When is murder good for business? When it is made into a Hollywood movie, for one – and when that film stars Lady Gaga. House of Gucci, the Ridley Scott feature released last week to mixed reviews, has sent interest in the Gucci brand soaring.
Searches for Gucci clothing were up 73% week on week, according to e-commerce aggregator Lovethesales.com on Friday, with a leap of 257% for bags and 75% for sliders. The figures suggest that the luxury brand stands only to gain from Hollywood’s telling of the story ofthe glamorous Patrizia Reggiani, who hired a hitman in 1995 to kill her ex-husband Maurizio Gucci, the former head of the fashion label.
The payoff comes after a delicate dance between the brand’s owners and the film-makers. Officially, Gucci only provided MGM and Scott Free Productions with a selection of original items and props from the fashion house’s archive and allowed for the filming of a scene at its main store in Via Condotti, Rome.
While Gucci did not formally endorse the film, it stars Salma Hayek, wife of François-Henri Pinault, the chairman and chief executive of Gucci’s parent, Kering, as well as Jared Leto, a brand ambassador and friend of Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele.
The brand also staged a recent catwalk show in Los Angeles – shutting down Hollywood Boulevard close to Grauman’s Chinese theatre – that paid tribute to Hollywood glamour across the decades.
But now the movie is on release, Gucci has begun posting pictures of Gaga as Reggiani on social media.
“It can go either way,” said Julie Zerbo of the industry analysis outlet the Fashion Law. “Versace wasn’t involved in Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story about Gianni Versace, but it was pretty obvious from the outset that Gucci wouldn’t push back because Pinault’s wife is in the movie.”
She added: “The movie leads from a fashion perspective, so Gucci is using it to inject their own narrative even if they weren’t as involved in the film as they could have been.”
But this has not pleased Reggiani, the Milanese socialite who served 16 years in prison for arranging the murder and who said in an Observer interview in 2016 that she had “slept a lot” during her incarceration. “I took care of my plants. I looked after Bambi, my pet ferret,” she added.
In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Sara Gay Forden, author of the book on which the film is based, noted: “Here was a woman who had lived in the heights of luxury, but she was very much alone – she was an outsider in that Milanese elite society. She felt some humanity in jail that maybe she hadn’t had in her former life.”
Reggiani has made it clear that she was “rather annoyed” with Gaga – Stefani Germanotta – for playing the part “without having had the consideration and sensibility to come and meet me”. It was a question, she said, “of good sense and respect”.
“They need me,” she continued in La Repubblica. “I still feel like a Gucci – in fact, the most Gucci of them all.”
For her part, Gaga has said she “lived” as Reggiani for a year and a half, speaking with a thick Italian accent for nine months of that. “I never broke. I stayed with her,” Gaga said in November’s Vogue. “Nobody was going to tell me who Patrizia Gucci was. Not even Patrizia Gucci.”
The film has had broadly positive reviews, with the Guardian calling it a “fantastically rackety, messy soap opera… rescued from pure silliness by Lady Gaga’s glorious performance”. New York artist and head-to-toe Gucci fan Tabboo! said: “I loved it!”
But there are larger questions to answer about fashion and Hollywood, said Zerbo, who points out that California now generates more revenue for brands than New York. “Brands can benefit if they opt to engage, or even if they don’t, in increased awareness and desirability.”
Any effort by the Gucci family to take legal action, though, is likely to be doomed. Last year the former stockbroker Jordan Belfort sued the production company behind The Wolf of Wall Street, claiming he would never have sold the rights to his memoir to the producer if he knew the film was allegedly funded with dirty money from a Malaysian government-owned company.
In any case, added Zerbo, it is better to embrace notoriety than not. “I would argue that The Devil Wears Prada actually elevated Anna Wintour’s persona to a mass scale. So many people walked away from that film knowing who she is.”
And several years later, Prada went public, adding billions of dollars to its valuation.