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Not since Gianni Versace’s heyday in the 1990s (attracting Prince, Madonna, George Lucas and Britney Spears as well as the supermodels dazzling the catwalk) have the fashion weeks’ front rows shone with such high wattage.
From Julia Roberts at Gucci to Scarlett Johansson at Prada and Emma Raducanu at Dior, for the past month the biggest fashion houses netted a phalanx of power players from the worlds of film, TV and sport, offset with a liberal sprinkling of influencers and celebrity offspring or ‘nepo babies’ (Madonna’s daughter Lourdes and son Rocco were at Saint Laurent in Paris; and Victoria Beckham always has quite the clan).
The question is: why now? The pandemic has been over for some time, so it can’t simply be explained as celebrities releasing some pent-up desire to party again.
The answer is more complicated.
For film and TV stars, being seated on the right designer’s front row affords global exposure without them so much as having to learn a line. It also gilds their image by aligning them with the world’s most exclusive luxury brands.
Fendi designer Kim Jones had a roster of famous friends, including a full complement of supermodels, at his show — (from left) Cara Delevingne, Suki Waterhouse, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Watts, Gwendoline Christie, Christina Ricci, model Amber Valletta, Demi Moore, Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss (pictured next to her photographer partner Nikolai von Bismarck). The Witcher actress Freya Allan and British singer Charli XCX added to the glamour factor
The stars came out in force in Paris for designer Sarah Burton’s final show as creative director of Alexander McQueen. Actresses (from left) Letitia Wright and Eva Green sat next to Kering owner Francois-Henri Pinault, with outgoing British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful on his other side. Conde Nast’s chief content editor Anna Wintour (second from right in her trademark sunglasses) was flanked by actresses Cate Blanchett (on Wintour’s right) and Elle Fanning
As befits one of the biggest jewels in the LVMH crown, Dior packed a star-studded punch that included longtime brand ambassador (and face of its scent, J’Adore) Charlize Theron and her 11 year-old daughter, Jackson. She was joined by actresses both established and upcoming, including (left to right) Elizabeth Debicki, Rachel Zegler (with British tennis star Emma Raducanu behind her), Anya Taylor-Joy, Jenna Ortega, singer Rosalia and Jennifer Lawrence. Also there were Uma Thurman’s actress daughter Maya Hawke, plus Camille Cottin and Robert Pattinson, singer Celeste and model Alexa Chung. Phew!
Yves Saint Laurent loved to sit his famous friends front row, a tradition which the house, now owned by Kering, has kept alive. Gen Z will have been happy to see (from far left) Blackpink singer Rosé, Elvis actor Austin Butler and Hailey Bieber. Also present were Sex Education’s Emma Mackey and Zoe Kravitz. Older fans will have thrilled at Demi Moore and Diane Kruger, plus Kate Moss (third from right, next to ex-French Vogue editor Emmanuelle Alt and former French First Lady Carla Bruni). While nepo babies divide opinion, the inclusion of Lourdes Leon and Rocco Ritchie (mother: Madonna) was a talking point
That so many celebrities were out in force this season is undoubtedly linked to the actors’ strike, ongoing since July. What with this and the writers’ strike (now resolved), Hollywood has had a turbulent year.
Since few actors can take on new filming projects, or promote existing films via the usual roster of interviews and red carpet events, most have time to kill.
What better way to keep yourself in the public eye than by jetting off to Milan or Paris Fashion Week on a lavish, all-expenses paid trip? For luxury brands, the A-list’s empty diaries are good news — at least, for those who can afford it.
A celebrity-packed front row is a no-brainer, particularly in the social media age when the starriest are guaranteed to go viral.
There’s the added benefit of having total control over what the celebrity wears. Whether they are contracted to the brand or simply a guest, every celebrity attending a show will be expected to wear a head-to-toe ‘look’ by its designer. Every dress, coat, trouser, shoe and — crucially — handbag, will hail either from the brand’s current selling collection, or, as is increasingly the case, the one they are about to show.
The handbag is particularly important, since these make up the vast majority of sales — often up to 80 per cent — at any luxury brand. By placing them prominently on celebs’ laps in front-row seats, the world has a far clearer view of the lucrative new arm candy than if they were on the catwalk.
Letitia Wright, Eva Green, Francois-Henri Pinault, Editor-In-Chief of British Vogue Edward Enninful, Cate Blanchett, Editor-In-Chief of American Vogue and Chief Content Officer of Conde Nast Dame Anna Wintour and Elle Fanning attend the Alexander McQueen SS24 show during Paris Fashion Week at Le Carreau du Temple on September 30
August Theron and Charlize Theron at Christian Dior Ready To Wear Spring 2024 held at the Jardin des Tuileries on September 26, 2023 in Paris
Jenna Ortega, from left, Rosalia, and Jennifer Lawrence attend the Christian Dior Spring/Summer 2024 womenswear collection on September 26 in Paris
Tough economic conditions mean competition has never been fiercer between top brands, with this season’s shows less a battle between Milan and Paris than a battle between LVMH and Kering, the two most powerful luxury goods conglomerates in the world. LVMH, owned by French billionaire Bernard Arnault, controls brands including Louis Vuitton, Dior and Fendi.
Kering, owned by Francois-Henri Pinault, controls the likes of Gucci, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen.
In a plot twist worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster, earlier this month, the Pinault family reached an agreement to buy a majority share in Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of Hollywood’s most prominent talent agencies, in a deal rumoured to be valued at $7 billion (£5.77 billion).
The move further cements the worlds of fashion and entertainment. (One of CAA’s most famous clients is Salma Hayek, who has been married to Francois-Henri Pinault since 2009.)
Nor will it hurt that CAA-represented stars may feel a certain loyalty to Kering and, therefore, wear its brands on the red carpet.
They may even have influence over the appearance of a product on screen. For gone are the days when a glossy fashion ad was the way to drive sales. If you really want to shift high-end clothes or accessories, have them featured in a film or hit TV show.
Naomi Campbell walks the runway as guests including Letitia Wright, Eva Green, Francois-Henri Pinault, Cate Blanchett, Dame Anna Wintour, Elle Fanning, Andrew Bolton, Yara Shahidi, and I.N of Stray Kids watch from the front row at the Alexander McQueen SS24 show during Paris Fashion Week
Zoe Kravitz, Francois-Henri Pinault, Rosé and Austin Butler attend the Saint Laurent Womenswear Spring/Summer 2024 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on September 26
When a Burberry tote bag was used in an episode of Succession, Google searches rose by 310 per cent after the episode aired. Margot Robbie’s Chanel wardrobe in the Barbie movie, meanwhile, had an immeasurable impact on sales.
Wonderful as this is for those designers blessed with the backing of a luxury goods conglomerate, it is less so for smaller, fledgling and independent designers — many of whom, particularly in London, struggled this season to find the money to stage a fashion show, much less populate it with stars.
With the exception of the heritage brand Burberry, most British designers have zero budget for VIP guests, and instead rely on genuine friendships with celebrities forged over time. At Erdem, we can assume actress Lily James was there because she wanted to be.
With only Chanel left to show its hand, the season is sure to go out on a high. Whoever the celebrity and whatever the show, for the rubbernecks at home it all makes for excellent eye candy.