From time-honoured dancehalls to outer space, Gucci’s Alessandro Michele has been known to call on inspiration from far and wide both for his seasonal collections and their corresponding campaigns. For Cruise 2018, however, he chose a destination a little closer to home – the city he was born in. Titled Roman Rhapsody, the campaign documents a portfolio of the “non-conformists” and “eccentrics” who encapsulate the spirit of the house, photographed against a backdrop of Rome’s most beautiful bijoux apartments and local giardini.
Seen candidly through photographer Mick Rock’s lens, the campaign captures a compelling representation of the Eternal City’s residents. The subjects – they range from restaurant-owners to filmmakers, writers to actors – are as Italian as they come, celebrating Michele’s hometown and its multifaceted culture.
Alongside their portraits, the individuals were asked to bring an object to the shoot that they felt said something about themselves, to be captured in a secondary still life by none other than Polly Brown. This curious series of objects, from romantic handheld mirrors to a beautiful Prince Charming costume, are chronicled exclusively here.
Barbara Alberti, writer, journalist and screenwriter, on a Venetian fan (above)
Barbara Alberti wrote the screenplay for I Am Love (2009), directed by Luca Guadagnino and starring the iconic Tilda Swinton. Her personal object is a Venetian fan, created by Marta Marzotto, the late countess and art patron. “I always play with it with my niece,” says Alberti. “Marta gave everything to everyone. You had to be careful not to praise things, or she’d follow you up the stairs to slip you one of her possessions. Her poetics were dispersion. In fact, she was born poor but she never accumulated – she managed millions but never accumulated things. She dispersed everything. She was Zen.”
Francesco Bianconi, songwriter and musician, on a scarab beetle
The frontman of Italian rock band Baustelle, Bianconi modelled in the Gucci Cruise 2018 show in Florence. The object brought to the photoshoot was a scarab beetle encased in plexiglass, explaining that he felt drawn to insects that are “vaguely monstrous” in appearance. The muscian continues: “I don’t have an obsession, don’t worry. I just like insects – and the fact that they are small monsters. I think it’s all relative to the concept of fear. It’s a way of both exorcising it, but also to remind myself we need a little fear to be courageous. Remember, fear exists and it doesn’t always come along for bad reasons.”
Silvia Calderoni, actress, on a kaleidoscope
Italian actress and performer Silvia Calderoni won the Premio Ubu for best actress under 30 in 2009, followed by the Virginia Reiter award for best actress under 35 in 2015. Two years later, she modelled in the Gucci Autumn/Winter 2017 fashion show in Milan.
“Looking around at home, I found this kaleidoscope and I immediately felt a connection because it was an object my father gave to me when I was very little,” she says. “I have this memory that when he first gave it to me, I didn’t know what it was and he said the name and I didn’t know how to repeat it. So, we spent the afternoon sticking these little plastic letters on the object, spelling out ‘kaleidoscope’. So, the object has its actual name on it. And I never forgot this word, even though it is complicated. At the same time, the act of looking into it and discovering a different universe that was fed by external light always fascinated me. I was so fascinated that I opened the first one I had – and I discovered that with just two small pieces of glass, a piece of mesh and two pieces of fabric, magic was created.”
Caterina de Renzis Sonnino, artist and designer, on her dog Nelson
Caterina de Renzis Sonnino is an artist, designer and passionate cultural conservationist. Her home, Castello Sonnino in Tuscany, was the setting of the Gucci Cruise 2016 campaign, a historical wine estate and a centre of education, research and experiential learning. Her dog, Nelson, accompanied de Renzis Sonnino Caterina to the photoshoot. “He’s a beautiful soul. And an old dog, a character,” she says, lovingly. “Really, he chose me as his. I don't know why.”
Ginevra Elkann, film producer, on a book of poetry
“It’s a book by a Greek poet – my favourite poet [Konstantinos Kavafis]. I take this with me and I never get bored of reading it,” explains film producer Elkann Ginerva, reflecting a passion for storytelling. “It’s always a source of inspiration, and somehow, I always find in it things that are useful to me in my daily life. Quite a while ago, when I was a teenager, I read it a lot. I always go back to it. It’s interesting when you re-read it that you find in it meanings that resonate with that moment. You realise how subjective it is, with different meanings. He was a fantastic poet – he was Greek but he was born in Egypt.”
Rosa Gambino, advertising agent, on a pair of mirrors
Advertising agent Rosa Gambino lives in Rome. She brought two small mirrors with her to the campaign shoot, and they tell a romantic story. “They are the first present my father gave my mother when they met. He bought them at a small antique store in Venice. They feature a lady and a gentleman, and they face each other. After many years, they gave them to me. I am very much tied to them and I care for them. They represent my family, my roots, their encounter, romanticism.”
Sonia Hang, restaurant owner, on a bell
Hang moved to Italy from China 26 years ago and now owns one of Rome’s best-known Chinese restaurants, Hang Zhou. “I brought a bell,” she says. “It’s something I can’t be without because at night at work I need to be able to call on someone to come immediately. When I ring this bell, they all know that Sonia is calling and they need to see what I need. I don’t have to call. I don’t have to yell. At work, the bell is my best friend.”
Chiara Mastroianni, actress and singer, on a silver box
The daughter of Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni has appeared in several notable productions, including Robert Altman’s Prêt-à-Porter (1993) and Time Regained, three years later, in which she starred alongside her mother. “I used to play with this box a lot when I was a child in Italy,” she says, of the tiny silver case embossed with a dragon that was photographed for the campaign. “I love boxes and the mystery that comes with them. And the dragon is a figure that has always fascinated me. Like many children, I loved being scared by legends, fairytales and witchcraft. I still do!”
Sofia Mattioli, experimental filmmaker, poet and artist, on a gold bracelet
Mattioli investigates the relationship between silence and sound in her work, creating a large archive of personal film footage that she assembles for commissioned projects in music, art and fashion. She is fascinated by human nature, the subconscious and astrology. Since 2016, the artist has been collaborating with Palzom Films on projects for ASIA NGO. Her personal object is a beautiful gold bracelet gifted by her parents. “They had it made for my 18th birthday and it has ‘Psyché’ written in Greek engraved onto the surface. This translates to ‘soul’.”
Giulia Salvatore, vintage store owner, on a recycled box
Architecture graduate Giulia Salvatore owns a vintage store in Rome, and has a habit for rooting around markets and antique stores searching for the unusual. “I found this at a market,” she says, of the box constructed from recycled materials that was shot for the Gucci Cruise 2018 campaign. “It’s made of bits and pieces, old coins, computer parts, things like that! I think it’s very appropriate for me and what I do.”
Valerio Sirna, dancer, on a Prince Charming costume
Born in Rome, Valerio Sirna studied Literature and Philosophy, and then pursued a career as an artist in theatre and dance. With his company DOM-, he explores the relation between body, landscape and public spaces. He modelled in the Gucci Autumn/Winter 2017 fashion show in Milan. “I chose this Prince Charming costume, which I went looking for in my mum’s basement. My mum had kept it – I was two years old and we were in a house in the suburbs of Rome… it was carnival, my mother always made me costumes for carnival and kept all of them. She got really into the process, she would ask me what I wanted and would even make drawings and sketches. I made her do everything from Caesar to Peter Pan, from Dracula to Pierrot. I was starting to become interested in the embodiment of different energies,” a fascination that followed him to the present day.
Stefano Torossi Stefano, musician and composer, on a music score
Stefano Torossi won a journalism scholarship in 1957. This would take him to the United States for two years, during which his interest switched from journalism to music. He has composed for films, TV, documentaries and advertising. Finding it difficult to decide which object would represent him, he selected two. “One is an old music score that has been in my family since I can remember. My great-great-grandfather was a musician and this is one of his compositions dating back to the mid-1800s,” he says. “The other is a ‘death mask’ of me that was created by sculptor and friend Dibrigida. It’s called Il Sonno, which means The Sleep. It was done as a joke, of course, because I’m still alive! I value this object because it is skillfully crafted and it pleases my eye, but also because it’s something that represents death – yet it’s also something that denies it. Something that’s going to last for the future. I don’t know for how long, because it’s plaster and it might break… But the symbolism is there.”