How Much Celebrities Get Paid, & More Secrets From Red Carpet Insiders

When you’re watching the red carpet through a screen, it seems like a pretty simple process. A celebrity arrives at an event, walks down a length of carpet, talks with a few media people along the way, and stops for a photo op. There’s nothing very complicated about it, and, for laymen, the most controversial aspects might have to do with the fact that there’s too much importance placed on the fashion. Reese Witherspoon started the hashtag campaign #askhermore, to demand that female celebrities be interviewed in a more respectful way, focusing less on what they’re wearing and put the spotlight on their other achievements. “We’re more than just our dresses,” Witherspoon said in an interview. But, some (including the staff at Refinery29) have argued that #askhermore ignores the actual purpose of the red carpet: it's a money-making marketing event that benefits the fashion industry and the celebrities that profit from the whole spectacle. And honestly, they’re profiting a lot.   Convening at the Savannah College of Art and Design’s annual SCADstyle presentation series, The New York Times' Vanessa Friedman interviewed a panel of the power players who help fuel the red carpet industry, including ready-to-wear designer Juan Carlos Obando, jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth, and Edie Parker designer Brett Heyman. What they had to divulge was a candid, eye-opening look into just how much money and power gets passed around in the few paces it takes a celeb to walk from their car to the entrance.     
Photo: Dave Hogan/Getty Images.
Celebrities get paid for wearing certain designers. They get paid a lot. 
Vanessa Friedman: “In 2008, Charlize Theron was sued by the watch company Raymond Weil because she wore a Dior watch to SXSW when she was supposed to be wearing a Raymond Weil watch. And, because of that, the income that she derived from wearing certain brands on the red carpet was published. "In 2006, for example, [she received] $50,000 for wearing two Chopard pieces to the BAFTAs. She got $200,000 for wearing Chopard to the Oscars. She didn’t get any money for wearing Cartier to the Globes, but she did receive a $35,000 ring, a $7,500 bracelet, and $8,000 earrings. So she got $50,000 or so worth of gifts in return." The magazines that inspire people to shop the most might not be what you think.
Brett Heyman: “When I launched Edie Parker, I had a little half-page in Vogue and I thought, ‘That’s it. I’m a huge success. The doors are gonna come off.’ But, I got very few calls. At the same time, it was around the Met [Ball] and Kate Hudson wore a bag, and it ran in Us Weekly. I got a million calls about it. That’s how Bergdorf Goodman found me and picked me up. And now, every time we’re in Us Weekly or in any kind of weekly, it draws traffic to our website, which gets people to buy.”
Photo: Karwai Tang/Getty Images.
Some people are fighting to dress Kim Kardashian. But there are also some people who are fighting to not dress her.
Juan Carlos Obando: We had an amazing experience a few months ago with Kim Kardashian. [We discussed whether it was] the right thing for us to do — I personally didn’t have an issue with her. It was insane for us to see her wear this dress, and then two days later it was sold out in every single Barneys. For us, it was a business move.” Irene Neuwirth: “I’ve gone such a different path and I don’t know if that’s necessarily a good or a bad thing, but I was like actively preventing Kim Kardashian from buying my jewelry.” The most powerful person on the red carpet is actually the most overlooked one.
JCO: “Never underestimate the power of the stylist’s assistant. We have learned that in such a [big] way. That’s the best advice I can give you. We work with people now that were the assistant of the assistant of the assistant. And now, they’re dressing Nicole Kidman. In fashion, build ourselves up, and I think it’s super important to understand that — especially in the celebrity aspect where it can be very incestuous because there’s so much back and forth.”
Photo: Karwai Tang/Getty Images.
There are people who exist who will impulse buy a $500,000 bracelet. Or even two of them. 
IN: “[When] Julianne Moore [attended the Met Ball], that was exciting because we made these really big, over-the-top emerald cuffs and they sold right away. They were $150,000 each. I had never made anything that was that expensive at that time. [Sometimes] when we have someone wearing something down the red carpet, we’ll have a store call us while they’re walking down the red carpet, and the piece will be sold before the ceremony even starts." Designers sometimes will make the equivalent of three collections each season. 
VF: “I was talking to Francisco Costa, the designer for Calvin Klein, and he said, ‘I effectively make three collections. I make a runway collection, I make a showroom collection, and I make a red carpet collection.’ Because, oftentimes, what celebrities want to wear on the red carpet is not the kind of thing that we think of as ‘real fashion,’ you know. They want the mermaid dress. They want to be sort of skinny here and big there and they want this shown and that shown.”
Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.
Selling your soul is part of the deal. 
BH: “The only time I squirm is when people request bespoke bags, and I think the word is a little…you know. I mean like dirty words that I wouldn’t say, but I’m always sort of embarrassed. Someone once had the name of a movie they’re premiering. And I said, ‘I think that’s a little cheesy,’ but if someone wants to wear it, then I go with it usually. So, I guess I sell my soul.” JCO: “When you have the opportunity to dress somebody and you’re a small company, you are gonna do it. There’s no way around it. We can all talk about protecting the brand, but at the end of the day, we are a sales organization. If there are no sales, there’s no organization.” If #AskHerMore is a hypocrisy.
BH: “I think that was so misguided. Yes, let’s talk about more than just what you’re wearing, but as a celebrity, I think it’s so hypocritical. You’ve received tens of thousands of dollars of free clothes and jewelry, and a bag, and you can’t be bothered to tell everybody what you’re wearing? I think it was Reese [Witherspoon] who championed it, and she was saying that all the men get asked about the movie roles and all we get asked about are the clothes. And, I think that’s because people don’t really care about what the men are wearing, but you know — you can talk about both. The idea of being offended by someone asking you what you’re wearing on the red carpet after you’ve dressed for the red carpet is ridiculous.” VF: “Personally, I found that [hashtag] ridiculous from the business aspect of wearing the clothes. I mean wouldn’t it be great if Ryan Seacrest said ‘Hey, how much did they pay you to wear that dress?’”   

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