The pay-to-wear celeb trend isn't new or surprising (the worst-kept secret of the fashion industry might be that top-tier stars are often paid to sit in the front row at Fashion Week), but it goes even further: Celebrities are sometimes paid to wear those gorgeous gowns and sparkling jewels we see on the red carpet.
According to a recently published piece by Vanity Fair, designers will often fork over hefty wads of cash to have the 'it' girl (or guy!) of the moment appear on a red carpet in their duds.
The 'it' girl on every designer's wish list right now? Cate Blanchett. [Tweet this gossip!] "She's a fashion risk-taker and is known for going outside the box," says celebrity stylist Lindsay Albanese. "She's stunning. When you have Cate, you know you're going to get that moment on the red carpet."
She's not the only one in high demand. In 2011, Anne Hathaway was reportedly paid a whopping $750,000 by Tiffany & Co. to wear the brand's jewelry when she hosted the Oscars, while Louis Vitton shelled out $500,000 for Gwyneth Paltrow to wear its jewels on stage. And Jennifer Lawrence recently found herself in the middle of a bidding war between designers who are fighting to have her wear their dresses to this year's Oscars.
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Designers are trying to draft the top-tier talent to wear their wares, so it's all political, Albanese says. " When it comes to major award shows like the Oscars, the most notable, ready-to-wear, and couture designers have their sights set on dressing presenters, nominees, and A-list actresses. Sometimes they may only want to dress one actress that they have their heart set on." Additionally some celebrities and designers request that no one else wear a particular designer for an event if that celebrity agrees to wear it. "This is usually only an option for a nominee who is guaranteed an enormous amount of press," Albanese says.
A less glamorous aspect of the trend? B-list stars and those who don't fit into sample sizes have a harder time getting the powerhouse fashion brands to fit them, meaning they often rely on emerging or lesser-known designers for the red carpet—but aren't necessarily paid for the publicity.
Unknown designers also have a tough time getting the exposure they want, though they're not completely out of luck, Albanese says. Like most industries, getting ahead in Hollywood often is about "who you know," and if a young, up-and-coming designer is trying to land on solid ground in the unpredictable industry, his or her best bet is to try and develop a solid relationship with a reputable PR firm or stylist.
Some stars have been known to buck the trend and style themselves on and off the red carpet (Blake Lively and Helena Bonham Carter are two reportedly known for it, and Diane Kruger recently joined that group), and according to Vanity Fair, not every fashion house is offering payment: "There are a lot of stars who would be highly offended if you offered to pay them to wear something," one fashion executive told the magazine.
Still, despite the transactional nature of the trend, designers don't always know who's wearing their threads until those limo doors open and celebs actually hit the red carpet. Come Sunday night, the Oscars are going to be about much, much more than who takes home a little gold statue.
What do you think of this trend? Will you be tuning in to watch the Oscars this year? Let us know in the comments below or Tweet us @Shape_Magazine!