MILAN – Fear: a concept as old as the world that inevitably affects the behavior of humans and animals alike.
The relationship of each person with feeling is personal and, given the context of these times, it becomes more and more an object of self-exploration and research on coping mechanisms.
While many are looking for motivational quotes on social media or looking for inspiration in the gestures of their favorite athletes, a little encouragement can also come from the words and the technicolor world portrayed in “Free Spirit”, a documentary about Elio Fiorucci that will be celebrated with a special screening on Monday, as part of the eighth edition of the Milan Fashion Film Festival which opens on Friday.
“The end of useless fears, [is] the beginning of life “, is one of the mottos that the visionary designer, who passed away in July 2015 at the age of 80, shares with his characteristic smile in the one-hour film.
“For me it is one of his greatest lessons,” said Andrea Servi who, with Swan Bergman, was on the other side of the camera, both as authors and directors of this project, which began in 2008. “The way he thought of the future, always with creativity and imagination and not with fear like today. He used to unmask fears, chase them away with his work and his colorful world. And you can see it in this documentary “, said Servi, adding that the goal of the film is to convey to the audience the same energy to act and react without fear.
But nostalgia could also be unleashed: rather than simply celebrating Fiorucci’s life and career, the film intends to tell key episodes and decades of change and explosive creativity through the designer’s filter and the memories of his inner circle.
The first part of the documentary presents a series of interviews divided by topic and historical period – from the 1960s to the end of the 1980s – and is supported by archival footage, while in the second part a more intimate portrait of Fiorucci is shown, while freely sharing thoughts and memories.
In addition to the stylist, the interviewees range from Vivienne Westwood, who shares glimpses of how she first heard of Fiorucci, to collaborators such as photographer Oliviero Toscani; stylist and artist Maripol, who also held the role of art director of the famous Fiorucci store in New York; the designer and set designer Franco Marabelli, who was the creative director of the brand’s stores; the curator Daniela Morera, and the ex-clerk Fiorucci Biba Acquati, among others.
These characters populated the vast and eccentric world of the designer, who was the father of pioneering ideas, ranging from creating denim to fashion and introducing logos to revolutionary retail concepts.
It was he who brought the energy and sense of freedom of Swinging London to Italy in the 1960s, when he opened his legendary emporium in the center of San Babila in Milan, which anticipated the modern definition of a concept store.
Playground for experimentation, the location was a chaotic but fascinating bazaar of objects of all kinds, references and iconographies, presented in a flashy, colorful and fun way that clashed with the context of the 70s, when terrorism and tensions policies loomed over Italy.
Spontaneous, generous and open-minded, Fiorucci has also become a patron of young artists, architects, graphic designers and performers, including Keith Haring who took over the shop and covered it entirely with his graffiti art in a live event open to the public. in 1983.
The documentary also vividly traces how, following the launch of the New York flagship in 1976, Fiorucci integrated and fueled the vibrant city scene of the time, as Andy Warhol, Truman Capote and Jean-Michel Basquiat were among the personalities who gravitated to the location, commonly referred to as “Day Studio 54” due to its lively atmosphere. For example, Warhol chose the store to launch his Interview magazine with an autograph event and session, while Donna Jordan and Pat Cleveland modeled for a live showcase concept, among others. As for the real Studio 54, Fiorucci threw a party there to celebrate the brand’s 15th anniversary and invited a young Madonna – DJ at the time – to spin the records, as she recalls in “Free Spirit”.
The documentary was discreetly released in a small way in 2017. The inclusion at the Milan Fashion Film Festival will mark its real launch, as the directors have said the film will have a wider launch starting in spring.
The screening will be held digitally on the MyMovies platform, with 500 tickets available for the event. Originally this format was supposed to run alongside a physical event set up at the Milan Triennale, but this has been postponed to next month’s Milan Fashion Week due to the surge of the Omicron variant in the country.
The choice of location was not accidental, as the film project originated in the white rooms of the venue. While visiting an exhibition dedicated to the 1970s, Servi and Bergman entered a pavilion dedicated to Fiorucci which highlighted his artistic connections and cultural influence.
“We were amazed: we discovered so many things about him and we thought that many Italians did not really know everything he did and that this deserved a film. So on the same day we found a contact and called his press office to talk about this idea, and they quickly passed the call to Fiorucci himself, which was really amazing, “Bergman recalled.” He told us he was extremely honored. . I mean, he? Honored by us? We were shocked, “Servi said.
Everything quickly escalated and production ran smoothly without a plan or schedule. “He was an anarchist and we wanted to do something in tune with the spirit of those years and incredibly authentic, so it was very rock ‘n’ roll. We didn’t prepare the questions, we just went with the flow and had so much fun throughout the whole process, ”Bergman said, noting that the footage mirrored this raw, uncoated style.
“He never set up appointments because he believed setting a date created expectations in terms of performance,” he continued. “He also shared with us his agenda, all his wealth of people he knew, without any kind of jealousy,” Bergman added, underlining how this attitude influenced his personal and professional path in the following years. “It was natural for him and, if you think about it, his stores weren’t for selling products but they were meeting points.”
With its unprecedented mix of elements that tickled the public’s imagination, the San Babila shop became the epicenter of a cultural revolution, as it introduced and promoted a language, an attitude and a lifestyle that the younger generations of era they were waiting for. A community of younger consumers gathered around the place because they could identify with the young and energetic staff, the choice of music and the cosmopolitan atmosphere.
A Bologna-based music video director, Bergman often traveled to Milan for work and always stopped by the shop to find inspiration. “I used to go there to stimulate my lateral thinking in order to create a story out of an unusual object – and there was plenty of it – rather than being academic in making something out of a song’s lyrics. That place pushed you to use your imagination and I believe many of the videos I created subconsciously derive from the Fiorucci world, long before I worked on this documentary, “Bergman said.
When asked about the most challenging part of making “Free Spirit”, the directors pointed to Fiorucci’s death during the final stages of production. “In addition to the pain of losing a friend, there was the great task of creating a common language and meaning from the footage we had,” Servi said.
Although the documentary turned out to be a compendium of first-hand memories, Servi revealed that the initial plan was to make a miniseries a la Halston of Netflix. The authors said there is already a complete script that was developed under Fiorucci’s guidance and that was eventually put aside because they preferred to start collecting materials from interviews.
“But the story is still there, we have all the ideas, even in terms of casting, we only need a couple of million to produce it,” joked Servi, who, on a more serious note, said the project is on the table. with some companies and is under discussion.
In addition to this, the duo is busy on other fronts – including two other docu-films and a film – as well as looking for another project that replicates “Free Spirit” and its intersection of themes related to fashion, culture and society.
“But these days it’s hard to find nonconformists. There is no one like Elio now, ”Bergman concluded.