/Interview by Natalia Dukhovnikova/
Victoria Napolitano is an international award-winning haute couture designer. She is the leader of a multi-media branding and marketing company representing numerous platforms like radio, luxury magazines, 3-D animation, short films, voice overs, custom lyrics and music. One of her last projects is a shot film «At The Chateau — The Bachelor». We talked to Victoria and found out why she has started creating films, how they are connected to fashion and what creativity in general means to her.
Let’s talk firstly about your film production. Why did you decide to start making films?
Everything I do is around fashion. I started with my couture. I love beauty, fantasy and dreams. I create dresses that are pieces of art. Every dress tells a story. And it was hard to communicate that only in a photograph. So I decided to start doing films about them. And that’s what got me started as a director.
Have you taken any film classes?
I started filming probably 15 years ago. I was taught by an excellent filmmaker here in the USA and he taught me about lighting, how you should set things up. And then I learned from an amazing photographer who used to work with music legends of the 50-60s like Jimi Hendrix. This photographer taught me about lighting on women’s faces and how women should be photographed. Actually video and photography are close when you are talking about sides of people.
How important is the plot of a film to you? Or you focus specifically on the visual component?
I like creating films with no words because it’s the best way to make everyone able to understand my ideas. I know so many people speaking various languages but they can watch my films and understand everything. Subtitles don’t let you watch and fully enjoy the shown atmosphere, faces, costumes. You waste time on reading and miss everything beautiful. And yes, my films do have plots. This one – «The Bachelor» – tells a story about a billionaire’s lonely life that takes him to the Chateau searching for love and companionship. Unexpectedly, he comes to a stalemate when four breathtaking women arrive vying for his attention. The girls stand up and he looks at each one, the way they’re dressed in, the way they carry themselves. And in the very end he walks out and you don’t know which one he picks. By this technique I wanted to make people wonder what the ending is.
In your opinion, is it necessary to go to Hollywood to create great movies?
It may sound strange but I think that you should film somewhere else. Hollywood tends to do the same plot over and over again. It seems like you are watching the same movie because no one is creative anymore. They want to be safe and they do the same thing that the audience already likes. I feel that foreign films and people out of the country have more story lines, they are willing to try something different. You don’t know what to expect and that’s the reason why I like those movies.
Are you working on a new film now?
Before covid I was planning to go to Italy for 6 months and film a story about my dresses and a wonderful designer from there who passed away recently. It should be a great project. I was planning to cross over the countries, Italy, Monaco, France, Switzerland, and do one long story line with the dresses. Even Russia should be among these countries. I wanted to put the cultures of these countries in my stories. And the idea was to get a couple of actresses and famous people from there to wear my dresses. Now I’ve started working on it again. I’m picking out different actresses from different countries to represent the big storyline I’m going to do in my film.
Where did you find actors for «The Bachelor»? Are these guys your constant models?
Actually every person I hire has a professional job and they are not just models or actors. That’s what makes them seem real to me. I don’t hire models at agencies because I feel like they tend to be fake. I like everyone and everything interesting, not the same things like it is in modeling. And that’s why I don’t do fashion shows, I only do fashion performances. I want my audience to feel what it is like to wear my dresses when they look at my models and actors.
Talking about my actors, I feel very proud of them. One of them – Marek – has become very big in the film industry after working with me. And I believe the same will happen with others. And I do whatever I can to help them. I give all the photographs and videos to everyone I work with so that they might use them somehow later in their career.
Would you like to make an actress career yourself? Or maybe you want to be only a film director?
I think I’m stick to films because there are such tremendously great people out there. I like movies that go outside the box and try something different. But I don’t need and don’t want to go in there professionally. I am a fan of fashion and I want to create films about it because there are not so many people who do that.
Do you follow anyone’s example?
You know, mostly people create projects around stories and not about fashion. There are so few examples of great fashion directors. But it must be noticed that today there are more and more shows about fashion and documentaries of designers coming out. Personally, I don’t follow anyone’s example. I’m just creating things I love and want to be shown. I do everything as I see and feel it.
What about your film music?
I’ve seen so many times someone gets in trouble for using the wrong music or without proper rights so I decided to write music for every film on my own. I hire people around the world to sing the compositions, those people who perfectly fit my songs. And to be honest, I love music so much that can’t imagine my life without it. For all my projects I write words and music.
Talking about your haute couture, how did you decide to start your fashion career?
My love to beauty and fashion has started already in the childhood. When I was young, my mom took me to modeling school and I was gonna be a model. But one lady there said that to stay thin I should smoke cigarettes. I don’t know if models do that now but then I thought «I didn’t want to live like that and do those weird things». I’m a very free spirited person so I wasn’t sure if that would be good for me. So I hadn’t become a model. When my mom got sick, I had to get a job. So I started working as a correctional officer at a jail. I was working there for 4 years and then I became a police officer. Some time later I was injured and after that I came back to the fashion world. It was a weird detour but I went back into what I love – beauty.
You know, when I was a teenager I used to get various magazines all over the world about fashion, make-up and beautiful women. And now I do that by myself – I have my own magazine with my clothes since 2008. Incredible! And by the way having a magazine is also another way to promote myself. My magazine is now all around the world because I send it to all prestigious places and people who are interested in fashion.
There are so many various things you are doing in the creative field simultaneously. Why haven’t you stopped only on designing clothes?
When I started in the fashion industry, I didn’t fit in the same mold because unlike the others I didn’t want to go to New York or Paris Fashion weeks. I respect them but at that time I felt like my clothes were beyond that. They were closer to art than just fashion. I didn’t want people to put me in a classic category. But for being independent in this industry you need to promote yourself. That’s why I started my own production company. And all other things were born from it. Now I’m a production manager for a lot of projects and now we have 7 decisions in my company. Of course I don’t work alone, I have a great team. And there are 38 people that work for me, from press writers to photographers.
How have you started your promoting company and how is it going now?
I’ve been around Hollywood and all this industry for all my life. My mom was a seamstress and she taught me that if a woman feels pretty enclosed, she will come back to you. You should make a dress that won’t make a woman feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. That’s not an easy thing to do, the same as marketing. I believe the only person that can promote my clothes and what I love is me. I’ve spent 50 thousand dollars on marketing companies that only made one sale. They didn’t understand how to promote me and my ideas. Honestly, today I don’t do a lot of social media but all the designs I do, I put on Google maps for people to know where I’ve gone. I just hit the almost 28 million mark with Google maps. I’m also among the top 10 photographers in Google.
Have you decided to create a radio program as a part of your company promotion?
When I spend half the year in Europe, people there always want to talk to me, hear my news and know what is happening. I’m not a big social media person so one day we just had an idea about creating a radio station. We had Japanese radio for Saturday nights before. Now we have French radio on Thursday, also a show in San Francisco. I have people who run my radio station, like a project manager, but I also do my own shows.
The reason why I’ve started my radio station is that I want to reach out around the world and have people connected that way. With our radio we promote creative people from different places, talking about what they’re doing. It’s really a good marketing place. It took about six months but now it’s growing. And by the way now I also have my own social media which is a small platform where people can talk back and forth without being censored.
You said that your couture busyness started in 2007-2008. But why didn’t you start your fashion career earlier?
I think that when you are young, all people want to teach you what and how you should do. So being older gives you an option of knowing how to look at things in different ways and really doing what you want. I feel like it was to my advantage. Being older when going into the designer field helped me to be more open-minded.
Honestly, I got into big fashion by accident. I asked designers to dress my models and they wanted me to pay for that and then get their dresses back. So they wanted me to pay for their promotion by that but I didn’t agree with that. It wouldn’t be fair. And one day I sat down and decided to make my own clothes. I started sketching out my dresses and that’s what got me to start making my own couture. Before that I was more of a photographer and working on my magazines.
And if to go to the very beginning of my story as a designer, then it started after I got injured as a police officer. At that time I went to a lovely place called Camel in California that is on the ocean. It’s a super small town but a very artistic place. I went there as a calligrapher by trade. One day a wealthy lady came in where I was working and said she needed some design. I agreed to do a project for her and ended doing it overnight. It happened to be so beautiful that she even cried. She couldn’t believe I’d done it overnight. She asked me what I would do if I could do anything. Of course I answered that I would have a beautiful luxury magazine with all amazing things and places all around the world. And that’s what got me started – her.
How big is the distribution of your magazine?
It all depends on whether we have a print and digital versions. We have between 10 and 30 thousand copies. It might not sound a lot but the main thing is that my magazines go directly to wealthy places where they are read by people who can afford my dresses.
And then what is the age group of your audience?
There is kind of a division. In America it’s generally someone over 35. In Europe girls can be younger, even 22-25. My clothes are not only ball gowns but also sophisticated skirts with blouses. So lots of girls who are classy and from upscale homes will dress like that.
Being so successful in the designing sphere and everything connected to fashion, why have you decided to take part in various film festivals if you even don’t want to make a career in this field?
I like to watch people and what they’ve done. I enjoy discovering films music and styles. I entered a festival just because I truly wanted to promote my young actors. We have already gotten «Best make-up», «Best costume» and «Best music» categories. It’s just some extra they can add to their portfolio. It’s something that says they’re trying to do more and get exposure.
Besides, I’ve met more people through film festivals than I ever have on social media in the sense of being creative and being able to do something together. I’m sure that film festivals are very good for more reasons than just films.
What advice can you give to young people who want to work in a creative field?
I just want people to understand – don’t put all your emphasis on social media, just be authentic and work hard. The best thing in the world is networking. Always remember about that.