The Premiere Event: Gucci Girl Blake Lively Sounds Off On The Brand’s Latest Scent
Gucci creative director Frida Giannini is not your average fashion designer when it comes to adding beauty extensions to the Italian house’s lineup of luxury goods—which is to say she is very, very involved in the entire process. “She knows what she wants,” Sumit Bhasin, global director of research, development, and innovation at P&G Prestige, told me over the weekend in Venice, where he and the rest of Giannini’s partners in perfume had decamped to officially launch Gucci’s latest fragrance, Premiere, against the backdrop of the sinking city’s film festival. “It’s an exploration with Frida,” he continued, explaining that what Giannini was specifically exploring with the brand’s latest flacon was the world of white flowers and “glitz, but [nothing] over-the-top.”
The lily of the valley-heavy scent with subtle notes of sparkling bergamot, smoky leather, and woods subsequently came into being based on two explicit Giannini directives: that it be devoid of anything too saccharine, gourmand, and cloying (“Frida hates sweet notes”) and that it somehow translate as the spritzable equivalent of her couture collection of the same name, which launched at Cannes two years ago on the backs of Salma Hayek and Jennifer Connelly. “Gucci Premiere is about [dressing] the world’s most famous women for one special night,” Giannini reiterated at a dinner to fête the fragrance—its Nicolas Winding Refn-directed commercial and its famous face, Blake Lively—later that evening. “I was looking for a woman who could bring that glamour to life,” she continued of Lively, before the Savages star made a grand, live-broadcast entrance via water taxi. I caught up with Lively on a 48-hour Italian jaunt to talk the end of Gossip Girl, finding beauty inspiration on Pinterest, and why, when it comes to dressing for her own big premieres, she relies on Style.com (she said it; not us).
Following successful partnerships and friendships with brands like Chanel and Christian Louboutin, how did your collaboration with Gucci come about?
I actually met Frida [Giannini] at a couple of different Gucci charity events, then they approached me to work with them. It’s just so inspiring to see; she has so much on her plate—menswear, Premiere couture—she’s doing so much yet she still makes it a priority to be involved in charity every year, and when I saw that I just thought it was super cool. Frida is the best version of a woman. She’s got this strong, grounded, empowered masculine side and she also has that delicate, feminine, glamorous lush side. There are a lot of fashion houses that I’m aware of and that I admire for different reasons, but there’s very few that I would really want to work with and feel like I’m still myself. A lot of [brands], I feel like if I stepped into their world it wouldn’t be as me.
This perfume is about red-carpet moments, of which you’ve certainly had your fair share. How do you prep for your own premieres?
Honestly, I go on Style.com—it’s the truth! I don’t use a stylist so the way I find my looks is by going on Style.com and looking at the shows. My mom always made clothes and she’s great with design—clothes, home. So I grew up with that and having that understanding, going to flea markets with her and finding vintage pieces of furniture. It’s hunting for that special piece. I’m good at knowing what’s going to look good on my body and what colors are going to look good. It all started with Gossip Girl, really—doing all of those fittings for all of those episodes; we have nine looks an episode and 27 episodes a year! You learn how to do it quick.
What about hair and makeup? Whether it’s fishtail braid ponytails or fine jewelry-turned-hair accessories, you’re always thinking outside the box when it comes to red-carpet beauty. Do you work with anyone religiously?
There are people I really love and trust, but for a lot of events, I’ll do my own hair and makeup because sometimes it’s just easier—and I’ve gotten the best education in it. I’m exposed to the best hair and makeup people all the time, or I’ll go from set and our hair and makeup girls—Amy Tagliamonti and Jen Johnson—are also my best friends, so I’ll just ask them to do me really quickly. There’s just so many things you can do with a dress—you look at that Zuhair [Murad] dress and you could have done something like a really sleek ponytail that’s very straight and long and a smoky eye and a nude lip and worn it very modern. But I saw that dress and just wanted something Old Hollywood. So I did the red nails…
With the moon manicure! I remember…
No, but there was something you missed. I saw something on Pinterest called Louboutin nails. They painted their nails black and did red on the underside—like a Louboutin—so I did red nails with black on the inside. It’s finding little modern touches, like taking a diamond necklace and wrapping it in my hair…
So you’re very active in these decisions.
Yeah, I always decide what it’s going to look like—whether it’s Veronica Lake waves or a high pony with braids—I always find reference photos of what I want and then I’m in the hands of really great people who just take my idea and make it that much better.
Speaking of working with great people, there is a laundry list of big names who contributed to the visuals for Premiere’s ads, from Mert & Marcus on the print side to Nicolas for the film. What was it like acting for something like this, that seemed to require a lot of suggestive spritzing, versus working on a big-budget film?
You can feel really silly after a while, but Mert & Marcus, they’re so funny—like a comedy team, like a couture Laverne and Shirley! And Nick is the one that makes you feel good about it. You see his movies and realize what a good filmmaker he is and you look at Tom Hardy in so many scenes in Bronson and you think, that probably had to feel really uncomfortable, but look how great it turned out! So you have that confidence. He puts himself out on a limb and is so wild so you don’t feel like anything you’re doing is too over-the-top because he’s giving you that security blanket of being the boldest one in the room. He’s going to attract the attention for you—he’s going to take the hit.
There’s an underlying Old Hollywood inspiration at the root of Premiere—with its Deco gold bottle and chypre scent profile. Does that era ever inspire your own work?
There are the answers that everyone says because they’re true—you look at Katharine Hepburn and the way she wears a dress or looks in a suit. But you look at Bette Davis and she can look so beautiful and glamorous, and then in some scenes, she can look just terrible. And there’s something so sexy about that—that she’s that confident to do that. That’s something people wouldn’t want you to do as much now. The most beautiful women on screen right now would have to fight the DP to say, “No; I want to look really terrible right now!”
With the shows starting in a matter of days, will we be seeing you front-row in New York—or Europe?
I love seeing pieces firsthand, but we work 15-18 hour days. We’re starting at 5 in the morning and we finish at 10 p.m., so the tents are up and down and gone by the time we’re done.
With Gossip Girl wrapping this season, I’ll look for you at the Fall 2013 shows then. Any feelings on filming your last scenes as Serena van der Woodsen?
It’s the end of a big long chapter in my life. I moved out of my parents’ house and went to live in New York City for the show. It’s been six years, so I’m excited to have a break for the first time in a really, really long time—and to see what’s next!