Benedetta Barzini has no interest in being anyone’s muse
On a cold gray morning in 2017, hours before the Milan city council gave Benedetta barzini a gold medal for civil honor, she was at home with her filmmaker son, Beniamino Barrese, snub to the whole affair. “If they honor me for the role model thing, the beauty is not a merit. Not at all, ”she said in a shaggy exchange captured in her 2019 documentary, The disappearance of my mother. A purple hat and scarf engulfed her silver hair, and a pair of thin wire glasses rested on her nose. No, she didn’t want to change into something more elegant. “I’m perfectly dressed for 11 in the morning!” she said, before setting off on her bike.
Barzini, now 78, is an intriguing figure in the modern fashion arc, spanning the rise of the Vogue juggernaut and Andy Warhol’s factory scene to current discussions of gender inequalities and ethical work practices. The Barzini of the present – a Marxist feminist who spent years as a professor of fashion and anthropology at the Polytechnic Institute of Milan, analyzing advertising imagery and Madonna’s paintings in her lectures – seems a world far from the 1960s girl who took architectural poses for Irving Penn and kept company with the Velvet Underground and Salvador Dalí. Born into an upper-class Italian family, Barzini described a cold childhood, with a revolving door of housekeepers replacing her largely absent mother. Teenage anorexia – a kind of slow-motion self-erasing – has given way to treatment programs. “I escaped the last Swiss sanatorium by jumping over a wall and a barbed wire fence”, once Barzini recount to his niece. When Barzini was discovered, at the age of 20, by Consuelo Crespi, then editor-in-chief of Italian Vogue, “I was painfully thin, with black eyes and a mole stamped on my right cheek,” she said. wrote in 2018. Shortly after, her portraits having caught the attention of Diana Vreeland, Barzini accepted an invitation to New York and became, in 1965, the first Italian to make the cover of American Vogue.
“I have always worked in the illusion, but I also think it was true, that no one has ever photographed me. Because my face is not for sale, ”Barzini says in the documentary, sporting a smirk before lighting a cigarette. This tension – between the working model and the reclusive aspirant, eternal beauty and the self-proclaimed “old lady”, someone who critiques the system in which she also works intermittently – makes it all the more interesting to see Barzini in a holiday campaign for Gucci Beauty. As the camera passes perfume bottles and handwritten notes (the one in a looping script is signed “From B.”), we spot a luminous Benedetta in glittery opera gloves.
“Don’t ask me why Gucci called! the model and the writer explains via email. “But I respect the way the brand continues to use different people with different looks and styles of expression in its campaigns, and always has an authentic message, sometimes with humor.” From the relaunch of Gucci Beauty under Alessandro Michele, in 2019, the dominant aesthetic was indeed Catholic. An emblematic start advertising for her lipstick shows a close-up photo of the Surfbort singer Dani MillerThe signature smile of: an eccentric assembly of teeth that presents itself as a joyful refutation of orthodontics. (The gaping smile is reminiscent of the scene in the documentary when Lauren Hutton visits his longtime friend “Benny” at home. Barzini asks if she is still a model. “Yet, because it’s like falling into a ruby mine!” Hutton responds.)