Marie Schuller on her Anthony Vaccarello x Versus film

As the new collection unfolds in NYC, we premiere an exclusive Dazed film directed by Marie Schuller – and get her word on Versus, Vaccarello and fearless femininity

TextSue-Wen QuekFilm DirectionMarie SchullerStylingEmma Wyman

Punk and high Italian glamour may be strange bedfellows, but when Donatella turned them into a style in the early 90s, she provided fashion with a new, provocative energy. What's more the Versus Versace archive has been a cult source of research since its inception, particularly amongst young designers. As part of Donatella’s strategy to realise its revival, Belgian-Italian designer Anthony Vaccarello follows a string of high-profile collaborators such as Christopher KaneM.I.A. and J.W.Anderson to design a Versus capsule. That her choice of collaborators to carry the Versus name have all grown up in the 90s and are provocateurs in their own right is no coincidence. 

Since launching his label in 2009, Vaccarello has proven a natural at body-baring dresses, high on edgy sex appeal. The 32-year-old designer has carved out such a consistent image of his woman – one of brandished sexuality – that he’s been faulted for being overly specific. Yet Vaccarello has stuck to his guns – one can’t get more punk in spirit than that. Other than his commitment to black, he’s close in spirit and aesthetic to the storied Italian house. The collection is certainly less colourful than past collaborators', but promises clean, graphic lines featuring signature risqué cut outs accentuated with classic Versus studs, pins, and a body-con silhouette.

Ahead of the SS15 season, Dazed commissioned filmmaker and Nick Knight collaborator Marie Schuller, to debut this new joint force – showing tonight at Versus's New York show. We speak to the director about her racy fashion film and find out why those such as Anja Rubik and Charlotte Gainsbourg are already fond of Vaccarello.

What is it about Anthony's vision and garments for Versus Versace that makes him stand out as a designer to you?

Marie Schuller: Anthony is a modern, fresh and unapologetic designer who quite obviously celebrates femininity. His designs are very empowering but remain delicate and considered. I love the blatantness of his garments, the short skirt and dresses, the cut-outs, the flashes of skin. There is an unapologetic confidence about his designs, which is great for me as a filmmaker because his vision of a woman is quite strong and clear. He knows who is designing for and he is the perfect predecessor for Versus.

Tell me about the treatment for your film. How did its concept come about and what were you keen to express?

Marie Schuller: This film is very loosely driven by an abstract narrative of a guy leaving a voicemail for a girl. That's pretty much all we know; I didn't want to dictate a storyline or follow a sequence of events. This film is more a celebration of mood and energy. For me, the woman is always more of an idea than an actual woman. It is an interpretation of Anthony's designs, a visual take on what they stand for, rather than a documentation of them. For me, his Versus collection is all about energy, strength, power. We mixed this with surreal and abstract elements and created a visual feast that is almost too fast to take in; you can hardly make out the models amongst the black-and-white shapes that run across the screen. We worked with set design that enhances these ideas of optical illusions and confusion, and lit the film partly with projections that create very drastic lighting changes.

Strong, glamorous women in charge of their own sex appeal feature frequently in your films. What about this figure draws you to that image? 

Marie Schuller: I’ve always had a mild obsession with intensely strong women. It fascinates me when power becomes so extreme that it appears threatening, sinister or dangerous. In general I like overly dramatic and theatrical characters as well as "types." I never cared about the nice Bond girls. The villain Bond girls were my idea of perfection. Grace Jones in A View To A Kill blowing herself up outside the gold mine is my idea of a "good female character." Who would want to be Moneypenny if you could be the Xenia in Golden Eye?

"I’ve always had a mild obsession with intensely strong women. It fascinates me when power becomes so extreme that it appears threatening, sinister or dangerous." – Marie Schuller

The theme of obsession seems to play heavily in the film, was this something that came from you or Versus?

Marie Schuller: The start for the concept is the designs themselves, and they are very sensual. I imagined the woman to be a goddess-like creature, so powerful in her sensuality and mystery that she almost seems threatening. She represents the source of all the emotions expressed by the boy on the phone: longing, obsession, confusion, anger. Without ever revealing the exact circumstances of the situation, I wanted to create a loose narrative framework that shows what an impact this woman has. This is expressed visually but also by the audio of the phone shots. The woman therefore is rendered into a powerful, energetic, abstract creature that never fully reveals itself from the shadows; she becomes surreal, almost un-real.

What was it like making this film for Versus?

Marie Schuller: Working with Dazed, DJA and Versus was great! It was all very fast and furious. We had a quick turnaround and little prep time but it all came together on the shoot and things fell into place. Both DJA and Dazed were really supportive and it felt great to know that we all had the same vision for the film. Usually you have at least one corporate voice somewhere during the making of a campaign film who will force you to drop in product shots and commercialise the work in order to make it more accessible. But all parties involved – Versus, DJA and Dazed – were all pushing towards the same goal, which was to create the most impactful and exciting film. I would have never managed to get the level of abstraction and the sort of digital, psychedelic landscape that we created past any other agency or client, so I really appreciate everyone fighting for the same goal and pushing for a creative that felt appropriate and exciting for the Anthony's fashion.

Film direction Marie Schuller; Stylist Emma Wyman; Set design Ciaran Beale; Make-up Laura Dominique at Streeters; Hair Cyndia Harvey at Streeters; Models Hedvig at Next & Robbie McKinnon at Supa