Of course, it’s not lost on Giannini that spending big bucks in the film world can confer a few advantages to Gucci, including more chances to get its clothes on movie stars. At the Venice Film Festival, the company’s celebrity-dressing squad huddles in the bar of the Bauer Palladio Hotel over spreadsheets delineating every Gucci item circulating in the city that weekend, down to belts, bags, and shoes. This is to ensure that if, say, the actress and writer Brit Marling (nominated for Another Earth) decides to carry a certain black brocade clutch to a screening or a party, the costume designer Colleen Atwood (nominated for Snow White & the Huntsman) won’t show up with exactly the same one.
Giannini downplays the direct impact of red carpet fashion credits on the company’s sales figures, but she cites one key benefit of Gucci’s movie initiatives: their role as a sort of A-list matchmaking service. “These events are a great opportunity for me to meet actors and actresses and start a relationship,” she says. Given all the stylists, managers, and other middlemen running interference between the labels and the celebrities these days, it’s often impossible for a designer to know who’s making the decisions or what the person really wants to wear. “That’s why sometimes you see very weird things on red carpets all around the world,” she adds. “But when you can collaborate with the person directly and really understand their needs, it’s much easier to design something for them, and for them to wear it in a more confident way, which is the key.”
Diplomacy is sometimes required. Hayek is not only married to François-Henri Pinault, the CEO of Gucci’s parent company, PPR—she is also, notes Giannini, “a very demanding woman who knows exactly what she wants to wear, exactly what colors.” Madonna also tends to have strong opinions about these things. And Ryan Gosling sent ripples of panic through the Gucci atelier in 2011 when he announced that he wanted his made-to-measure suit for the Los Angeles Ides of March premiere to be—horrors!—green. “Usually when I receive this kind of request, I just say, ‘No! I hate green!’ ” says Giannini. “But I know this guy. He is very smart and has good taste. I said, ‘Okay, let me work around the green.’ So I did a proposal for him with a kind of forest green, something different.” The look was a hit on fashion websites. “Ryan was so beautiful in that suit. And I was so proud.”
After a few difficult seasons at the start of her tenure as creative director at Gucci in 2006—a time when many fashion editors and buyers were still nursing crushes on her glamorous and media-savvy predecessor, Tom Ford—Giannini, who was only 34 then, has since more than proved herself as both a designer and a businesswoman. Critics have warmed up to her deft way of combining rock ’n’ roll edge, feminine whimsy, and Riviera chic, and the label’s annual sales have grown to more than $4 billion. On the film front, Gucci’s increasingly deep pockets come in handy when it’s time to write checks, big and small. James Franco, who’s had close ties to the brand since he appeared in an ad for the fragrance Gucci Pour Homme in 2008, says Gucci has been “incredibly supportive of my projects,” starting with the short films he directed while at New York University. To help entice Madonna to present the Women in Cinema award to Chastain in Venice in 2011, the company quietly paid for a party at the Bauer Hotel for her film W.E., which was screening at the festival. And when Scorsese was busy on the set of Hugo in London on the day that the Film Foundation’s restored version of La Dolce Vita had its premiere at a black-tie gala in Rome, Gucci arranged to have a private jet fly him in for the event.