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LOS ANGELES — The Golden Globe Awards will have the patina of Hollywood glamour — just a bit more low-key than usual.

From red-carpet fashions to parties and swag suites, the economic meltdown is intruding on the 66th annual show, which returns to NBC at 8 p.m. Sunday after being canceled last year because of the writers’ strike.

This story first appeared in the January 9, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

An estimated 20 million viewers could tune in to see what stars such as Angelina Jolie, Kate Winslet and Penélope Cruz will wear, and designers still hope the placements will result in increased awareness and sales. To that end, don’t expect to see everyone in plain black dresses because Wall Street is in mourning.

“My instinct is always escapism,” said Rachel Zoe, who is styling best actress nominee Anne Hathaway and presenter Cameron Diaz. “Red-carpet and awards shows to me are not pretentious. It’s an escape from reality….[In the] recession, everyone’s getting hit. People look to Hollywood for an escape. People need an escape, life is tough enough.”

New York-based jeweler Lorraine Schwartz, a red-carpet staple for Cate Blanchett and Beyoncé, said, “Watching the red carpet is an American tradition, like apple pie,” adding that stylists were looking for colorful stones in unusual cuts and settings, “which is important for the industry, because creating new ideas for customers, whether they go buy the original or a copy, is important for stimulating the economy right now.”

Still, showiness is expected to be passé. While Schwartz extolled the unique, she stressed, “It’s not about a 200-karat necklace.”

The number of awards shows this month and next, leading up to February’s Oscars — People’s Choice, Critics’ Choice and Screen Actors Guild among them — has ballooned to exhaust audience and advertiser attention. The date for the Golden Globes telecast is the earliest in the event’s history, a decision made by NBC, Dick Clark Productions and the sponsoring Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

In deference to the economic climate, Estee Stanley, who with partner Cristina Ehrlich styles supporting actress nominees Cruz and Marisa Tomei, said, “People will be elegant, but not over-the-top.”

This week, Cruz stepped out at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards in a subtle, one-shouldered Oscar de la Renta black cocktail dress and simple diamond-stud earrings by Chopard, and Tomei attended the People’s Choice awards in Los Angeles on Wednesday in a simple, strapless red Donna Karan cocktail dress balanced with a vintage collar necklace.

Hairstylist Richard Marin, who counts Cindy Crawford and Michelle Pfeiffer among his clients and is handling the tresses of Rose Byrne, a Golden Globe nominee for best supporting actress in a television series for her role in “Damages,” anticipates that simple chignons, French twists and ponytails will be markers of a toned-down trend in celebrity hairdos. “Six months ago, everybody would make the hair bigger, make it wavier, but now the whole consensus is to pull back,” said Marin.

All those tastefully done-up stars will have fewer parties to attend after the awards show and dinner in the Beverly Hilton Hotel. In the past, the hotel has hosted up to seven post-parties, but only four parties — In Style/Warner Bros.; NBC Universal/Focus Features; HBO, and AMC — had been confirmed. Among those forgoing their post-ceremony soirees are Fox, Paramount Studios and The Weinstein Co., with the latter two opting for smaller pre-parties on Saturday.

“Everyone is streamlining their events this year, and we’re having to work a lot harder to get jobs and stay within a client’s budget,” said event producer David Rodgers, who is handling AMC’s 70-person viewing party and 150-person after-party. “Events have been in question up until the 11th hour. Our contract was only signed [Wednesday]. Everyone was waiting to see if it was appropriate to do anything. Studios still want to be able to celebrate and work the press angle with a quality event, but the economy is weighing heavier.

The same goes for celebrity swag lounges. Many gift suite operators have reported a dip in vendors as brands reevaluate how best to spend their promotional budgets. Firms must pay fees to participate in such lounges in addition to the product they are gifting, and it’s getting harder to justify the expense versus the media payoff.

One exception is Mediaplacement, which has maintained the same number of vendors — 12 — as last year at the HBO Luxury Lounge, and received more than 1,000 inquiries on behalf of celebrities about patronizing the lounge, according to Mediaplacement chief executive officer Britt Johnson.

Despite the wobbly economy, Johnson said companies continue to believe gifting is a valuable tool to enhance brand recognition that remains cheaper than traditional advertising channels.

Laurie Ziegler, owner of Branded Entertainment Marketing, which puts together awards show gift bags that are sent directly to presenters and nominees, has noticed more interest from brands that normally do gift lounges.

“Suites where brands stand around and take pictures with talent will appear too indulgent and with marketing budgets cutting back, those brands will likely reevaluate their priorities,” she said. “My projects don’t charge fees for participation, but brands still need to justify every dollar spent on gifting their product with media value.”

In fact, entertainment shows like “Access Hollywood” won’t be featuring as many gift lounges in its segments. “We have been more selective about which suites we feature and those we do have a charity aspect. With the economy like this, how can we sit there and show all this?” said supervising producer Ryan Patterson.

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