Oscars Evolve With Economy

From Sharon Stone to Ginnifer Goodwin, the 40-person table beneath the stone colonnade at the Chateau Marmont here was filled with Champagne-drinking stars.

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Workers roll out the red carpet.

Photo By Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Dior Beauty’s Chateau Marmont event.

Photo By Donato Sardella

LOS ANGELES — From Sharon Stone to Ginnifer Goodwin, the 40-person table beneath the stone colonnade at the Chateau Marmont here was filled with Champagne-drinking stars.

It appeared to be business as usual for Dior Beauty, back to host its sixth annual Oscar week dinner on Tuesday night.

With the worldwide economy in turmoil, glamour lives in the run-up to Hollywood’s annual Academy Awards extravaganza on Sunday night, but brands are finding ways to save a buck: staging a cocktail party instead of a dinner, flying in fewer staffers or cutting back on or eliminating gift suites.

Some New York-based jewelers, including Kwiat, have not returned with Oscar week suites. Others, such as Verdura, are bringing select pieces for one-on-one stylist appointments. Harry Winston and Chopard, which have stores on Rodeo Drive, are simply working out of their boutiques.

Even at Dior Beauty, where Oscar week marketing has been a significant piece of the events budget, cuts have been made. The Chateau Marmont dinner was identical to last year’s, but the company will eliminate its presence at the Independent Spirit Awards talent lounge, the day before the Oscars, for the first time in five years. It also trimmed the staff that comes to Los Angeles.

“Having a presence in L.A. during Oscar week remains important for our brand image, but just like with everything else, we need to adapt and adjust,” said Dianne Vavra, Dior Beauty spokeswoman.

In terms of what to expect on the red carpet, a general consensus is forming that the emphasis on glamour will be about the same as ever.

“It’s still the Oscars,” said Elizabeth Stewart, a Hollywood stylist who works with Calista Flockhart and Kristin Davis. “It may be a little more toned down, but the few awards shows so far have generally been business as usual.”

Jennifer Lopez said the question of what looks appropriate is slightly ridiculous because nothing people wear to events is anything more than public relations for the designers.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with playing dress up right now,” she said. “Who wouldn’t want to wear borrowed dresses and borrowed jewelry? And anyway, I think you can get criticized if you’re wearing borrowed dresses now because it’s borrowed, and I think you can get criticized for it if it’s not because you bought it during the current economy. So I say do what makes you happy and wear what you want because the only thing that really matters is if your mother calls you up the next day and says, ‘What were you wearing?’”

Almost every major fashion house (Oscar, Donna, Ralph, Chanel, Gucci, Versace, Dior, Armani among them) is cooking up a gown in hopes that a stylist and her celebrity client will choose it. There are many approaches to the game. Some houses, such as Armani, Prada, Versace and Dior have staffers based in Beverly Hills who work year-round on VIP dressing. Others, such as Ralph Lauren and Oscar de la Renta, have sent New York-based staffers to Los Angeles to facilitate fittings in years past. Several of those brands aren’t in town this year because of New York Fashion Week. Still others, including Donna Karan, Vera Wang, Caroline Herrera and Narciso Rodriguez, work with stylists and celebrities when they are in New York.

“I’m the stylist who takes a dress right off the runway and on the plane with me back to L.A.,” said Rachel Zoe. “You do what you need to do.”


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