A little known fact about Dario Argento is that in-between directing 1985's Phenomena and 1987's Opera, the Italian horror maestro took a foray into the world of fashion, directing a catwalk show for Italian fashion house, Trussardi in 1986. Fans of Argento may be already familiar with the director's long standing relationship with the fashion world. In 1985 Argento worked with legendary Italian fashion designer, Giorgio Armani on his supernatural horror Phenomena which showcased many of the designer's famed mid eighties styles. As well as his work with Armani on Phenomena, Argento's films have featured costumes, jewellery and accessories from major players in the Italian fashion industry such as Bulgari and Fendi. As I've argued many times on this very blog, fashion is an intrinsic element of Argento's films, heightening the stylised nature of his cinema and underpinning key themes throughout his work. It's hard to think of Suspiria without recalling the gauzy ethereal fashions or the stark white colour palette used in the wardrobe of Tenebrae. Therefore it should be of no real surprise that Argento would extend his talents to directing a catwalk show for a contemporary Italian fashion house.
Trussardi had previous ties to the theatrical world collaborating on a performance of Macbeth with Giorgio Strehler and the Piccolo Theatre of Milan that took place in the Roman forum of Verona in the early 1980s. Nicola Trussardi's theatrical aesthetic and approach to fashion perfectly mirrored Argento's own vision which made them a natural fit for a creative collaboration. Nicola Trussardi approached Dario Argento to direct the Trussardi Autumn/Winter 1986-87 fashion show for Trussardi Action in 1985 and the two worked together in the coming months to create a contemporary show that showcased Argento's visceral style alongside Trussardi's new collection. The show was held at Castello Sforzesco in Piazza del Cannone, Milan and took place on the 9th of March 1986.
Black gloves are a major focus throughout the show and several models wear them as part of their ensembles. There are several times throughout the show that the camera lingers on a black gloved cladded model and at one point in the show, the models take off the gloves one by one with the camera focusing in on each hand. The use of black leather gloves feel like a fitting tribute to Argento's own body of work whilst also referencing Trussardi's humble beginnings manufacturing leather gloves. The inclusion and focus of Trussardi's leather gloves feels like the perfect marriage between the director and the fashion house as gloves are an intrinsic part of both of their brands.
Argento is well known as an animal lover and animals have featured throughout his back catalogue from the birds in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Opera to Inga the monkey in Phenomena and the cats in Inferno. It feels fitting that Argento references his love of animals in the Trussardi fashion show by incorporating a dog and a cat into the show. A male model walks with a cat whereas earlier in the show a female model in a blue trench coat holds a small dog as she walks down the catwalk. Its touches like this that make the Trussardi show feel like an exercise in performance art, giving the show a strange surreal edge. Why are the models walking with animals? What is the purpose? The inclusion of animals plays very much into Argento's famed dream logic as seen in his forays into supernatural horror.
Weather and the elements are an important part of Argento's show and rain and wind effects are used throughout to heighten the cinematic feel of the production. What I found interesting about the show is that in Argento's subsequent film, 1987's Opera, he uses wind machines in his fictional take on Verdi's Macbeth. Perhaps he took this idea from the fashion show or perhaps he had intended to use wind machines in his failed take on the opera prior to his involvement with Trussardi. The use of the wind machines works well as a concept as it looks great in terms of staging and theatrics but it also showcases the movement of the fabrics, complimenting Trussardi's clothing line.
The last segment of the show draws parallels with Argento's Tenebrae as well as his 1977 supernatural horror, Suspiria. Before this segment starts, golden reddish lights that resemble cat eyes flicker behind the panelled doors in the darkness in a moment that feels reminiscent of the scene in Pat's apartment at the start of Suspiria. The eyes subside and a model appears from behind a series of screens that look similar to the panelled walls in Jane's apartment at the end of Tenebrae. The model walks down the runway as rain pours from above as other models begin to appear and walk the catwalk. The use of rain and thunderous sound effects in this segment heightens this connection between the film and the fashion show as drenched long haired models emerge from the screens and walk the runway rejoicing as they sweep their hair back from their drenched faces evoking memories of Suzy Banyon at the end of Suspiria. This is arguably the most memorable part of the show, culminating in the models dancing in the rain as Trussardi and Argento join them to rapturous applause.
Although a fashion show will be of little interest to fans of Argento and Italian cinema in general, for the die hards or those who want to know a little bit more about this period in Argento's career and/or the inspiration behind Opera, this is definitely worth half an hour of your time. The show is currently available to watch on YouTube.