Trussardi Action X Dario Argento

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

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.

Initially established in 1911 by Dante Trussardi, Trussardi began life as a small company manufacturing leather gloves. When Dante Trussardi died in a tragic hunting accident in 1970, his nephew Nicola Trussardi took over the business and the fashion house soon began producing a range of leather goods from handbags to shoes and wallets. The company expanded once again in the 1980s launching ready to wear collections for both men and women in 1983 and 1984. After the success of his ready to wear lines, Trussardi launched a new line called Trussardi Action in the mid 1980s. The Trussardi Action line was to be a modern, ready to wear line featuring fashions for both men and women. As of the fashion at the time, many of the pieces could be worn by either men or women as evidenced in the abundance of oversized tailoring worn by the female models. This was an age in Italian fashion with a heavy emphasis on a utilitarian look that moved away from the prissy, overtly feminine styles of the previous decades. Arguably, this was a time where women's fashion heavily mirrored male fashion and vice versa. The Trussardi Action line's colour palette also reflected this change in style with dark colours such as blacks and greys being the prominent colours in the collection with the occasional pop of yellow and blue in the more sports like items of the line.

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.

The show has a real theatrical feel embodying Argento's style and attention to detail. At times the fashion show plays out like a film with models acting out various scenarios. The show starts off with the stage dressed like a nightclub with models dancing across the runway under neon lights. In another segment a group of female models argue with a male model as they walk down the catwalk, forming a circular group at the bottom of the runway where they push each other and squabble before returning up the catwalk. In classic Dario Argento style, murder and mayhem were incorporated into the show with a pair of mysterious assailants murdering a model on the catwalk early on in the show. After the model is stabbed to death, a group of male models bundle her up into a polythene sheet and roll her off the catwalk. Even now, the show challenges your ideas of what a fashion show is supposed to look like - it has a narrative, inventive use of props and a real sense of a story. Nowadays we're used to the more outlandish shows of designers like Chanel, Alexander McQueen and Louis Vuitton but back in the 1980s this was a very innovative fashion show - in particular the staging of a murder.

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.

Arguably, Argento's collaboration with Trussardi was a creative outlet for the director's failed attempt at directing Verdi's Macbeth, allowing him to work in a different medium outside of film. Argento's experiences with the Trussardi fashion show and Macbeth were heavy influences on Opera and watching the film with prior knowledge of his work on these productions brings new light to the film and where Argento was at this stage in his career. The character of Marco and his staging of Macbeth take on added meaning when you consider the elements at work in the Trussardi show. Furthermore, it's worth looking at the fashions featured in Opera in comparison to those on display in the Trussardi Action show. The utilitarian, unisex style in muted colours of the Trussardi show is very much evident in the wardrobe of Opera. Argento went on to work with Trussardi once again in 1986 when Nicola Trussardi provided the costumes for the Argento produced Demons 2 which also happened to feature one of the models in the Trussardi show.

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.


  1. Nice post... you should do something on the fashion photography of Argento's mama, Elsa Luxardo.

    1. Thank you! I've never even considered writing a piece on her. Definitely one to research. Cheers!

  2. Fascinating! Very informative.

    1. Thank you so much for the feedback. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

  3. I've just finished reading Dario's autobiography and was very surprised that the Trussardi show is not mentioned at all (even though the denied opportunity to direct MacBeth is discussed at some length). I've known about this show for years and was expecting it to appear in the book. Thank you for filling in the blanks so to speak.


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