Gucci is reaching for stars following $7bn CAA deal
The Drum’s founder Gordon Young takes a closer look at a deal that may change the way that brands work with talent.
The $7b deal that saw Francouis-Henri Pinault’s Groupe Artemis take control of Creative Artists Agency (CAA) is set to not only redefine the link between fashion and fame but herald in a new era of brand-funded entertainment.
Group Artemis also counts a controlling stake in Kering - which owns brands such as Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, as well as stakes in Puma and auction house Christie's.
CAA meanwhile is one of the most powerful talent agencies in the world acting for the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Steven Spielberg and even Salma Hayek who is married to Pinault.
But it also represents a host of sports stars including Tottenham midfielder James Maddison and Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti, as well as celebrities in specialist fields like podcasting, video gaming, and fashion influence.
The link between fame and fashion is well established. In fact high profile film festival red carpet events, are as important to fashion houses as they are to the movie business.
But this deal will perhaps see the demarcation between the sectors become less pronounced. Saint Laurent for example, has already recently launched a film production business.
This summer it premiered its first film at the Cannes Film Festival. Strange Way of Life, a romantic western, starred Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal.
Directed by Pedro Almodovar, it was produced by Saint Laurent creative director Anthony Vaccarello, who also designed the costumes worn by the film’s stars.
The new studio has other projects on the slate, with big names attached and all are very much in the realms of sponsor-funded, as opposed to advertorial.
The key objectives are to bring the garments to life and if possible emulate some of film's most iconic fashion moments - such as Audrey Hepburn's Givenchy dresses in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Richard Gere’s Armani suits in American Gigolo.
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Saint Laurent may be the first luxury brand to launch a fully-fledged movie studio, but they are not the first to invest in film. For example, Valentino funded The Staggering Girl by director Luca Guadagnino, and Chanel backed director Olivier Asddaya’s films, Clouds of Sila Maria and Personal Shopper, which featured their ambassador Kristen Stewart.
This is why Robert Burke, the eponymous founder of a luxury consultancy, told the New York Times, “There’s no separation between fashion and entertainment anymore.” He called the CAA deal, "a natural, if unprecendented, evolution.”
Of course, it is too soon to predict how the deal will play out. But the opportunity not only to connect talent to brands but also to create new entertainment properties is unprecedented.
The timing strikes many. As one says with the current SAG-AFTRA strike, talent agencies are experiencing considerable strife. One rival Endeavor, claimed that the strikes would cost it $25m a month. Despite this Pinault has apparently paid a premium. Perhaps this is because the strike will give brands unprecedented access to celebrities as commercial work remains one of the few avenues of income the union approves.
The consensus seems to be the deal will help boost Kering's fortunes. Over the last few years, it has been losing ground to nemesis LVHM - which became the first European company to break the $500bn valuation barrier earlier this year. [It too has been embedding celebrity culture by, for example, appointing musician Pharrell Williams as creative director of its menswear business.]
In contrast, Gucci, grew sales by just 1% last year and the company has been at the centre of an activist campaign to revive growth. The CAA deal offers a new way to reinvogorate its brands. But more broadly other marketers will be taking note. It looks like brand-funded entertainment is about to get much more fashionable