The acclaimed short-film series Women’s Tales, enacted by Italian fashion house Miu Miu more than 13 years ago and directed by women who celebrate femininity in the 21st century, has taken on new significance amidst the culture’s wider concerns with stories of abuse in Hollywood and almost every other realm of life.
The latest, the 15th contribution in the ever-evolving series, sees 24-year-old actress Dakota Fanning, sister of supermodel Elle, making her directorial debut following her recent role as a feminist on period-drama mystery TV series The Alienist. Fanning first hit the big-time as a seven-year-old with her performance in I Am Sam opposite Sean Penn; she went on to star in Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds and in the Ewan McGregor-directed American Pastoral.
Fanning’s Miu Miu short, Hello Apartment, is set in Brooklyn and premiered during London Fashion Week in February. For the narrative, she appropriated her own real-life experience. “I was inspired by my first home, where I still live [in Brooklyn] – it’s a shrine to experiences,” she says. Will she leave her current home? “I have a hard time letting go. What happens to all those memories?”
One striking memory is Fanning’s first meeting with Miuccia Prada, the owner and designer of Miu Miu and Prada, at the spring/summer 2011 collection during Paris Fashion Week when she was 16. She met Mrs Prada at the post-show dinner – and the rest is history. “Miu Miu feels like a family to me,” says Fanning. “It’s been a real joy getting to incorporate all the different looks in the film.” The brand’s protocol dictates that there’s no obligation to show any of its products on screen – so Fanning chose all the pieces.
Whereas previous Miu Miu films have addressed women as a group and femininity at large, Fanning’s film centres on an individual woman’s sense of self-discovery. Ava is played by Eve Hewson, daughter of U2 frontman Bono and a personal friend of Fanning’s. As her character skips sensually over days, months and years, it reminds us that we write ourselves into our surroundings – the scars are our stories. Decades later, a much older Ava returns to the same space, with the same sun streaming though the large windows, and the memories flood back. “Hello, apartment.”
A directing role proved to be a new challenge for Fanning. “I’ve been acting for so long, there comes a point where you really have to step out of your comfort zone,” she says. “I felt I needed to scare myself a little bit and do something a little different, and challenge myself to get beyond that. So directing has been feeling like something I needed to do.”
Liz Hannah, who wrote the script for Fanning (and co-wrote Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-nominated The Post with Josh Singer), describes the short’s idea as “reliving your past while going through what’s happening in your life now, in one space.” And while the context is intimate and personal, Hannah is keen to flag the #MeToo and Time’s Up effect. While it’s not directly addressed in the film, the movement has galvanised the voices of women the world over, who for too long have had to endure the code of getting along in the face of sexual abuse, harassment, and all manner of repression inflicted by their male bosses and colleagues.
“Of all the horrible news that is happening and coming out right now, at least the Pandora’s box has been opened,” she says. “It’s all coming out; you can’t hide it anymore. We have to know that, as women, we have the opportunity for our voices to be heard. It’s an important time to stand up and have our voices be heard very loudly. And to keep doing [Women’s Tales] projects like this is to speak for the universal type of woman.”
It’s something Mrs Prada, and Miu Miu, so evidently represent, given the roster of creative talent invoked for the project. The illustrious list of previous Women’s Tales directors includes Agnès Varda, Chloë Sevigny, Zoe Cassavetes, So Yong Kim and – most recently, as featured in #legend – American choreographer and director Celia Rowlson-Hall.
Those films have now become the platform for a T-shirt range, which Miu Miu will exclusively debut during Art Basel in Hong Kong at the brand’s Landmark store in Central; they celebrate the body of work and commemorate the cinematic experience. Women’s Tales is film as art, as fashion, as fun and as female empowerment – and it’s not a moment too soon.
This feature originally appeared in the April 2018 print issue of #legend