By  on February 21, 2008

The hallways of the Four Seasons, Peninsula and L'Ermitage hotels in Beverly Hills once looked like a Rodeo Drive of designer suites in the pre-Oscars hubbub — but this year is different.

The 14-week writers' strike that jeopardized the 80th annual extravaganza before ending last week appears to have reduced the number of gift suites. In addition, more fashion houses now have VIP salons in their boutiques and others prefer to send their sketches, gowns and celebrity dressers directly to the homes of stars and stylists.

"I spend most of my time this week working in my office, with Julie and a tailor," said stylist Tanya Gill, who is dressing best actress nominee Julie Christie. "Designers are very much focused and they just pick one or two people to work with. They deliver the things to you."

Gill has noticed there are fewer suites, though she tries to visit those that have set up shop. "It's not only respectful of all the beautiful things that get flown to Los Angeles, but it's important to see what's out there because things can change at the last minute and you have to be prepared," she said.

But the biggest names in fashion still jockey to dress top actresses and do their jewelry and makeup for the show on Sunday, which can lead to millions of dollars worth of publicity and help boost the bottom line.

The Oscars generate an estimated $130 million for the local economy alone, according to the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. This includes $51 million spent by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the ceremony and all related events; $56 million in studio spending on Oscar campaigns; $5 million in gifting and "perk" related business; $3 million on parties (this is usually $4 million but cancellations this year brought it down), and $2.5 million on hotels.

The mood in Hollywood may have affected fine jewelers the most. Many actresses didn't break out the diamonds for last month's Screen Actors Guild Awards — as proven by Marion Cotillard's pairing of a small and simple white gold Chopard pendant with diamonds to go with her Nina Ricci gown.

"A lot of people in the luxury industry have had a tough time," said Diamond Information Center director Sally Morrison. "The economy was uncertain last year....For the jewelry industry, it's a difficult moment. But for the superelite brands, it's business as usual."

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