How House of Gucci costume designer dressed Lady Gaga without repetitions
“House Of Gucci”, Ridley Scott’s operatic drama about the murder of the fashion heir Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) by his ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), weaves a rich tapestry of real and fictional events.
But when it comes to designing the costumes for a film about Italy’s most famous fashion family, there are no compromises.
Scott’s longtime collaborator Janty Yates was given the overwhelming responsibility to recreate fashion from three decades as well as the personal style developments of the main characters. “You had to have a wide arc because it was from 1975 to 1995 and my God, what an era,” she reflected in an interview with TheWrap. “It is extraordinary how different each year was from the next.”
For Yates and her team, it wasn’t just about calling the luxury label and borrowing from the safe. They curated from a number of sources including archives, vintage stores, and Lady Gaga’s (whom Yates calls “LG”) closet. “She had a house just for Versaces,” Yates joked.
Not to mention the tiny army of tailors, tailors, locksmiths, and textile artists who designed more than 100 looks, or roughly 70 percent of the film’s total costumes, including three catwalk shows and a replica of Reggiani’s wedding dress.
Yates, who won an Oscar for her work on Gladiator (2000), did all of this without recycling a single look. “When you repeat, you have no feeling that time is passing,” she explained.
The experienced costume designer is already working on her next project, the Napoleon epic âKitbagâ with Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role and directed by Scott. She found time in her busy schedule to talk to TheWrap about working with Lady Gaga, her personal favorite looks (“I love them all, they’re like kids to me”) and the story behind them the Scarf scene.
How did you hear about the project?
I got the script and did a lot of research because I was in Rome putting my entire Roman family together. You gagged to do it. I’ve been to the Gucci Museum [in Florence], did a lot of research there because they have costumes that go back to the early days. They had tons of footage of their workshops and their bag making, their shoemaking, the store clerks, the famous people who went to the stores. Then I went out and did “The Last Duel”. So I still had it in my back pocket.
How has COVID affected costumes? Has it changed or hindered your process at all?
During the lockdown, I was contacted by MGM and they basically said, âWould you mind just doing research and development? And I said, ‘Oh, I would like that.’ I could do it from my living room. ‘âThen after the lockdown we went back to film the rest ofâ The Last Duel â. After that I went more or less directly into the preparation and have not regretted it. We are doing now [a film about] Napoleon, [âKitbagâ].
Were you able to borrow items from the Gucci archives?
[Lady Gaga] wears a double-G tunic and pants with a mink over them, though [Patrizia] go to 42nd Street and find them all [counterfeit Gucci products]. In the other, she is at her daughter’s school sports day and wears a double G silk blouse with a tie collar and a brown leather skirt.
The only [Gucci items] that we bought ad infinitum appeared to be ties, belts and accessories. They had a lot of handbags in the archive, which was great because we could virtually choose something [Gaga] wore [on] every chance. I would say my cutter [Dominic Young] and his team probably made 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 with archives from the 60s, 70s and 80s, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, whatever. A couple [costumes] came from LG’s personal archive which is huge. She had a house just for Versaces.
Patrizia’s wardrobe changes when she joins the Gucci family after working as an accountant for her father. Can you talk about how her looks evolve as the movie progresses?
You had to have a wide berth because it was from 1975 to 1995 and my god, what an era. It’s amazing how different each year was from the next. The dress and the jacket [Patrizia Reggiani] to Aldo’s birthday party on Lake Como, which was a big reference to Gina Lollobrigida, but it also made her look pretty innocent. So let’s start with her in little cashmere twin sets and such to seduce Maurizio. She becomes very modest and very reserved in her clothes. And then we just gradually tried to ramp it up a bit.
LG would always want to do the earrings, the bags and the bracelets, which I have never done to an actor before. Obviously there were a lot of scenes – it had 54 different days [of shooting] – and she did not repeat a single time, not even an earring.
There was even a bow for Adam [Driver]’s clothes. Maurizio was obviously dressed in Savile Row. My tailor made 40 outfits for him. Towards the end, I tried to get him into velvet suits, that kind of voluptuous, slightly more relaxed look.
Where did you get your inspiration for Patrizia’s engagement ring? Did you want it to look a lot like the actual ring?
Yes apparently [Patrizia] still has it. Not her wedding ring because it was just a band. The engagement ring [came from] my camp, funny enough, and it was so close to Patrizia’s real engagement ring. I had two of the things you always need in jewelry in a movie. she is always [saying] “I’m Gucci too.”
How did you want to reflect the Gucci men’s personality through their suits and other outfits?
If you go online you will find that Paolo Gucci was the most horrific dressed man of all time. I have a photo with a huge, big velvet bow tie. So I wanted to make it pretty tasteless but also bespoke. And we were so lucky. We have the Atollini Brothers who are tailors for the heads of state and presidents. They go to Scotland, get their cashmere and have it woven into their tweed, all of their suits are hand-sewn. You did the costumes for “The Great Beauty” which, for me, was one of the best bespoke films of all time.
They said, ‘We’ll do [Paolo] the dandy’s dandy. ‘ So we have the loudest window checks and the big three-piece orange suit for it [he wears when] he faced [Patrizia] and Maurizio in front of the church. It was a shame we didn’t have more screen time with him because we had done about 12 outfits: jackets, pants, big striped shirts.
Aldo [Gucci] was a very handsome man, very elegant and very tall. We had to try to convey that impression with Al Pacino, with beautiful fabrics. Ridley drew this wonderful picture of him wearing a Panama hat, a pair of tiny sunglasses, a walking stick – not a dandy-dandy, as they say in Italy, just a dandy.
After being snubbed by his uncle Rodolfo, Paolo pees on a scarf very similar to the Flora scarf custom made by the real Rodolfo Gucci. Was the scarf used in the film a replica?
This floral print [scarf] was a real one [Flora scarf]. But it wasn’t a real pee. There were all sorts of different versions of this script. [In one version] it’s on Rodolfo’s (Jeremy Irons) neck – and [Paolo] tear it off and throw it into the fire. Then suddenly we didn’t want any more fire. And then he goes and pees on it. But yes, it was a real one [Gucci scarf] – we managed to find two or three of them that Rodolfo designed. When you look at Princess Grace [of Monaco], or you look at Jackie O, you will often see that they have one of these scarves tied around their necks.
How did the costumes play with the actors’ methods? Have you worked with certain actors to create the look of their characters?
I think any actor – and they will probably deny this – but I think very often they get their character’s allure when they do a cloakroom session. I did four two hours [Zoom sessions] with LG before she came to Italy. From then on she really got her character going and she continued to develop her character while we made the adjustments in Rome.
With Adam [Driver], I had three months to review “The Last Duel” [âHouse of Gucciâ costumes] with him. He pretends not to care about clothes, but he likes to look good. He made about 46 appearances in the film that I didn’t want to repeat. If you repeat it, you don’t feel like time is passing.
With Al [Pacino], he was very concerned about his overall look. He always tried things left, right, and in the middle.
Jared [and I] zoomed. What was more worrying from day 1 [was] builds his weight because he’s razor sharp and has all this long hair. So we mostly worked on clothes we got from a rental company and basically tried to make a thick t-shirt but to be comfortable.
House of Gucci has three fashion shows: Versace ’84, Tom Ford’s Gucci ’95 and a fictional Paolo Gucci show. What was your approach to recreating this?
I gave it to my associate designer [Stefano De Nardis] the job of doing all the shows. And I said just do six, seven looks because Ridley is never going to shoot anything. Well he did everything. He made everything from scratch: the turquoise blue velvet suits, the yellow velvet suits, he made the Versace [show] from start to finish … and he created the Paulo Gucci fashion show. Besides, he found more or less [lookalikes], especially in the Tom Ford [show], the real models that are so iconic.
Do you have personal favorite costumes from the film?
I’ve always loved the bridal look because I thought the veil was framed [Lady Gagaâs] Face so beautiful. They made a facsimile of the real dress that [Patrizia Reggiani] was photographed at their wedding. My tailor, Dominic Young, and I created this dress with all of the lace applied by hand. It was just such a work of art. I loved the turquoise sequins [dress] – it’s not in the movie, it’s in the trailers. I love the red satin dress in which she seduces Maurizio at another party. And then there is a nice pearl halter that you can only see up to your waist. I love them all better, they are like children to me.
You have already spoken about your childhood dream of becoming a fashion designer. Did designing the costumes for this particular movie create a sense of the circle?
I think I was around 11 [and] I only made my own clothes. But I’ve always wanted to work in fashion and actually no, the circle has not come full circle because I fulfilled my wish when I became a costume designer and not a fashion designer. I had never had such a wonderful experience as my first tiny, half-hour film. It was just so exciting and dynamic. I thought, “I never want to do anything else.”
“House of Gucci” now only runs in theaters.