I Am Love

From looking at many year's worth of Milan Fashion week and with some observations made from reading Italian style blogs, I surmised that there are two main different branches of Italian style. I know I am generalizing here, but there is a strong unmistakable distinctions between the two: one that is more the flamboyant, wild, eccentric style of Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci, Versace and Roberto Cavalli and the other a more understated, quirky, minimalist type of luxe along the lines of Prada, Miu Miu, Marni, Giambattista Valli and Bottega Veneta. Though it is Belgian Raf Simons of German label Jil Sander who is in charge of the costumes of I Am Love (2009) (Io sono l'amore), there is still an indisputable sense of Italian style that is much like the latter with the clean stark silhouettes.

The fashion in this film also becomes a sort of visual indicator to illustrate the different tensions within the declining Recchi family dynasty in Milan. The harsh, extremely structured clothing worn by Emma (Tilda Swinton) reflects the kind of gilded cage the character is trapped in. A foreigner transplanted to Milan away from her home in Russia, she lives a cold hollow life until she has an affair and experiences romance for the first time. Her lover brings out her other side that had been dormant and suppressed ever since she married into the family. There is no real heart or passion within the family–everything they do is for appearances which makes her feel all the more increasingly like a beautiful yet empty vase. This accounts for the muted palette she wears around the family of the house, and the rich jewel like tones she wears around with her lover. This remains consistent throughout the entire film and it is beautiful to see how she matures and develops externally and internally as the film grows more complex.

Tilda Swinton shares some interesting thoughts on her character and the clothing she wears from the film. From Refinery29.com:
Which part of the character of Emma did you respond to most?
"We wanted to tell a story about someone who had a really developed inner life but who didn't have much company, and we were drawing on fantasies of silent cinema and a kind of classic novel like Tolstoy, Flaubert, where you have a woman protagonist—who is very often a mother—who has given a part of her life to supporting and loving other people, and not necessarily paying much attention to herself. We wanted this person to be very interior, not particularly communicative, fairly self sufficient, but unawoken. She's not suppressed or oppressed in any way, but she's just not fully alive when you first meet her. We wanted to look into a woman approaching the idea of being not just a mother, a woman, not just bound by the fact that she's there to support her children. We were thinking of Emma Bovary of course, of Anna Karenina, and anyone in cinema who had a sense of untapped inner life."
How significant is Emma's wardrobe to her character's transformation?
"Well, she's somebody who is an avatar. She comes into this world as an alien, and I think that anybody marrying that sort of industrial tycoon in Milan in the '90s would find themselves daunted to assimilated. There's a uniform you need to be supplied with. You know, to walk the walk and talk the talk in a certain way in order to fit into the very precise grid that that world prescribes people. As someone like Emma, who comes from outside that milieu, she really has no preparation for it. She has to learn the code and so her wardrobe, to a certain extent, is everything."

How do you think the color palette of the costumes evoked her life in the country versus her life at home?
"It was designed to do exactly that. Raf Simons of Jil Sander and his team were so responsive to our challenge which was to make a responsive wardrobe for an uncommunicative person. The idea of her signaling with a red dress that she might be in the process of falling in love... Color referencing was really fun to play with.

What message did you want to convey with the very deliberate references to luxury brands?
"I wanted to convey observations about a kind of limitation of a completely false hierarchy in the market and a kind of global availability and domination of certain luxury brands, which is disappointing at best. It's possible to walk into a rich person's house in any city in the world and find the same make of candles, or the same shoes. I find it a waste of cultural specificity and history and myth making, and I would so much rather walk into someone's house, however much money they have, and feel that I'm actually connecting with the culture of that place and the people who live in that place. I'm disappointed when I go through airports and I see the same shops and I think there's a way in which that particular luxury milieu is like one big duty-free shop."

Personally, what is inspiring is her silent but polite rebellion against the strict conformity of the family. It's subtle but she is clearly firm in her conviction. Her simple with rich fine details will be much imitated by me. In past fashion in film posts, I have tended to focus a substantial part of my discussion on the plot of the film and less on the clothing themselves. Hopefully from this posts onwards, they will be much more focused on the aesthetics and of course, the clothes. Last but not least, I am hesitant to bring this up because it has raised a few eyebrows from people who have not seen it in the past, but the film has the most gorgeously filmed sex scene ever. Please watch at your own discretion. Anyway let me know what you think of the new arrangements in the comments below!


rachel! said...

so refined. love it.

ANNIE said...

Really like what she said about her character and how she compared it to tolstoy's anna karenina as there was always something about anna that I couldn't quite put into words but "untapped inner life" says it all. The film's plot sounds much like tolstoy's book on second thought, i think I'd quite like it!


.sabo skirt. said...

Great blog!

Much love from the SABO SKIRT girls!
SHOP: www.saboskirt.com
BLOG: www.saboskirt.blogspot.com

M and C said...

Really cool! I'll have to see the film then. Love it :)


Clara Turbay said...

i like this post. I´d apreciate you have some time to check out my blog.

amy said...

i loved the film, it was interesting to read tilda's comments on her character's wardrobe.

Aya Smith said...

The distinction is fascinating! So strange, the way it is so defined between the two. Well, either way - both styles are gorgeous... and just like the first commenter said, very refined.

Aya ♥ Strawberry Koi

Jo said...

Wow wow wow, what truly beautiful outfits! <3 I love the delicate pearl necklace, and I wish I could get my hair to sit like that!

Lost in the Haze

Lindsay K said...

Such beautiful clothing. I would wear all of these dresses to work- they're so refined.

hila said...

I absolutely loved this movie, I thought it was fantastic (and showcased a less frightening tilda swinton).

Isabella | THE PILE OF STYLE said...

I love your blog, you have great photos and you write nice. old bookmark :)
visit me friend!

hannah kristina metz said...

Gorgeous review! I just bumped into my neighbour who was returning this to the video shop and he, oddly enough, said the same thing about the sex scene! This post and his glowing review (and perhaps yes, the promise of a best sex scene) has secured my desire to see it! Thank you Joy and netflix!