Big-name designers spend millions on ad campaigns — but it turns out they can pay an additional price to make sure their styles are seen on A-list celebrities for events like the Oscars and Grammys. The fees for actresses like Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway to wear a fabulous gown or diamond jewelry can be as high as $750,000. Some call it the industry's "dirty little secret" because it's "really aggressive" and "there are hundreds of thousands of dollars spent." But other top stylists say there is nothing wrong with the practice.
[ Photos: 2013 Golden Globes red carpet report card ]
"Of course it happens. I'm an advocate for it," says stylist Jessica Paster, who has worked with award show favorites including Cate Blanchett and Dakota Fanning, and says it is similar to advertising for a company. "If a celebrity wants to endorse a certain line, why shouldn't they? If they love the line, why not?"
Paster says the "dream" celebrities that fashion and jewelry houses pursue (and pay) are the nominees during award season. "It happens more for big award shows," she says. "Or designers ask if celebs can endorse them for a year and go to shows. What they are trying to do is start a relationship with the actor that lasts beyond the Oscars. If designers are enamored with actresses who are high-profile and it makes sense, there is nothing wrong with that. It is seen like an endorsement or an ambassador."
One designer has spent years lending million-dollar jewels to red-carpet stars. The jewels are always lent for free (with the occasional thank-you token for the celebrity, like a diamond necklace or pendant). However, some of the jewelry heavyweights — like Chopard and Tiffany & Co. — began to throw in big figures to lure celebrities. "Chopard was the one who got that going and started giving people checks for wearing their jewelry," says a source, who adds that representatives for celebrities like Kate Winslet and Marion Cotillard often set up the deals for their clients (much like a film or commercial).
"The designers were getting free press, so the agents and managers got involved in negotiating it like an endorsement deal," says the jeweler. "Chopard was paying well into six figures. Agents and managers don't bother if it is only 10 or 20 grand, because they are also getting a cut, so it needs to be worth it."
Jennifer Lawrence, who recently wore Chopard at the Critics' Choice Movie Awards, was said to have been paid $100,000 to wear Chopard earrings at this year's Golden Globe Awards. And that number pales in comparison to what Hathaway reportedly earned during the 2011 Oscars. "When Anne Hathaway hosted the Oscars with James Franco, Tiffany's was rumored to have paid her $750,000 to wear their jewelry," says the jewelry insider, who spoke to Tiffany's about the reported number and says they didn't deny it.
While some stylists vent that being locked into one designer can limit creativity, Paster is not complaining, as long as the gowns and jewels are beautiful. Representatives for Tiffany & Co. and Chopard did not respond to requests for comments.