Sometimes the perfect project just falls into your lap. That’s certainly what happened to director Isaac Lock when he first met Janie and Stephen Schaffer, the divorced duo who acquired Fiorucci in 2015 and over the next two years sought to revive the Italian fashion label once synonymous with the sweaty glamour of 1970s New York.
“I had a meeting with them about doing some consulting for the brand,” Isaac says. “It very quickly became clear that this wasn’t a situation where we were going to work together. But I was fascinated by them. It was like they were from another age. And they were shockingly open and candid. I just found them fascinating.”
Meanwhile, Isaac was discussing another project with some financers that simply didn’t feel right. He recalls: “Almost as a joke, I said, ‘Why don’t we do a film about these guys trying to get Fiorucci up and running again?’” His backers were immediately attracted to the idea and offered him funding before Janie and Stephen had even agreed to take part.
After a few nervy days for the director, while the pair decided whether or not to participate, they eventually acquiesced. But not only that – Janie and Stephen, both eccentric characters and hugely wealthy, ended up granting Isaac near-total access to everything that was happening behind the scenes at Fiorucci, as they prepared for the grand opening of a new flagship London store, roughly 40 years after the brand shuttered.
The resulting film, titled You Will Be With Us In Paradise, is a hilarious and wry examination of the comic chaos and befuddlement of the operation behind Fiorucci’s comeback. We witness moments of utter despair and exasperation, and are allowed to sit and listen in on meetings in which hairbrained ideas for the opening are mooted.
“Every day, they would have a new scheme to surprise and delight us,” says Isaac, looking back on one particularly bizarre idea suggested for the grand opening that would see members of the Hare Krishna community dancing in front of the store and singing “Fiorucci” at the top of their lungs. “Then every evening, after filming, we would ask ourselves, ‘Are they… What are they doing? Are they trolling us?’”
For Isaac as a director, the filming was a relatively simple process. “I asked leading questions, but that was pretty much all I could do. Ultimately, it was just about leaving the cameras rolling on them,” he says. “Then it all comes together in the edit.” But even then, it wasn’t as if he was being disingenuous. “It’s actually much less constructed than it might appear, because Janie and Stephen are just like that in real life.”
While the final documentary is joyous and laugh-out-loud funny, there is perhaps a more sombre message below the surface, with the world of fashion and broader consumer capitalism coming under Isaac’s ironic, critical eye. However, for him, this wasn’t the main point. “I wasn’t interested in making a judgment,” he says. “I was interested in them as people. We left the film very open in the end. People can decide on their own.”
Was he worried that Janie and Stephen would be angry about the mocking tone of some parts of the film? “They get it,” says Isaac. “I was very honest with them from the outset about the tone of it. Plus, all my previous work is funny and very knowing. They’re not idiots. They understand what the joke is and why it’s funny.”
You Will Be With Us In Paradise, which is an M2M Studios film produced by production company Somesuch, is going to have its premiere tomorrow (Wednesday 16 October) at the Everyman Screen on the Green. This will be followed by an online premiere on Nowness on Friday, when it will become the video platform’s first long-form film release. We recommend you find time to watch it in full.