we went back after lockdown to shoot the rest of “The Last Duel.” I went straight more or less into prep after that and haven’t looked back. We’re now doing [a film about] Napoleon, [“Kitbag”].
Were you able to loan any pieces from the Gucci archives?
[Lady Gaga] wears a double G tunic and pants with a mink over the top when [Patrizia] goes to 42nd Street and finds all the [counterfeit Gucci products]. In the other one, she’s at her daughter’s school sports day, and she wears a double G silk blouse with a tie neck and a brown leather skirt.
The only [Gucci items] that we bought ad infinitum seemed to be ties, belts and accessories. They had a lot of handbags in the archive, which was great, because we could virtually choose what [Gaga] wore [on] every occasion. I’d say my cutter [Dominic Young] and his team made probably 65, 70 percent [of the costumes]. Then there was 20 percent vintage, because there are some wonderful costume houses in Rome that had huge rooms of archives of 60s, 70s, and 80s Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, you name it. A couple [costumes] came from L.G.’s personal archive, which is huge. She had one house just for Versaces.
Patrizia’s wardrobe changes as she goes from working as an accountant for her father to worming her way into the Gucci family. Can you talk about how her look evolves over the course of the film?
You had to have a huge arc because it was from 1975 to 1995 and my God, what an era. It’s extraordinary how different each year was from the next. The dress and jacket [Patrizia Reggiani] wore at Aldo’s birthday party at Lake Como, that was a huge nod to Gina Lollobrigida, but it also made her look quite innocent. So we start off with her in little cashmere twin sets and things like that, trying to seduce Maurizio. She becomes very modest and very downspoken in her clothes. And then we just gradually tried to ramp it up a bit.
L.G. would always want to do the earrings, the bags and bracelets, which I’ve never done with an actor before. Obviously, there were lots of scenes – she had 54 different days [of shooting] – and she didn’t repeat anything once, not even an earring.
There was even an arc for Adam [Driver]’s clothing. Obviously, Maurizio was dressed in Savile Row. My tailor made 40 outfits for him. Towards the end, I was trying to get him into velvet suits, into that sort of rich, slightly more relaxed look.
Where did you get inspiration for Patrizia’s engagement ring? Did you want it to look very similar to the actual ring?
Yeah apparently, [Patrizia] still has it. Not her wedding ring, because it was just a band. The engagement ring [came from] my stock, funny enough, and it was so close to Patrizia’s real engagement ring. I had two of them, which is what you always need with jewelry in a film. She is always [saying] ‘I am Gucci too.’
How did you want to reflect the Gucci mens’ personalities through their suits and other outfits?
If you go online, you will see that Paolo Gucci was the most appallingly dressed man, ever. One photo I’ve got with a huge great big velvet bow tie. So I wanted to make him fairly tasteless, but also tailored. And we were so lucky. We got the Atollini Brothers, who are the tailors to country leaders and presidents. They go to Scotland, they pick their cashmere and they have it woven into their tweed, all their suits are handsewn. They did the costumes for “The Great Beauty,” which was to me one of the best tailored films ever.
They said, ‘We make [Paolo] the dandy’s dandy.’ So we got the loudest windowpane checks, and the big three piece orange suit that [he wears when] he confronts [Patrizia] and Maurizio outside the church. It was a shame we didn’t have more screen time with him, because we had about 12 outfits made: sports jackets, trousers, big striped shirts.
Aldo [Gucci] was a very good looking man, very elegant and very tall. We had to try and give that impression with Al Pacino, with beautiful fabrics. Ridley drew this wonderful picture of him with a Panama hat, little tiny sunglasses, a cane – not a ‘dandy’s dandy,’ as they say in Italy, but just a dandy.
After he’s snubbed by his Uncle Rodolfo, Paolo pees on a scarf that closely resembles the Flora scarf, which was custom-designed by the real Rodolfo Gucci. Was the scarf used in the film a replica?
That floral print [scarf] was a real [Flora scarf]. But it wasn’t real pee. There were all sorts of different versions of that script. [In one version] it’s on Rodolfo’s (Jeremy Irons) neck — and [Paolo] rips it off and throws it in the fire. Then suddenly, we weren’t going to have a fire. And then he goes and pees on it. But yes, it was an actual [Gucci scarf] – we managed to find two or three of them that Rodolfo designed. If you look at Princess Grace [of Monaco], or you look at Jackie O, you’ll see often they will have one of these scarves tied around their necks.
How did the costumes play into the actors’ methods? Did you collaborate with any specific actors on building their characters’ looks?
I think every actor – and they will probably deny this – but I think very often they get the hook of their character when they do a wardrobe session. I did four two-hour [Zoom sessions] with L.G. before she came to Italy. She really got her character going from there and she kept carrying on developing her character as we went through fittings in Rome.
With Adam [Driver], I’d had three months of “The Last Duel” to discuss [“House of Gucci” costumes] with him. He pretends he’s not interested in clothes, but he likes to look good. He had about 46 appearances in the film that I didn’t want to repeat. If you repeat, you don’t get a feeling of time passing.
With Al [Pacino], he was concerned very much about his overall look. He was always trying things on left, right and center.
Jared [and I] zoomed. From Day 1, what was more concerning [was] building his weight, because he is pin-thin and he has all this long hair. So we were just working mainly on clothes that we got from a rental company and trying to make a fat T-shirt, basically, but to make it comfortable.
“House of Gucci” features three fashion shows: Versace ‘84, Tom Ford’s Gucci ‘95, and a fictional Paolo Gucci show. What was your approach to recreating those?
I gave my associate designer [Stefano De Nardis] the job of doing all the shows. And I said just do six, seven looks because Ridley will never shoot it all. Well, he did all of it. He made everything from scratch: the turquoise blue velvet suits, the yellow velvet suits, he did the Versace [show] from beginning to end… and he created the Paulo Gucci fashion show. Plus, he found more or less [lookalikes], especially in the Tom Ford [show], of the real models who are so iconic.
Do you have any personal favorite costumes from the film?
I’ve always adored the bridal look because I thought the veil framed [Lady Gaga’s] face so beautifully. They made a facsimile of the real dress that [Patrizia Reggiani] was photographed in at her wedding. My cutter, Dominic Young, and I created this dress where all the lace was appliquéd on by hand. It was just such a work of art. I loved the turquoise sequin [dress] – it’s not in the film, it’s in the trailers. I love the red satin dress that she seduces Maurizio in at another party. And then there’s a lovely pearl halter neck, but you only see it to her waist. I rather love them all, they’re like children to me.
You’ve spoken before about your childhood aspirations to become a fashion designer. Did designing the costumes for this particular film bring about a full-circle feeling?
I think I was about 11 [and] I was just making my own clothes. I did however, always want to work in fashion and actually no, it didn’t come full circle because I fulfilled my wish when I became a costume designer, not a fashion designer. I’d never had such a wonderful experience as doing my first tiny little half-hour film. It was just so exciting and dynamic. I thought, “I never want to do anything else.”
“House of Gucci” is now playing only in theaters.