Taking its penchant for film to a new zenith, Saint Laurent has established a subsidiary devoted to the full-fledged production of movies, WWD has learned.
Saint Laurent Productions will make its debut at the Cannes Film Festival next month with two shorts among the official selection: “Strange Way of Life” by Pedro Almodóvar, and another to be announced at a later date.
The Kering-owned fashion house is billing itself as the first to set up a registered subsidiary to produce films, rather than merely funding them — or dressing its stars.
While Saint Laurent-produced films are bound to bring additional visibility to the brand and its aesthetic, they won’t be so-called “fashion films” and it is understood the subsidiary’s intention is to operate profitably. Its movies will be sold at film festivals to the usual distributors, including cinemas, streaming platforms and broadcast networks, and benefit from the promotional activities accompanying releases.
Detailing the new thrust exclusively to WWD and Variety, media platforms owned by PMC, Saint Laurent also revealed it has feature-length projects in the works with filmmakers David Cronenberg and Paolo Sorrentino, perhaps best known for “The Great Beauty,” which won the Oscar for best foreign-language film in 2013.
“These directors never fail to open my mind and, in a way, the singular, radical vision they bring to cinema has made me the person I am today,” Vaccarello mused.
It is understood Saint Laurent Productions will link up as co-producers with Cronenberg’s and Sorrentino’s long-standing collaborators, easing the fashion firm’s transition into a new, competitive and volatile industry.
Foreshadowing the creation of the film production company, Vaccarello recently cast Cronenberg and Almodóvar in a Saint Laurent men’s campaign for spring alongside fellow directors Jim Jarmusch and Abel Ferrera, legends all.
The Belgian fashion designer, who took the creative helm of Saint Laurent in 2016, will play a key role in the new production foray, including conceiving Saint Laurent clothing and accessories in concert with each director. His name appears under Saint Laurent on posters for the Almodóvar film and the second short that will premiere at the 76th edition of the Cannes festival, scheduled for May 16 to 27.
Saint Laurent did not say how much it will invest in the films it plans to produce, and it is understood it is still assembling teams for the new subsidiary, which will be based in Paris.
Cronenberg’s last film, “Crimes of the Future,” released in 2022 and starring Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux and Kristen Stewart, had a budget estimated at $27 million. Prized as an originator of the body horror category, his best-known films include “The Fly,” “Dead Ringers,” “Crash,” Videodrome,” “Scanners,” “Eastern Promises” and “A History of Violence.”
Official documents registering Saint Laurent Productions SAS list Francesca Bellettini as president of the new enterprise, active since Feb. 22. Bellettini is also president and chief executive officer of the Saint Laurent fashion house. She was not immediately available for comment.
Saint Laurent had revealed its involvement in Almodóvar’s new Western last June. The 30-minute film stars Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal and follows a pair of estranged, middle-aged gunslingers through the Spanish desert.
Like other luxury players positioning themselves as beacons of culture, Saint Laurent has been steadily tightening its ties with different creative fields, including photography, art and design, commissioning exclusive works that relate to brand values like self-expression, while giving each artist creative freedom.
Bespoke films have been a key focus, with Vaccarello launching Saint Laurent’s “Self” project in 2018, meant as an artistic commentary seen through the lens of Saint Laurent.
Commissions have included films and photographs signed by author Bret Easton Ellis, performance artist Vanessa Beecroft, photographer Daido Moriyama, film director Gaspar Noé, as well as a chapter curated by Hong Kong’s Wong Kar-Wai and directed by Wing Shya. Noé’s film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019.
Last September, the fashion house hosted a tribute to legendary French actress Catherine Deneuve during the Venice Film Festival to commemorate her Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement Award.
Its fashion shows in Paris are also a magnet for stars of the big screen, including the likes of Charlotte Gainsbourg, Olivia Wilde, Zoë Kravitz, Rossy de Palma and Vincent Gallo.
In an exclusive interview earlier this week, Vaccarello said it’s been a thrill and an indulgence to collaborate with the famous filmmakers he grew up with in the ‘90s, confessing that he had to pinch himself when Almodóvar recently hosted a private projection of “Strange Way of Life” and the designer saw his name flicker on screen next to that of the Spanish movie maverick. “It was like a dream,” he marveled.
In his view, however, “Saint Laurent was always linked to cinema,” its founder Yves Saint Laurent almost synonymous with “Belle de Jour,” the iconic Luis Buñuel film starring Deneuve as a married bourgeois woman who finds herself working in a brothel, plus a host of other movies starring the likes of Romy Schneider, Jean Seberg and Sophia Loren.
What’s more, Vaccarello described working methods akin to filmmaking: He devises a character and a situation first, and then a Saint Laurent collection. “Every time I do a fashion show, for me it’s really about telling a story, like a little film,” he related over Teams.
Producing films, he argued, represents an opportunity to reach a wider audience for the brand and “expand the vision I have for Saint Laurent with a media that stays longer than clothes in a store. For me, a film is something you can still see in 10, 20, 30 years if it’s a good film.
“Communication-wise, doing a film has more impact on people than a collection,” he continued. “I’m very excited to extend that creativity into something broader and more popular.…It’s a new approach to maybe get new Saint Laurent customers.”
Not that he’s plotting vanilla crowd-pleasers.
The films he likes “are kind of dark, and maybe controversial.…I grew up watching controversial films. They make you think.…It’s good to have those kind of people that make you think about something that is not flat.
“When we produce films, we’re not worried if it’s going to shock someone. Of course, I don’t wish to offend anyone, but shock sometimes is good.”
He stressed the importance of leaving filmmakers unshackled to tell the tale they envision. “I don’t want it to be a commercial thing because it’s Saint Laurent,” he said. “A good film is made by someone who feels free.”
Almodóvar has described “Strange Way of Life” as his answer to “Brokeback Mountain,” though Vaccarello said he took pains to avoid any gay cliches in the costumes, hewing closer to Western cliches.
The designer praised Almodóvar for exalting the strength and individuality of women, typically his main protagonists in films like “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” “All About My Mother,” “Bad Education” or “Volver.” He drew parallels to Yves Saint Laurent’s empowerment of women with pantsuits, trench coats and sheer blouses.
However, “Strange Way of Life” sees the director putting men at the center of his story and treating them with similar brushstrokes – new turf for the 73-year-old director.
Vaccarello cited positive consumer feedback to the Saint Laurent campaign starring the clutch of silver-haired filmmakers, sparking curiosity among young people who perhaps had never heard of the likes of Jarmusch, Ferrera and company.
“I like that it opened a conversation and made people aware of those amazing director,” he enthused.
Vaccarrello allowed that Saint Laurent Production’s first projects are heavily skewed to seasoned auteurs, European sensibilities, and to his personal favorites. “In the future, there will probably more of a focus on the new generation of filmmakers,” he said.
The designer has been busy reviewing scripts, and envisions an output of one or two films per year, perhaps three if there’s a bumper crop of irresistible projects — or none given the long lead times. “It takes to choose, to produce, to be really focused,” he noted.
As far as film genres go, “there is no limit, as long as I love the story and I love the characters,” he said, while noting that “if it’s something too far from my aesthetic, or the aesthetic of Saint Laurent, then it’s not something I’m gonna do.”
The designer couldn’t mask his excitement about working with his cinema heroes.
He will attend the Cannes Film Festival next month, mount its famous red steps, and relish the energy of the gathering.
“It’s like a fashion week — it’s a moment where everyone is in the same location to see films and to do business,” he said. “Cannes is one of the best festivals, and since Saint Laurent is a French brand, it’s very important for us to be there.”
What’s more, Vaccarello said fashion has always been intertwined with other creative fields.
“It’s nothing new. We are human. I go to the theater, I go to the cinema, I listen to music. Fashion is the distillation of all those fields together. Fashion cannot be only clothes with no story. Fashion needs a story.
“Fashion, cinema, art — it’s part of me, it’s part of what I’m doing,” he concluded. “Saint Laurent is a cinematic brand.”