Fans lined Hollywood Boulevard in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, waiting hours to glimpse stars at the premiere of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” the first blockbuster of the summer movie season.
Celebrities such as Fergie, wearing Vena Cava, didn’t disappoint them or the photographers and cameramen who crowded the red carpet to transmit images around the world.
That scene was replayed at Cannes last month, as throngs waited behind barricades at the Palais de Festivals to watch stars like Angelina Jolie, in Atelier Versace, alight the famous steps.
Although $1,120-a-pound caviar and pricey bottles of Veuve Clicquot are less ubiquitous on the scaled-down premiere circuit this season, the red carpet endures as a key branding and marketing tool for designers. It is a relatively low-cost but potentially powerful vehicle for fashion houses to promote their offerings, as well as an essential element for producers to draw the attention of the movie-going public to a season featuring such megafilms as “Star Trek,” “Terminator: Salvation” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”
The red carpet has always been important,” said Sidney Toledano, president and chief executive officer of Christian Dior. “You need the Hollywood [axis], and you need Cannes. It’s very important for the fashion world to be close to actresses.”
Red carpets cost an average of $50,000 to stage in Los Angeles, including the cost of the theater, security, ticketing staff and transportation, and expenditures can double for the largest events. Luckily for designers, studios shoulder those costs, which are a relative pittance of their overall marketing expenses in the tens of millions.
“The trend of designers wanting to dress celebrities is a booming business,” said James Grant, ceo of Starworks, an agency that packages celebrity ad campaigns and editorial placement. “Beauty sells, and when the economy is down in the dumps, people want to be inspired.”
Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman pointed out, “Because they’re custom-made dresses, you don’t get an automatic retail impact, but it’s an amazing tool. When customers who are working women, aspirational women, see a dress on an actress, it’s different from seeing something in a show. A customer can see how it’s been transformed from the runway to the red carpet.”
There are few, if any, tableaus that pack the publicity punch of a starlet walking the gauntlet in a designer creation. The importance of those strolls is intensified as designers and retailers seek every advantage to entice shoppers who are cutting back because of the troubled economic climate.
“A red carpet is a world stage and an important way to see our designs come to life,” said Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, who, like Toledano, hosted their own fetes in Cannes, a surefire way to ensure that celebrities show up in their wares.
Added Esteban Cortazar, chief designer of Emanuel Ungaro, who dressed actress Lynn Collins for her “X-Men Origins” premiere, “It’s a great way to reinvent the collection by styling it differently according to different actresses’ personalities and looks.”
To that end, many designers have staffers dedicated to placing their clothes on celebrities year-round. Between Hollywood blockbusters and film festivals, summer is almost as busy as awards season. Designers themselves often travel to see to it that their dresses get worn on red carpets.
“Hollywood is an important market for us, and we follow the cinema all year,” said Alberta Ferretti, who travels to Los Angeles three to four times a year for events and celebrity fittings, and also makes stops in Cannes.
Those behind the scenes on movie production are also keenly aware of the link between fashion and film.
“A red-carpet premiere is one more way to get into peoples’ consciousness,” said Lauren Schuler Donner, producer of “X-Men Origins.” When they see a photo of Halle Berry, they read to see where she was, and it gets them thinking about the movie. Mission accomplished. Because of the economy, we chose not to have an after party, but our red carpet was covered, and I think it was just as effective.”
Although a studio executive, who asked not to be identified, said, “The red carpet will never go away,” Schuler Donner is less sanguine.
“Normally we bring all the stars to Europe for international premieres, and we didn’t do that this year because of expenses,” she said. “Now that we’ve cut the party, who knows? The red carpet has worked since time immemorial so there’s no reason to think it will disappear, but there is a lot of uncertainty in this economy.”
Despite all of the anxiety, the movie industry is on track to gross record ticket sales this summer. “X-Men Origins” grossed $87 million on its opening weekend in the U.S., and “Star Trek” grossed $79.2 million. The year-to-date box office is already almost $3.24 billion, 16.4 percent more than last year, according to Media By Numbers.
Still to come this summer season is fantasy fare such as “Land of the Lost,” “Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince” and comedies like “Bruno” and “Funny People,” among others.
So the opportunities will be plentiful for designers looking to inspire women to open their wallets.
“A lot of the clothes we do for the runway are perfect for the red carpet, which is important from a p.r. perspective….Ultimately, we want to design clothes that real women want to buy,” said BCBG’s Max Azria.
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye