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Gucci Taps Rihanna for Ads on UNICEF Collaboration

PARIS - Gucci has tapped Grammy-award winning singer Rihanna to appear in the label's first ad campaign.

PARIS — Gucci has tapped Grammy-award winning singer Rihanna to appear in the label’s first ad campaign highlighting its collaboration with the United Nation’s Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

This story first appeared in the July 14, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Rihanna and Frida Giannini, Gucci’s creative director, flew to Paris on Thursday for the four-hour shoot with photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin.

The Italian fashion house intends the ads, which will break in December magazines, to make a lasting impression. “We have a celebrity, a very famous face, together with the entire organization of UNICEF and Gucci,” Giannini said during an interview post-shoot at studios in Paris’ 14th arrondissement. “With those three elements together, we want to surprise people, to impact people’s hearts.”

Giannini, an avid music fan, decided on Rihanna, who shot to fame with the hit single “Umbrella,” after she performed at Gucci’s UNICEF fund-raiser in New York last February. The event raised $5.5 million.

“So when we decided to dedicate a full ad campaign, more than just creating products, to really come out and show our commitment to UNICEF, we wanted someone with a strong personality,” Giannini explained. “I felt a musician and a beautiful woman was the perfect icon for this campaign.”

Called “Tattoo Heart,” the ads show Rihanna sporting Gucci’s special-edition products for UNICEF, which all feature a tattoo-style heart motif and from which 25 percent of sales will be donated to the organization that fights for children’s rights globally.

Rihanna, who created her own charity, The Believe Foundation, in 2006 to help children in need of food and medicine, said she was “blown away” by what UNICEF has achieved in Africa. “I wanted to be a part of that,” she said.

Add the allure of a luxury label like Gucci and the Barbados-born singer said she didn’t need to think twice about saying yes.

“Of course not, who would?” she laughed. “We’ve come a long way from Miss Bisou to Gucci,” she continued, referring to her first fashion campaign for the youth-oriented apparel brand. This year alone she’s represented brands from Hennes & Mauritz to Cover Girl. “We have grown a lot in the endorsement world,” she said. “It’s an honor to represent Gucci.”

And the 20-year-old artist’s first Gucci buy wasn’t by any means average.

“My first Gucci purchase, well my first expensive purchase, was a pair of python shoes with bamboo in the heel,” she recalled, adding that they were spoiled when some oil leaked in her suitcase. “You can send them to us,” Giannini said. “We’ll send them to the factory for repair.”

Rihanna confirmed that her own fashion collection is on her agenda. “I love fashion, so it’s only natural for me to want to create my own line,” she said. “But I want to be very hands-on with it all, and that’s something that takes time.”

Meanwhile she’s hoping to find time for film roles. “It’s a world I would like to experience,” she said. Giannini had one proviso, “that I can do the costumes,” she said.