February 5, 2008 / 1:24 PM / 10 years ago

New York fashion elites split over red carpets

NEW YORK (Reuters) - As hope grows the Oscars will escape the Hollywood writers’ strike, experts at New York Fashion Week are split among some saying the industry needs red carpet events and others not bothered by their absence.

Singers Fergie (L) and Rihanna (R) pose with designer Max Azria after the 2008/2009 fall collection show during New York Fashion Week February 4, 2008. For top designers like Azria, celebrity events are important, but he said his business would not be hurt by the loss of the Golden Globes or potential Oscars' cancellation. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Designer Rubin Singer, who showed his second collection at fashion week on Friday, said he spent about $35,000 preparing to dress singer Shakira and two other actresses for the scaled-down Golden Globes ceremony last month.

“For a small business like mine it’s imperative for us to get this kind of exposure because we don’t have the dollars ... (for) advertising campaigns,” Singer told Reuters. “We depend so much on people wearing the clothes in the public eye.”

“Mass media exposure of an A-list star wearing your dress is almost incalculable, it’s millions of dollars worth of exposure,” he said.

Singer said Lebanese designer Elie Saab went from being unknown to a top designer in the United States after dressing Halle Berry when she won an Oscar in 2002 for “Monster’s Ball.”

But for designer Carmen Marc Valvo, the cancellation of the Golden Globes ceremony was a relief.

“The awards are very close to the New York collections and there is always the question of what do we concentrate on — red carpet or runway,” he said. “Of course, red carpet offers the greater publicity, but there is never a guarantee that the celebrity will actually wear the dress.”

Red carpet events are fiercely competitive and designers often don’t know who will wear their dress until that day — something that can mean huge magazine and television exposure.


Top designer Max Azria acknowledged that celebrity events were important, but said his business would not be hurt by the loss of the Golden Globes or potential Oscars’ cancellation.

“It’s not that they have a huge impact on my business, but seeing stars in beautiful clothing is part of the glamour that makes fashion so exciting,” he said.

New York-based French designer Catherine Malandrino also said that while she had dressed several celebrities — including actresses Charlize Theron and Elizabeth Hurley — for red carpet events, her business would not suffer either.

“Even if they don’t wear it at this specific event, eventually, they will wear it to another event,” she said.

Some 10,500 Writers Guild of America members went on strike in November and since then television production of scripted comedies and dramas has ground to a near halt, films have been delayed and Hollywood’s awards season has been curtailed.

The Screen Actors Guild Awards has been the only red carpet event, but hopes are growing the Academy Awards will also go on as usual on February 24 with reports that striking writers and studios have agreed terms of deal that could end the labor strife this week.


Analysts say the lack of exposure to the latest fashions could dull consumer enthusiasm for new clothes.

“People (will) find a reason to shop in their cupboards, or buy the basics. That’s not what we need if we want some vitality,” said Wendy Leibmann of consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail. “People need to be reminded that if they’ve got a little bit to spend, get out there and spend it.”

David Wolfe, creative director of the trend forecaster The Doneger Group, agreed, saying seeing stars on the red carpet “hypes interest in fashion” even if most women cannot buy an expensive designer dress just because a celebrity wore it.

And retail consultant Patty Pao said companies who reproduce less expensive variations on designer dresses would suffer if there were no Oscars red carpet.

“They make a lot of money interpreting the Oscar looks into prom gowns, so the trickle down effect is gone,” she said.

But their is a bright side to the strike-plagued red carpets according to stylist Patricia Fields, known for her work on TV’s “Sex and the City” and Oscar nominated for costume design for “The Devil Wears Prada.”

“Nobody is going to be there so (designers) don’t have worry ‘Oh, if I don’t go the other designers are going to get ahead of me,”‘ she said. “Everybody’s off — so go to the seashore and enjoy yourself.”

(Additional reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Martine Geller and Jan Paschal)

Actress Katrina Bowden and socialite Nicky Hilton (R) attend the Sass & Bide 2008/2009 fall collection fashion show at New York Fashion Week, February 2, 2008. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Editing by Mark Egan and Eric Beech

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