Frida Giannini Is Sometimes a ‘River of Words’ at Home

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Photo: Maciek Kobielski for WSJ. Magazine

In the February issue of WSJ. MagazineGucci’s famously press-shy creative director and CEO, Frida Giannini and Patrizio di Marco, talk candidly about their office romance. Writer Christina Brinkley describes the pair as “warm, not cuddly," and describes the tense circumstances of their first meeting: In 2008, di Marco had just been hired by Francois-Henri Pinault and Giannini, then creative director, “heard rumors that she could be out of a job.” They met at her Florence office that October; in a completely understandable power move, she seated her new CEO on a low couch “while she towered over him in a chair.” (He quickly asked to sit across from her at a table instead.) They spent eight hours in the room, where they “talked and smoked, without eating, discussing logos, luxury goods, and brand image.” After the meeting, Giannini tells Brinkley, “I thought, He’s quite handsome.”

Giannini, of course, stayed on as creative director under di Marco’s watch — where she has produced “buttery silk dresses that suggest but don’t shock,” a steep departure from the boundary-pushing pubes of the Tom Ford era — but their relationship didn’t reach the next level until a work trip to Shanghai in 2009. Writes Brinkley:

Di Marco found himself phoning Pinault—who he often calls his “shareholder”— to ask for a meeting in Paris. Pinault chuckles when he recalls the conversation that took place between the three of them. After explaining their involvement, di Marco offered to quit his job. Pinault batted the suggestion aside. “My first answer, you know what? I’ve been working with my family for 30 years. What is the issue here?... It’s very demeaning,” Pinault adds. And if things go sour, he notes, “That’s their own issue. I don’t want to be involved in their private life.”

Although still unmarried, they've stayed together, and last year Giannini gave birth to a girl named Greta. Just like regular couples, they call each other’s assistants to make appointments to see each other — but only end up in the same place eight or ten days a month. And, when they are at home together, it’s a lot of Giannini flooding the zone:

One might say that disagreements are predictable for two strong-minded professionals whose first meeting became an eight-hour negotiation. Though they aren’t married, the two concede it’s difficult to live with one’s work partner. They sometimes take sticky problems home, where discussions can turn into arguments. "She’s like a river of words that goes on for three hours,” says di Marco. He says he listens and waits for his turn. “And then I say, ‘Okay, now….’ And she says, ‘No, no, I’m too tired.’” Giannini nods. “Usually, when I’ve had enough, I leave the room,’ she says.”