Meet the dream duo behind giu giu's turtleneck film series, "NONNA".



Premiere: Watch "NONNA: Los Angeles"

We love a good turtleneck, but it’s summer, and it’s hot AF. Luckily, there now exists one made of the all-weather variety, and even better, its birth is being celebrated by the launch of not one, but five, epic location-centric films (each paired with its own unique turtleneck color): in Paris, Marrakech, New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. Can you say dream vacation?

Created and produced by the dream duo that is Giuliana Leila Raggiani and Hamadou Frédéric Baldé, the films, collectively titled “NONNA”, aim to accomplish two things: firstly, to spotlight the turtleneck (which is a recreation of Raggiani’s grandmother’s original turtleneck design), and secondly, to honor and examine what makes each city (and its essence) so special. 

In the spirit of summer and all things fresh, above is the fourth chapter of Raggiani and Baldé’s “NONNA“, premiering exclusively on MILK.XYZ. This rendition takes place in sunny Los Angeles; to watch the preceding chapters, visit these links: ParisMarrakech, and New York. Below, hear Raggiani’s take on her brand, giu giu, her grandmother, and the timelessness of a single turtleneck. Afterwards, keep reading for our chat with the other half of this creative duo, Baldé.

How did you get into fashion design?

It was very unintentional. Yes, I grew up in that “world” because of my grandmother (Nonna). She had a boutique in Boston, so my childhood was spent immersed in the culture of fashion, between shopping trips and sewing lessons. As I got older, I was more focused on my ballet training. But life is funny. When something is in your blood, you can’t deny it. Eventually one thing led to another, and I found myself in the fashion design program at Parsons School of Design in NY, and later Central Saint Martins in London. I fell in love with the endless possibilities of knitwear. It just felt natural.

What was the first thing you designed?

In my studies at Parsons, the first “fashion” piece I made was for a 3-D class project. The assignment was to create something that transforms entirely, from stage 1 to stage 2. It was also required to change in color, material, and purpose. So, I made this printed overall jumper, and when unzipped / snapped / flipped inside-out, voilà ! It became a canvas backpack. Out of school, the first thing I designed was a collection of 5 sweaters, not intended for any gender, solely focused on collaging different yarn textures & colors, and inspired by a recent trip to Europe. These sweaters eventually became the first mini “collection” under my label, giu giu.

This piece has a lot of history – Inspired by the Vaccaro turtleneck your grandmother designed in the 1960s (that stayed relevant into the 90s) and now – what makes this design so timeless?

I think it’s the fact that it is so simple. A ribbed turtleneck in a rainbow of colors. When she created it with her brother Gino (my Godfather) in Boston, it evolved into this staple in everyone’s wardrobe. The knitting is so specific, in the way it shapes the body. And it lasted, so it was something that people cherished.

Did your dedication to yoga and love of traveling inspire the movement in these videos?

I definitely think so, subconsciously. Even though the movements were more intuitive to the individual we were working with, as the art director for the film, I was able to communicate the mood & feeling for the movements, thanks to of my background in dance and knowledge of the body. I think having a dedicated yoga & meditation practice inspired the project as a whole, since it allowed us to think fluidly, in an unbound manner. This led us to simply be in the right place at the right time in each city. Being in the present moment was key, because a lot of the magic that happened during the shooting probably wouldn’t have happened if it was pre-planned.

Why these specific places (Paris, Marrakech, New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo)?

That’s also the serendipity I was just talking about. I think timing is everything, and our plans ended up just meshing effortlessly. It worked out that the first chapter was filmed in Paris, because I was already planning to be there to visit some friends. It’s always been a city I’ve felt a profound connection to. Since Hamadou is based between Paris & New York, he was already there, so that’s where it started. Marrakech was a complete synchronicity too. New York, because we both have history there, and it’s a city we hold close to our hearts, despite its ups and downs. Los Angeles, is where my studio is currently based, and has this sense of ease, so it just felt necessary to shoot there. And our most recent trip to Tokyo we took with the intention of discovering something completely unknown. A new culture we had both been dreaming about for years. So we feel very fortunate to have experienced this together.

Do you think the videos reflect your grandmother’s nature?

My Nonna was a dreamer. She had the same love of travel that both Hamadou and I have. I think the main reflection of her is embodied in the turtleneck. We used it as an object to connect each city and each person in the film. Because it’s so simple, it was a neutral way to create this common thread within so much uniqueness in age, gender, race, etc.

NONNA is filled with so many different, beautiful characters. What in particular were you looking for while casting this project?

As we traveled we continued to meet people in a very organic way, so we didn’t really do formal “castings” for the film. Each person we invited to be a part of this project carries a special essence in the way they view life, through their values & passions. The way they expressed and carried themselves through movement was what we captured. It was this notion of each person telling their own story that inspired us most. It made us feel the world is really limitless, and every human in it is truly interconnected.

What did you enjoy most about collaborating with Hamadou?

Hamadou has a special sensitivity in his work. I had never worked with video before, so it was a creative medium that was foreign to me. Watching the way he connected with each subject was pretty amazing, in the way he was able to translate such intense emotion through his eye. Also, collaborating with someone that balances me so well was perfect. We have a very yin / yang connection, plus we both have a similar way of being, so it felt effortless to just co-exist in these different cities. Two lady bugs landing on each of us, and it was the beginning of a beautiful story. I’m very grateful for that.

What’s next?

We’re planning to launch the next chapter, TOKYO as part of a full-film live screening, most likely in September. Then, I’m off to Paris, where I’ll be having my first Art Exhibition ~ “NONNA” at 0FR. Librairie Galerie, the 28th of September. It will be on the history of the turtleneck, and what is has become today, so we’ll be showcasing the film there as one of the featured elements, engaging all of the senses. There will be a book to go along with it, also releasing at this time. And as the excitement of fashion week settles, I’m sure we’ll begin dreaming about the next cities that are calling to us for chapter VI.

After speaking with Raggiani, we naturally felt that the story wouldn’t be complete without also hearing from Baldé. Below, the director and cinematographer goes deeper on the NONNA concept and how the pair brought it to life for all five chapters.

Which chapter/city was your favorite to shoot in and why?
My favorite chapter was New York. Why? Because I spent nine years of my life in this city and it was like I was born again. When I was a little boy in Paris, I heard that New York was the capital of the capital. I remember I had a poster of the city of New York on my wall and I was hypnotized by it but I never really understood until I went there and I lived there. It’s definitely a concentration of all the aspects of the world. It’s like you have all the energy of the world in one place. I had the most beautiful moments of my life and the worst too. But New York extracts the essence of yourself. You have the possibilty to define or re-define yourself there because there is no limit and so many possibilities in this city. It was a pure moment with the camera it’s like it was not there, it was just a feeling, a movement everything was so organic with the way the two sisters were moving and the belong to shit city and the lighting of New York at night is so raw compare to Paris where the light is really so sophisticated. And the way you can do whatever you want in the street and the people will just don’t care, don’t even look at you it s a mix of total freedom and where people don’t really care about each other this element of loneliness that you have in a big city. The sense of time too it seems nothing can stop the flux of time in New York thats why everything is going so fast… You wake up in the morning and you just have the time to catch your breathe and it’s already time to go to sleep or you close your eyes and you open it and 9 years has passed by… I felt that we did stop the time a little bit with this film and catch the essence of those streets in this chapter.

How was the music chosen?
My dream was to be a musician, but I was not disciplined enough… When I was a kid and I grew up my family was listening a lot of different music; my parents were listening to Senegalese music, Vietnamese and classical music; my older sister was listening to some actual music, and my uncle, French music. We all got along. I was always fascinated by it and this universal language and the possibilities of it. Music has the power to stop the time for me and every time I am listening to a song I am doing a movie in my head. Both of my parents were born elsewhere. One was in Bafata and my mother in Ho Chi Minh ville and I was born in Paris so I was listening to those stories from part of the world that I had no idea. And the music allowed me to travel to those unknown places so for me music helped me travel outside myself and I always link it to images in my head. So when I shoot something I just keep going listening to music and there is always this point where I am listening to a song and I know that the one that going to fit those images I shot. Like the music is telling the same stories as my images.

Throughout the project, what resonated with you most?
The idea of serendipity and this organic way where everything was falling in place without thinking about it. When I met Giuliana I had a way of different way of preparing a shooting. Usually you organize everything and prepare for days or weeks before. But when I met her in LA I know I needed a certain change I needed something more unprepared something more organic and spontaneous. At first when I observed the way she was living her life and thinking the shoot with no casting in advance and just met the people and the places and felt in love with I was surprised and didn’t really understand and when I was looking at the result I was “ but it’s working…” So this idea of trusting the universe more and just believe in it and the world will put things in place to make it happened was a beautiful process for me.

Your website mentions that you aim to  create “A beautiful depiction of the truth” – What is your truth?

Ah that’s not an easy question to answer… I will say that there is no truth. I mean there is not only one truth but so many truths. The truth is always there around you I think the truth is the reality and the reality is always changing as the truth. We live in a world  where with the social media and the preponderance of the internet, the virtual word we hide the reality and we like to go in this world and look at places we will never go and people we will never meet and I like the idea to make the reality, our surroundings beautiful. The street where we shot New York is a street I walk in and pass by so many times. Everything is shot in natural light and with “real” people that you can meet everyday and in a space you already know so I guess my truth is the reality of your everyday life.

What’s your ideal working environment? Where do you thrive creatively?

The people I work with. I pay so much attention to choose my team it could be someone I met two days before a shooting or someone I work for years but I need to be inspired by the people I work with. That s what will make me creative. The people I have close to me while I am creating…

What’s next?

I was waiting for this moment where I could put my energy on a personal project I carry for years now. I was shooting and writing about it for a long time and I maybe carry this project from the day I was born.
What does that represent to be mixed, to be multicultural from the inside to the outside?
I had a chance recently to be featured and to have an article on Antidote magazine. I had this discussion with Alice Pfeiffer the Editor-in-chief of Antidote and the project resonated in her. She gave me the freedom to write about it. I needed to express it and try to redefine what is it to be multicultural above the fantasy link to this word “mixed” and make it real and beautiful. This truth is not always easy to balance being between three different cultures, That’s what I want to work with those days and make it a beautiful depiction of the truth…

Featured image courtesy of NONNA

Stay tuned to Milk for more timeless fashion.

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