FINANCIAL TIMES | VANESSA FRIEDMAN
When the lights dim and the credits roll on the cinematic premiere of the “21st century re-imagining” of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet next month, the list of names will read much like any high-profile independent movie – written by Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame; directed by Italy’s Carlo Carlei; and starring Hailee Steinfeld, Oscar nominee for True Grit. But there is one difference.
Along with Amber Entertainment, the film has been co-produced by Swarovski Entertainment, the new production arm of the family-owned Austrian company that is far better known for its little crystal animals and work with young designers than its cinematic credentials.
With the launch of Romeo and Juliet, Swarovski has become the first luxury brand to fully step into the world of film-making – not simply as a supplier of products but as a financial and creative partner.
Nadja Swarovski, chairman of Swarovski Entertainment, said: “We see it as a natural extension of our work with emerging fashion talent, and a way to express our philosophy, ideas and values, and achieve a greater reach for the brand.”
Fashion has become increasingly involved with the film industry, moving from dressing celebrities for the red carpet to product placement such as designer Catherine Martin’s collaboration with Prada, Tiffany and Brooks Brothers on The Great Gatsby. The brands contributed to the movie and displayed costumes or jewellery from it in their stores.
Gucci is a partner of Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, which is dedicated to restoring cinema classics, and in 2011 the brand inaugurated its Women in Film prize at the Venice film festival.
Many brands such as Christian Dior, Lanvin, and Miu Miu also finance short films related to advertising campaigns that they then post on their websites and YouTube. And Tom Ford directed a feature, A Single Man, before starting his eponymous brand.
Robert Burke, a consultant to the luxury industry, said fashion groups were attracted by the “endless marketing opportunities” of film. But until now brands had been afraid of the risk of eroding brand equity – more than simply losing their initial investment – by being associated with a badly reviewed movie or one that dealt with risqué subject matter, he said.
“As creative as fashion brands are, they are also wildly conservative,” Mr Burke added.
Stefano Sassi, chief executive of Valentino, cautioned: “A brand would have to be very sure the film expressed its core values. I think it’s a stretch.”
Ms Swarovski acknowledged the dangers, saying the company chose its subject matter very carefully, and it would never be involved with a film about “violence, witchcraft, black magic, perversion”.
“I think it’s an incredible business opportunity,” she said.
Ms Swarovski said the move had been welcomed by the film industry. The entertainment division is already developing its second property, to be scripted by David Seidler, who wrote The King’s Speech.