“With the cinema, clothes come back to life,” Alessandro Michele and Gus Van Sant unveil a mini-series of films


The artistic director at Gucci has joined forces with the cult director of “Elephant and “Harvey Milk, to make a miniseries of seven films, presented this week during GucciFest, a digital film and fashion festival. Last Friday, Alessandro Michele and Gus Van Sant spoke via Zoom about the origin of the project, its filming in Rome and their shared love of the movies.


Currently being shown on YouTube between November 16th and 22nd, the miniseries of seven films made in Rome by Alessandro Michele and Gus Van Sant is composed of suspended and poetic moments in the life of actress and artist Silvia Calderoni, who we first saw in 2016 at the Théâtre Paris-Villette. In the powerful performance of her play MDLSX she evoked her own androgyny, intertwining autobiographical and literary fictional experiences. The first episode made by Van Sant and Michele, unveiled on Monday November 16th, offers a glimpse into the fictional intimacy of Silvia Calderoni, in a carefully styled apartment: vintage rugs and sofas, designer furniture and esoteric paintings… The Gucci universe unfolds with elegance. 



“I wanted to develop a story over a long, slow period of time, 
like a pregnancy." Alessandro Michele



"When I wrote this story," says Michele, "I wanted the ambiguity between fiction and reality to be absolute. I wanted to follow Silvia in everyday, timeless places and moments, and when she meets people too. Neither the time nor the places are defined. I wanted to develop a story over a long, slow period of time, like a pregnancy". Among her "encounters" are the philosopher and gender specialist Paul B. Preciado... but also the pop stars Billie Eilish, Harry Styles and Florence Welch. "It's a journey," says Gus Van Sant, "in which various people have the opportunity to talk about their discipline. But above all it’s about following the daily life of a woman in Rome, at home, in a vintage shop, in a café, at the theatre... The story written by Alessandro has obvious links with my films such as GerryElephant or The Last Days. Recounted in an oblique way, things happen before your eyes in a kind of slowed-down temporality."

The short films are an opportunity for Alessandro Michele to present his new collection, which, like the series, is called Ouverture Of Something That Never Ended. "Fashion must be allowed to free itself," explains the artistic director. “To free itself from the catwalks, from the expected places. Thanks to cinema, clothes come to life, they are worn and not confined to a shop or a wardrobe. Clothes return to where they came from: they come back to life. Cinema has had a major impact on my own life, with both Hollywood and Italian neo-realism films. I watched Daniel Mann's The Rose Tattoo with Anna Magnani more than 20 times [a 1955 adaptation of the play by Tennessee Williams]. Watching Björk in Dancer in the Dark was a real shock, while discovering Gus's My Own Private Idaho, 30 years ago, was liberating. That film helped me to understand who I was, in a way that was unconventional, brutal yet delicate." 



Thirty years ago, Gus Van Sant shot some of the scenes from My Own Private Idaho in Rome. He also has fond memories of another trip, in 1975, when he visited Pasolini at his home just before he was murdered. And the film set of Fellini’s Casanova, where he’d been taken by an American journalist. "When I was young," continues Alessandro Michele, "I didn't want to be a fashion designer, but a costume designer. I am often asked today if I am one or the other but I remain unable to answer. It is this very ambiguity that fascinates me. My work is based on the idea of never closing a door. Creativity is not something you can limit, categorise or stop. Clothes are strange and ambiguous objects too. You find them in films, in washing machines, on beds, in shops..." And now in a series of seven films available on the YouTube Fashion channel and Gucci’s social media.



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    Christine and the Queens: “I experienced sexism in its purist state”

    Determined not to be trapped in a either a single musical style or gender, Christine and the Queens has just released her new EP, “La vita nuova”, which is accompanied by a video shot in Paris’s historic opera house, the Palais Garnier. On this storied stage, she gives full rein to her identity as an artist who takes on the role of different characters that are defined by her successive emotional states, and for which she uses her entire body as a tool to incarnate these multiple facets of her personality. Exclusively for Numéro, Christine and the Queens acted out just such a series of transformations, demonstrating her mastery of the art of metamorphosis.

    Veste en cuir et bottes, PATRYCJA PAGAS. Boucles d’oreilles, Y/PROJECT.

    Numéro: You’ve made a surprise comeback this year with the six- track EP La vita nuova, for which you also produced a short accompanying film that was shot in the Palais Garnier. What does this “new life” consist in for you?

    Christine and The Queens: The song People, I’ve Been Sad set off a new cycle of writing for me. It hit me like a cannonball when my life was in disarray because of the loss of someone close and a complicated love affair, at a time when every night I had to go on stage to defend my new album, which was carnal, powerful, sizzling and in complete dissonance with everything I was going through. I felt the need to start a new, more introspective, chapter. Going beyond my wounds required a return to desire and to sociability. The solution was the club. And that’s what’s behind the song La vita nuova and the finale of the video: the opera is literally transformed into a club. The title comes from Dante’s poem La vita nuova, in which the enamoured author has to face the death of a loved one. Dante expresses the imperious need for poetry – as light – after a loss. It’s the triumph of poetry over death, for love.



    This new artistic cycle comes in the wake of a second album that was hailed in the UK and the US but received a cold welcome from certain French critics...

    I’ve had a rough time in France, and I’ve suffered a lot as a result. I had the feeling of wanting to say some- thing and not being understood. To be honest, after the massive suc- cess of the first album, I knew the second would be difficult. Not where the writing was concerned – on the contrary, success had filled me with hope and strength. But I feared more than anything being buried alive in Chaleur humaine – in a second Chaleur humaine, and then a third... As an artist I need to be afraid some- times, to step out of my comfort zone. So I imagined the sacrilege and carried it out deliberately. The second album was an act of liberation. Being an artist, whether a successful one or not, is always a way of evolving into something else. On the second album, I crossed out my name: Christine and the Queens be- came Chris, which allowed me to develop a lot of things that were present in the first album but which people hadn’t heard. I developed my femininity for example. By cutting my hair! [Laughs.] All of a sudden, because I had short hair, everyone could hear what I was saying from the beginning!



    What type of femininity were you defending with Chris?
    Given Chris’s BDSM penchants and homoerotic codes, I’m playing the part of the macho: “Get outta here, you’re in the way!” I had a lot of discussions at the time with journalists about desire and the female body. I was very surprised by their conservatism. The reaction to Chris was a textbook case – the whole feminist bingo was ticked! I think that at the time my desire to sexualize myself while avoiding the male gaze, which is to say deconstructing the dominant gaze, was not understood. The male gaze causes hurt and is only now starting to be deconstructed. I’m thinking of the work of certain filmmakers, among them Céline Sciamma. Deconstructing means bringing your personality back to yourself and seizing power. Artists like Madonna did it long before me by subverting the male gaze and bringing back their own subjectivity: her conical breasts were the expression of an aggressive super-femininity. The male gaze is a very invasive construction that has inundated all of pop culture. But the second al- bum reminded me that you can get a message across with a haircut. True pop personalities are creatures of theatre and subversion, people like Madonna or Lady Gaga. When you start to think of yourself as a creature who exists in a certain theatricality, the possibilities become infinite. And once you’ve started to choose, you can change your mind. A pop star is somebody who changes her mind all the time so as to be in tune with her music.


    Robe manteau en cuir, FENDI. Boucle d’oreille, SAINT LAURENT PAR ANTHONY VACCARELLO.

    How has this game of identities expressed itself in La vita nuova?

    With La vita nuova, I’ve initiated a different idea around a true fluidity. I exist in the film in multiple forms. I often talk about Bowie, because to my eyes he embodies this capacity. Defining your gender is of no interest anymore. Queerness is better under- stood in the Anglo world, which has long been confronted with personalties who construct themselves as creatures that are outside gender binarity. I’m moving into spaces of fluidity and liberty. In the video of La vita nuova, I allowed myself to wear a dress – something I’d never done before. And then I appear in a suit with epaulettes. Nothing is rigid. It’s also about going back to the idea of theatre – theatre which saves my life and allows me to exist. Theatre, like the club, is the solution. At the Palais Garnier, I set down my suit- cases once more in the theatre, and there I stay.



    Is it easier today to achieve this fluidity of gender and theatricality?

    When you want to exist in nuance and hesitation, your life becomes a combat. On every level, even the tiniest. When you want to define your music, for example. People have never been able to stand the fact that I don’t reply clearly to the question: “What is your music?” I’ve no idea! Pop?! “But what sort of pop?” Hybrid pop?! “So French pop?” Always this damn need to classify! The indeterminate opens up possibilities that frighten people. Not re- plying is an act of resistance. But I accept that each moment of creation is a confrontation with what I want to become. The liberating gesture must constantly be repeated.



    How did your sensibility towards questions of gender and identity develop over time?
    I was lucky enough to inherit a very strong cultural legacy. Both my par- ents are teachers. My father taught English literature and worked a lot on gender studies. We had copies of Judith Butler in the house [the author, among others, of Gender Trouble, which offers a new definition of gender as performance]. At 15 I’d read Butler, who gave voice to what I already felt. Very young I wanted to become an author. And very young I had the impression that in order to do that you had to be a man. My fantasies of becoming a man were born! People still always ask me if I write my songs myself. In the collective subconscious, a woman can only be a performer or a muse, which is to say a figure given life by the voice of a man.



    Did you face sexism when you were young?
    I experienced sexism in its purist state while I was studying theatre. When I was 18 or 19, I was refused a writing grant, although three boys had already obtained it. No one was able to tell me why. When I was younger I was so angry, angry to be a woman. Because I knew it was going to be more complicated for me. In the wake of the misogyny I experienced at drama school, I came to the music business with greater resolve. I signed up with a record label that I knew would respect my work as an author and producer.


    You often cite René Char’s Fureur et Mystère, whose poetry oscillates between furious passion and a more contemplative and mysterious life. Is this ambivalence part of your own life?

    It has structured my life. I made a very clear divide between the stage and real life. I often used to say to myself: “On stage I coincide with the world, I’m present to myself... And off stage it’s a disaster! The Spider- Man/Peter Parker syndrome.” As a child I was very alone. I’ve always felt myself in slight dissonance with the world. It’s often the case when you write. Writing is cruel. The writer is a thief. People in my life may have the impression that what they go through with me is not only some- thing they go through with me. Lorde put it very well in one of her songs: “This is what happens when you kiss a writer in the dark.” But today I own my being a thief of feelings.

    Veste en cuir, MUGLER. Bagues et bracelet, PANCONESI.

    Part of the identity of Christine and the Queens lies in the intensity of the body, and in dance. Which choreographers have influenced you?

    Pina Bausch changed my life. I saw her for the first time when I was 18, and I cried my heart out. I discovered that dance is a truly emotional language. It’s not so much the beauty of the movement that counts as the precision. This ability to tell all the body’s tensions and memories. I studied classical dance, but my cou-de-pied wasn’t good enough to dance on points. [Laughs.] I took lessons, but I mostly danced at home, all the time. Later on it was difficult to find people in the pop business who understood my approach. Far too often dance as entertainment is just padding. This standard way of showing off the singer makes me want to die of bore- dom. For my tour, I tried to find strong personalities, dancers who could threaten me in my leadership position. Dance is also about creating a body for yourself. I wanted to create an ambivalent body for my- self. That’s why I wanted to work with Marion Motin. I’d alreday spot- ted her work on blogs, before she worked with Stromae. Her vocabulary is very androgynous. She is gracious and powerful. With Marion I could quote both Michael Jackson and Pina Bausch.

    Haut, jupe et cagoule en métal, PACO RABANNE. Bottes, PATRYCJA PAGAS.
    Soutien-gorge, SAINT LAURENT PAR ANTHONY VACCARELLO. Pantalon en cuir, Y/PROJECT.
    Bustier drapé en cuir, BALMAIN

    For the video of La vita nuova you worked with the choreographer Ryan Heffington...

    Ryan’s dance is very cathartic, like a pure shamanic ceremony. Faces grimace, tongues stick out. I’ve always adored his work, but I needed to find a suitable project. La vita nuova, with its baroque side, seemed an obvious choice. He was only in Paris for five days. We learned the choreography in two days. The shoot was frenetic, crazy. The faces I make on People, I’ve Been Sad were out of my control. It wasn’t pretty – but in a good sense! I like the idea of resisting in front of the camera and not being in a permanent state of seduction. Ryan writes for faces. The face is always there with the choreographers who want to tell everything. Like Pina Bausch. Whereas in pop choreographies, you always have to smile. And that just gets me down.



    Christine and the Queens, La vita nuova (Because Music), out now.


    Robe en organza de soie, PATRYCJA PAGAS. Chaussures, Y/PROJECT. Pièce en latex de l’artiste Stef Van Looveren.
    Haut en latex, KJELL DE MEERSMAN. Bustier en corde, SHAWNA WU. Réalisation : Natacha Voranger. Coiffure : Paolo Ferreira chez Calliste Agency. Maquillage : Karin Westerlund chez Artlist Paris. Manucure : Huberte Césarion chez Marie-France Thavonekham Agency. Set design : Cécile di Giovanni. Assistante réalisation : Adèle Berson. Numérique : Brice Dossin chez Dope Paris. Production : Berlin Group. Remerciements à Philippe Saint-Gilles.

    Laetitia Casta embodies 1990s clichés for Jacquemus

    French manicures, the Nokia 3310, Discman and PlayStation… For Jacquemus, Laetitia Casta revives the 90s with humour and nostalgia. 

    It is 1997. France has yet to win the World Cup and Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element has just been released in cinemas, the iPod doesn’t exist and there is no real TV or social media. That year, when Simon Porte Jacquemus was just seven years old, he made his first ever garment for his mother, a skirt fashioned from a linen curtain. This early creation is now the main theme of his fall-winter 2020 collection, soberly entitled, “L'Année 97” [The Year 1997], made up of 63 seemingly pared back silhouettes in natural materials and 50 shades of beige. In 1997, while Laetitia Casta had yet to become the superstar of the catwalks or a respected actress, she already embodied a French ideal of beauty with her unruly features. Invited a few months ago by Jacquemus to wear his new collection, the model marked her return to the runway that day after a ten year absence.  



    Now inseparable, the duo formed by Simon Porte Jacquemus and Laetitia Casta is back with a series of edgy photographs that revive a slew of 1990s cliches. With French manicured nails and polka straight hair, a fresh face and direct gaze, Laetitia Casta dances with her Discman, games on a PlayStation, makes phone calls with her Nokia 3310, when she’s not playing with a yo-yo, driving a candy pink car or eating a Mister Freeze. It seems that the 1990s have caught the imaginations of numerous designers and artists, as Simon Porte Jacquemus plunges us into an era through his kitschy images that seems light years away from the one we live in today, with nostalgia and humour.

    Laetitia Casta par Valentin Herfray pour Jacquemus
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    5 questions to Molly Goddard on her collaboration with UGG

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