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Tilda Swinton in Raf Simons for Dior in Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash
CREDIT: Supplied via StudioCanal

When I go to meet Luca Guadagnino, the Milanese director of one of 2016’s most beguiling films thus far, A Bigger Splash, he’s more than a little preoccupied by the spectacle that’s taking place in front of him – albeit a spectacle rendered on the diminutive scale of an iPad.

Draped in a wingback armchair at Sydney’s QT Hotel, Guadagnino is the very vision of an Italian auteur known for his engrossing domestic dramas, which are as painfully stylish as they are psychologically complex. He extends a foppish hand, one eye fixed on the tablet propped up on the low table next to him.

“I’m watching the Oscars red carpet,” he tells me, unable to look away (from the iPad, of course).

“Nothing has happened so far. No good gowns yet.”

Gowns are a natural point of entry when it comes to discussing A Bigger Splash (in cinemas now), which is Guadagnino’s fourth film made in collaboration with Tilda Swinton – one of modern cinema’s most chameleonic, and arguably its most stylish, players.

His feature follow-up to 2009’s I Am Love is just as stylish, thanks in no small part to the work of first time costume designer, Giulia Piersanti.

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Raf Simons, formerly of Dior, and first time costume designer Giulia Piersanti, formerly of Fendi and Balenciaga, collaborated on Swinton’s A Bigger Splash wardrobe to spectacular effect
CREDIT: Supplied via StudioCanal

The film’s enviable wardrobe – all elevated shirt-dresses, swimsuits and scene-stealing sunglasses – is testament to their fruitful work together and costume’s power to aid in the telling of a story wherein one of the protagonists does not speak for most of the film. In that silence, the film’s wardrobe screams with moments that would make even the most casual fan of resort wear weep for joy.

Having previously worked as a knitwear designer for Fendi, Chloé, Lanvin, Missoni, Balenciaga and Dior Homme, Piersanti mightn’t seem an obvious choice to wardrobe the film – which also stars actors including Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts and rising fashion palette Dakota Johnson – but after years of dissatisfaction working with “proper costume designers”, for Guadagnino the alternative posed an attractive solution.

As he tells it, “In my imagination, the body, the silhouette, the way a character comes up to the screen and the way it looks, it has to do a lot with the way it communicates its own identity. And for me, costume brings what could be [called] a sense of drama.

“Working with designers can lead you to do something absolutely organic and truthful. So naturally, I prefer to work this way. And with Giulia, we already thought about reality, truthfulness [and a] silhouette that could be absolutely organic to the essence of the characters through the act of clothing them.”
It’s no secret that Guadagnino’s ongoing collaboration with Raf Simons, beginning with his time at Jil Sander through to his tenure at Dior, has been especially noteworthy. Simons’ jewel toned shifts for Swinton in I Am Love garnered a great deal of praise for the film.

His presence here, evinced in looks from his final months at Dior, is even more keenly felt.

“When came to this new movie, I said to Giulia, ‘Why don’t we discuss with Raf and Dior the possibility for them to create the wardrobe for [Swinton’s character] Marianne Lane.’ She’s a woman of Italian fame. She’s a rock star. She’s someone whose habit is to disguise herself through clothes, through imagination. And then she’s having a moment of quietness and is in a moment in her life [where] she’s not sure [if] she wants to be the flamboyant, ever-changing, mutating creature, public figure again. She feels she wants to be back in private.

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In a film where Swinton – a rock star – remains largely mute, her wardrobe is left to do a lot of the talking, and it sings
CREDIT: Supplied via StudioCanal

“She has a natural attitude towards the natural transformation, and in this case she wants to transform herself into the quiet self she may remember from her childhood and from the memories of her mother, who [was] a movie star. So we [developed a concept for] the wardrobe through the lens of Marianne Lane past and present. And that’s how it came together with Giulia, Raf, and Pieter Mulier who was the right hand man at Jil Sander and the House of Dior. All together we wanted to create [a] very organic, unimposing wardrobe for Marianne Lane.”

At that moment, Alicia Vikander in a strapless, buttery, asymmetrical and embroidered Louis Vuitton princess gown steps into frame on the iPad. Guadagnino is immediately transfixed.

“Look at the beautiful shoulders. She doesn’t know how to put her arms though.

“Anyway. Alicia, cool, she’s going to win.”

A Bigger Splash is in cinemas now.

thoughts?