Publicity Roulette For Accessories

Accessories manufacturers want a share of the red-carpet spotlight, but for them it's a bit of a gamble.

Accessories manufacturers want a share of the red-carpet spotlight, but for them it’s a bit of a gamble.

Although designer gowns and jewelry get more attention, companies such as Jimmy Choo and Tod’s put a lot of effort into having their shoes and evening bags worn by celebrities. And while some designers and jewelry brands are known to pay to have stars wear their creations, the practice is less frequent among smaller accessories firms that often have less capital to spend.

Paul Wilmot, owner of a namesake fashion and accessories public relations and marketing firm that represents luxury accessories makers such as Nancy Gonzalez and Schifter & Partners, said it is a particular challenge for bag and shoe firms to get attention for their goods, even once they’re placed on an A-list celebrity.

“You’ve got to go through this process of dealing with the stylists, but the stylists call in a lot of stuff [different merchandise samples]. Then, getting picked is a challenge unto itself,” Wilmot said. “The other challenge is getting the right shot, showing the product. [The media] x-rays what these stars are wearing and the payoff is terrific” — with the right photograph.

The Golden Globes this month is a case in point. Sienna Miller carried an Ocie enamel and sterling silver minaudière set with diamonds, but the bag wasn’t shown in most photographs. The same goes for Cameron Diaz, who opted for one of Tod’s Red Carpet Collection evening bags for the Globes only to hold it behind her back most of the time.

For Leiber, whose crystal bags have been a red-carpet staple for more than 40 years, that spotlight helps propel new bag trends. At the Globes, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jada Pinkett Smith carried the clutches done in oversize crystal, as opposed to the pavé look for which the company is known.

“Years ago, jewelry wasn’t such a big deal on the red carpet and now everyone says whose jewelry they’re wearing,” said Leiber creative director Frank Zambrelli, conceding that most bags don’t get mentioned. “With Leiber, the bags are so much like jewelry that celebrities like giving us credit.”

For some companies like Jimmy Choo, it’s just as important to have a presence in Los Angeles during awards season.

This story first appeared in the January 24, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“We have developed very strong relationships with celebrities and stylists who remain very loyal to Jimmy Choo,” said company president Tamara Mellon. “We provide a customized service, such as dyeing shoes to perfectly match a dress, adding jewels or crystals, playing with heel height, etc., to keep things exclusive for each celebrity.”

Mellon agreed that the mission is tough for footwear makers. “While it is challenging, everyone knows that shoes often make an outfit. The dresses tend to be quite long and cover the shoes. However, with all of the photographers on the carpet these days, we can usually find some pretty great photos. Plus, the girls on the red carpet often like to talk about what they are wearing and show off their shoes as well.”

At this year’s Globes, Jennifer Lopez, Isla Fisher, Hilary Swank and Jennifer Garner donned Choos.

“Dressing for the red carpet has really changed; it’s less about flash,” said Santiago Gonzalez, president of Nancy Gonzalez handbags, which counts Salma Hayek, Eva Longoria and Ashley Olsen among its fans. “It doesn’t boost my bottom line, but it is a fun and exclusive project, which is what Nancy Gonzalez is all about.”