Oscars Red Carpet: Pay-to-wear a red carpet trend for stars, fashion brands

Sandy Kenyon Image
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Oscars Red Carpet: Pay-to-wear a red carpet trend for stars, fashion brands
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Sandy Kenyon reports on fashion brands and stars looking to make their name on the Oscars Red Carpet.

NEW YORK, New York (WABC) -- Art and commerce have gone hand-in-hand in Hollywood ever since the first Academy Awards were given out 90 years ago, but the focus on fashion has grown more intense during the past decade.

Oscars Red Carpet has become a global marketing opportunity, and the Hollywood Reporter says a star can get paid up to $200,000 to wear a single dress one time.

"At a show like the Oscars, the majority of things you see on the red carpet have been paid for in one way or another," reporter Vincent Boucher said. "Either through long-term contracts or one-time deals."

Charlize Theron's long-term contract with Dior began back in 2004, and since then, the deal has reportedly paid her tens of millions of dollars -- so naturally she wore a Dior gown to the Golden Globes where Lady Gaga wore a stunning Tiffany necklace.

In an Instagram post, she noted this was a "paid partnership," and her necklace was an homage to her Oscar-nominated role in "A Star Is Born."

"Oscar night really has two shows," jeweler-to-the-stars Greg Kwiat said. "There's the fashion show that happens on the red carpet, and then, everyone goes inside and celebrates film."

Kwiat has walked the bridge between art and commerce many times, but his firm Kwiat/Fred Leighton does not pay stars to borrow his company's jewels.

Fashion designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka do not accept money from stars for gowns they design, which they let the stars borrow for the red carpet.

"It's a personal transaction, not a commercial one," Mischka said. "It's really important for us to keep it that way."

But they both acknowledge pay-to-wear has become a common practice.

"All the big European houses," Badgley said. "If you're a huge luxury firm, they're all in the game."

He also said it's a form of advertising for those firms on the world's most important fashion runway.

Boucher, who wrote the Hollywood Reporter story, points out this is especially effective.

"You are cutting through the clutter of other advertising efforts," he said. "The old question of 'who are you wearing' should be replaced by 'who paid you to wear that?'"

Boucher spent weeks reporting the pay-to-wear story and found very few insiders willing to talk on the record. He said a lot of stylists to the stars "went running the other way" when they learned he was going to write about this practice.

"Hollywood has always been about illusions, and I think this is another instance when nobody wants to disturb the wonderful illusion," he said.

RELATED: Everything to know about Oscars 2019

Don't miss the Oscars LIVE on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. ET | 5 p.m. PT on ABC.