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Writing it off?

Stylists and makeup artists, paparazzi and tabloids: They're holding their breath. Red carpets may be the next casualty of the writers strike.

December 30, 2007|Monica Corcoran | Times Staff Writer

With talk of writers picketing the Golden Globes, it's fairly clear which side of the red carpet they're on. That is, if anyone has the nerve to actually roll one out on Jan. 13.

Right about now, as the Hollywood award season begins to kick into gear, the outlook isn't rosy. Last week, the Writers Guild of America officially denied a waiver that would have allowed union writers to work on the show. They also denied access to film clips.

Next week's People's Choice Awards will be downsized to a videocast -- clearly, no room for a red carpet there.

The Screen Actors Guild has been granted a pass by the WGA for its Jan. 27 awards, but it's not likely that this clubby guild show -- actors emoting for actors -- will roll out a carpet during a strike.

Should major awards shows such as the Globes try to proceed as planned, actresses probably won't stroll down a press line shouting, "It's Armani!" And should the stalemate extend to Feb. 24, the Oscars could also be as somber as a shareholders meeting.

The red carpet may be considered fashion's World Series, but designers won't be the ones feeling the pain if the shows don't go on. Celebrities will still borrow, and publicists will alert the press. The real loss belongs to the unseen entourage that trails the hem of every gown and the aftermath players. Stylists, makeup artists and spray-tanners are waiting in the wings, while knockoff designers, paparazzi and even tabloids are holding their breath.

"It's a lucrative time of the year, and when the nominations get announced, we're usually signing deal memos," says stylist Christina Ehrlich, who, along with her partner Estee Stanley, dressed Penelope Cruz in a blush Versace dress at the last Academy Awards that had fashion critics swooning. "Right now, we're just waiting to hear."

The trickle-down effect will be felt all over town, and beyond. Sure, actresses will still have their hair and makeup done -- no matter the tone of the event. Think a subtle "I'm with the strikers" up-do instead of those "Me, me, me" cascading curls.

But ceremony attendees who typically clog the salons for blowouts may opt out of such primping. As of last week, Frederic Fekkai -- which usually opens on that Sunday for Globes goers -- had yet to commit. The receptionist was taking names for a "maybe" list, rather than making appointments.

Then there are the paparazzi and the photo services such as Wire Image and subsequent sales for magazines InStyle, People and the celebrity tabloids. "It's all about money for us," says one high-profile photographer. "Just like it is for the writers, I guess."

A season sans carpet won't grossly affect the bottom line at fashion houses, though. The exposure of having a dress worn to the Oscars -- with its 41.5 million viewers in 2007-- is priceless, but do women really dash out to drop $8,000 on a Versace gown because they saw it on Cruz? Probably not.

More likely, knockoff designers such as Allen B. Schwartz for A.B.S. will feel the pinch of carpet-free shows. A.B.S. had a $387 knockoff of Cameron Diaz's 2007 white Valentino Oscar gown in store within days of the telecast.

Domenico Dolce of Dolce & Gabbana recently told Women's Wear Daily there's no shortage of international red carpets. "For this reason, if, for example, the Oscars were to be canceled, we would not be worried that much from a business point of view," he said. Roberto Cavalli summed it up even better: "It's true that Oscars bring us a lot of work, but personally I've always taken it as pure fun. Without any doubt, getting stuff on the red carpet propels a brand in the realm of dreams. However, to be honest, it's the ego, the designer's own vanity that really gets flattered by being featured on the red carpet."

Vanity aside, the Globes and Oscars are the undisputed heavyweights when it comes to spawning trends. After Reese Witherspoon wore a yellow Nina Ricci dress to last year's Globes, the sunny hue suddenly appeared everywhere.

In that case, Cannes could be a clash of the fashion titans, with designers vying for every inch of the anatomy, from ankle to ear lobe. That could even mean a doubling of secret contract fees -- reported to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Globes or Oscars -- to wear a certain brand.

Competition for exposure at other notable film festivals -- such as Venice and Toronto -- could make the carpet even bloodier too. (Gucci, which bestows a special award to a film artist in Venice every year, may have a bronzed leg up on the other designers.)

Either way, as of last week, a few gifting suites and some jewelers may have been in denial. Tiffany & Co. sent out invites to a Jan. 29 preview of its red carpet baubles, while one Globes suite organizer sheepishly announced that it would be auctioning off all items worn by celebrities -- to benefit the WGA.


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