Sheer luxury

By Cathrin Schaer

Most followers of fashion probably know that international luxury label, Gucci, opens its first individual store at 48 Queen St today and that it will be the largest Gucci store in this part of the world. And the truly dedicated followers of fashion also know that the label's new creative director, the most successful since Tom Ford resigned, is Italian designer Frida Giannini.

However, what they might not know about is Giannini's collection of vintage handbags, her penchant for antique jewellery and the fact that when she gets dressed up, this ardent music lover likes listening to Timbaland and Madonna. Who would have thought?

If you had to choose one woman who epitomises Gucci's current style, who would it be?

Jackie O for her timeless chic. Because a Gucci woman is a strong woman who is sure of herself, but also very sensual and feminine at the same time.

Before you were creative director you were Gucci's accessories designer, so are you a handbag or a shoe woman?

That's a difficult one. I absolutely love handbags, especially my vintage collection. I've been designing handbags for more than 12 years and it is definitely the object which best evokes the brand's identity. However, personally I can't resist a pair of great shoes.

I got my first pair of Gucci stilettos when I was 16.

Who or what inspires you?

Inspiration can come from music, art, movies, photographs or by the fashion scene on the streets. I am lucky to work for a brand with such a fascinating history and the Gucci archives are a never-ending source of patterns, prints and designs. To maintain a balance with its magnificent tradition, I always try to integrate a small part of something from the past in the designs I create.

The best fashion advice you ever received?

To always be very natural. It's essential. It's obvious when women force their clothes or dress in an unnatural way.

Your fashion obsession?

I am fascinated with items that define a woman's style. I love antique jewellery, it enriches and personalises any outfit from the casual to the most elegant. Also, the special quality of antique jewellery is that each piece is one of a kind and tells a story. They are the one item that can be part of a person's heritage as well as being beautiful accessories.

What do you wear to work?

Presentation is very important, so of course I like to look good at work. This doesn't mean that I don't play and have fun with my personal style, though - I love to mix vintage and luxury pieces. I keep my look very neutral since I am working with colours, textures, different fabrics and patterns all day and I need to focus my attention on the designing. For this reason, a typical outfit might be all black, finished with a mix of antique and modern jewellery.

Most cherished item?

I inherited a gold and onyx signet ring from my grandfather. He used to wear this everyday so it means a lot to me. And I also love my iPod which is engraved with both mine and my husband's initials and the date of our wedding.

What is the biggest fashion mistake you have ever made?

When I was at art college I tried imitating Madonna. Extremely ambitious because who in the whole world can pull off Madonna apart from the material girl herself?

What's your biggest indulgence?

Anything that involves spending time with my husband - organising a long weekend together at a luxurious spa, indulging in massages, listening to music, having our friends over for dinner and a dip in the pool.

What piece of clothing could you not live without?

I have an array of short, printed, colourful dresses. They're perfect for any occasion, whether it's a meeting, a cocktail party or a weekend getaway. They also remind me of my debut in Gucci. That collection was full of floral and whimsical prints - so fresh and young, yet modern.

Favourite fashion movie?

Breakfast At Tiffany's. I adore Audrey Hepburn.

One of my earliest and favourite fashion memories is Holly Golightly in the little black dress with pearls.

Best music for getting dressed to?

I own more than 7000 vinyl records. I love music and I could not live without it. Some of my favourites for their energy and rhythm include: Madonna - Into the Groove, Timbaland featuring Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado - Give It To Me and Depeche Mode - Free Love.

- NZ Herald

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