By producing movies, luxury enters the world of cultural heritage

Aymeric Mantoux

By Aymeric Mantoux13 juin 2023

Luxury brands are multiplying film production. Just like Saint Laurent, the first to create a full-scale entity dedicated to cinematic art, luxury giants are stepping into the movie industry. A way of penetrating further general cultural heritage.

Director and actress Maïwenn received a contribution from Chanel for the dresses she wore in Jeanne du Barry, her costume film (Stéphanie Branchu, Why Not Production)

In Cannes, Venice, or Los Angeles, luxury brands already fought to dress celebrities on red carpets or for product placement in blockbuster movies. They now participate in producing them.

I want to work with all of the great talents in the cinema industry who have inspired me along the years and offer them a space

Anthony Vaccaello, the creative director of Saint- Laurent

There was a time, not so long ago when going to the movies was common. With the internet and streaming, the rise of TV series and Netflix have, for many, killed this ritual. “Those who go to the movies are about to enter counter-culture”, writes Guillemette Faure in Le Monde. This acting cultural minority, which also visits bookshops or newspaper stands, is a niche that particularly appeals to luxury houses or trendy brands.

Saint Laurent becomes the first luxury brand to include film production in its activities. Here is the poster for Pedro Almodóvar's short film "Strange Way of life" starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal (Saint Laurent)

Thus, readers of Télérama or audiences of France Inter noticed the Saint Laurent Productions mention in the credits of “Strange Way of Life”, a 30-minute short film presented in Cannes this year and signed by Pedro Almodóvar, starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal. Anthony Vaccarello, artistic director of the House owned by the luxury giant Kering, even walked the festival steps alongside the great Spanish director. But don’t get them wrong: this is not a simple trial. “The luxury House has confirmed it wanted to diversify in film production and that the Almodóvar film is only a beginning”, says Me Claire Saint-Laurent (she is not related to the family), an associate of Taylor Wessing, one of the most influential Parisian lawyers in cinematic art. “Investors or private individuals are increasingly interested in cinema for many reasons.”



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The Kering group at the forefront of investments in cinema

Michelle Yeoh received the Women In Motion Award 2023 for her exceptional career (Kering)

On May 8th, the fashion house announced the production of a posthumous movie by Jean-Luc Godard and mentioned it would be pursuing its projects with Paolo Sorrentino and David Cronenberg. Anthony Vaccarello’s involvement could be through costume creation. “The influence of luxury houses is actually quite weak, says Marc de Dommartin, an independent producer. No one, not even they, can impose a cast on a legitimate producer or a director. Either way, I don’t believe it is their intent.”

It is no longer only about promoting a new product, but to bring a creative, cultural image which gives purpose to luxury brand corporate communications.

Timothée Gaget, communications consultant

The phenomenon is not new. In 2009, thanks to the financial support (already) of François -Henri Pinault (Kering), Yann Arthus-Bertrand was able to launch his movie “Home” and broadcast it freely on an international level. Pinault had mobilized all of his subsidiaries, from Fnac to Somewhere, in the coproduction and promotion of this documentary committed to raising awareness on the state of the Earth. “Kering is happy to support this initiative and to contribute to raising awareness on the situation and the urgency of our planet, " explained the CEO of Kering. Six years later, the group renewed its action by co-producing “Ice and Sky”, a film by Luc Jacquet on the life of the climatologist and glaciologist Claude Lorius, considered one of the first scientists to have discovered global warming. Kering had justified its financing with its commitment to sustainability. Its involvement in cinema materialized in 2015, with the signature of an official partnership with the Cannes film festival.

Francois-Henri Pinault and Salma Hayek at the Women in Motion Awards dinner for the 76th Cannes Film Festival, May 21, 2023 (Kering)

For years in Cannes, during the Women in Motion evening, the owner of Saint-Laurent awarded prizes with the objective of highlighting the role of women in the movies and the cultural world. It must be emphasized that the group CEO’s wife is the actress Salma Hayek, which probably explains this initiative.

Already present in art or gastronomy, luxury was bound to establish itself in cinema. For over ten years, another brand, Miu Miu (Prada Group), also financed short films directed by women. Such initiatives are multiplying. The transalpine fashion brand Valentino co-financed a short film that was selected at Cannes in 2019, “The Staggering Girl”, directed by Luca Guadagnino.

Selected by the Cannes Film Festival in 2019, the 50-minute film LVX AETERNA, directed by Gaspar Noé and produced by Saint Laurent, was screened as part of the Midnight session (Saint Laurent)

But adding film production, like a full-scale entity in its business portfolio, such as Louis Vuitton or Chanel in publishing (see Luxury Tribune 11 April 2023), is very new. “I want to work with all of the great talents in the cinema industry who have inspired me over the years and offer them a space”, justifies Anthony Vaccaello, the creative director of Saint- Laurent, regarding the initiative of the Saint Laurent Productions foundation, a first. There remains to convince filmmakers that the approach is well-designed. Indeed, Anthony Vaccarello had to try to convince Almodóvar on two occasions, whose independence for half a century is his signature. The Spanish filmmaker's final cut and artistic freedom were contractually certified as a guarantee.

Valuing the brand with a cultural message

Daniel Graid in the movie "Skyfall" wearing an Omega Co-Axial (Omega)

Diving into film production is not an easy task, but it is gratifying, even more so than partnering with Netflix or Orange. Yet, many projects supported by luxury brands have, to this day, only led to online or social media broadcasting. The Saint Laurent project and its quest for visibility prove the rise of new ambitions, different from product placement by Brioni, Tom Ford, or Omega in James Bond. Or even with the important patronage of Chanel, which always discreetly yet consistently accompanies the film industry, to its partnership with the Deauville festival, to its support of actresses and friends of the brand, such as Kristen Stewart and Marion Cotillard, to production. In Cannes, no less than three films supported by the house rue Cambon were presented in an official selection. The director and actress Maïwenn even received Chanel’s contribution in the creation of the dresses she wore in “Jeanne du Barry”, her costumed film. “It is no longer only about promoting new sunglasses or a line of travel bags, explains Timothée Gaget, communications consultant, but to bring a creative, cultural image which gives purpose to luxury brand corporate communications.”

In this very muffled atmosphere, the amounts invested are never communicated, just whispered. A few million francs in the oceans of profits which reach tens of billions of dollars. A drop that helps but which is, for the time being, far from irrigating the entire profession or even leading it. But for how long?

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