At first it was hard to make out anyone, let alone some of the most famous human beings in the world. The vast hangar on the outskirts of Milan was cloaked in near total darkness. Most people couldn’t see their rain-soaked toes, let alone a star-studded front row.
Was that Paul Mescal, everyone’s latest celebrity crush, talking to Julia Garner in the shadows? Or Jodie Comer, sitting with her stylist Elizabeth Saltzman? Could that be Jessica Chastain beaming behind her dark glasses? And Kendall Jenner with her beau, the rapper Bad Bunny, whispering with the Vogue editor Anna Wintour?
By the time a phalanx of photographers, bodyguards and publicists ferried Julia Roberts and Ryan Gosling to their seats for the Gucci show on Friday, it was clear that the brand was aspiring to lure the glitziest front row at Milan Fashion Week.
Fendi welcomed several supermodels to its show. Prada had Kylie Jenner and Scarlett Johansson the day before. But for the debut collection of Sabato De Sarno, the new creative director of Gucci, the house secured a long list of Hollywood royalty, musicians and rising ingénues. Everyone knows that celebrities are a potent force for selling products. And, sometimes, who sits by the runway can send as powerful a marketing message about the creative and commercial direction of a brand as the clothes and accessories that appear on it.
So what did the amassed stars have to say about Gucci’s latest era and the man behind it?
“I love Sabato — we spent several days together in the summer doing fittings together in Rome,” said Mr. Mescal, who has been wearing Gucci suits to public events this year. “He is so kind and so genuine. He’s the sort of protagonist you find yourself really rooting for, so of course I wanted to support him.”
Ms. Chastain, who models Gucci timepieces in ad campaigns, expressed surprise that the show had been pulled together so quickly, after an original plan to show the collection in the streets had to be canceled because of the weather.
Existing contacts with Gucci may have drawn most of the A-list attendees to the show, including Mr. Gosling, who has starred in campaigns for its travel bags. Some previous Gucci front-row mainstays, like Dakota Johnson and Jared Leto, were absent this season. But Daria Werbowy, the elusive model who was unveiled as the face of Mr. De Sarno’s first official campaign earlier this month, was the newest celebrity to join the ranks.
But another factor may have come into play last month, when François-Henri Pinault, the chief executive of Kering (the group that owns Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and other luxury houses), announced that he had bought a majority stake in CAA, one of Hollywood’s biggest talent agencies.
Ms. Roberts, Ms. Chastain and Mr. Gosling are all represented by CAA, as are many others who attended the show. At a time when entertainment is becoming ever more entwined with the fashion industry, securing celebrity contracts may be a critical part of Mr. Pinault’s long-term strategy for his brands.
This has been a tumultuous year for Hollywood, with shows and movies disrupted by the strike of actors, film and television writers. With red carpets suspended for the foreseeable future, industry eyes have been focused on the front rows of fashion shows to see if celebrities are fulfilling their contractual obligations with fashion brands, or are carving out new ones, at a time when few can take on new filming projects.
Not that many stars were keen to discuss the strike. Ms Chastain has been vocal in her support of the strikes, appearing at the Venice Film Festival last month in a T-shirt that read: “SAG-AFTRA ON STRIKE.” When asked about the subject as she was leaving the Gucci show, she just said: “Gosh, I’ve said enough on that subject already, don’t you think? I wouldn’t want to detract from Sabato’s moment.”