Oscars red carpet a cut-throat marketplace
WHEN Jennifer Lawrence tripped on her way to accept her best actress Oscar last year, her blush pink princess-like Dior Haute Couture gown was captured in all its glory as the unscripted moment made ripples around the world.
That bonus air-time for a single dress at one of the world's premier global events is priceless for the likes of Dior, one of the strongest fashion houses in the cut-throat marketplace that the Oscars red carpet is today.
Success on the red carpet can buy cachet that no advertising can - both for designers and stars - and profits for luxury brands for years to come. With stakes that high, the more established houses are raising their game and leaving little room for newcomers to make a splash, like they might have a decade ago.
The red carpet, which will be televised live before the March 2 Academy Awards ceremony, presents "a great and free opportunity" for a designer to reach an audience that expands beyond the fashion set, said Mr Ariel Foxman, editor of fashion magazine InStyle.
"It's free marketing," he said. "Advertising dollars are so expensive, and marketing budgets are so fractured these days with social media, digital media, print media and television media, so it's more valuable than ever."
One way of estimating the monetary benefits of having a standout dress on the red carpet is to compare how much a brand would otherwise spend on commercial advertising for the same duration, said Mr Milton Pedraza, chief executive officer of the Luxury Group Institute, a consulting firm.
For Lawrence's Oscar acceptance speech and accidental trip on the stairs to the stage last year, she had more than 75 seconds of solo camera time. For a commercial spot of the same duration at the same time, Dior would have had to pay more than US$4 million (S$5 million). And this doesn't include the time dedicated to Lawrence and her gown on the pre-show televised red carpet.
While the Oscars has launched newcomer designers such as Olivier Theyskens, worn by Madonna in 1998, and Elie Saab, donned by Halle Berry when she won best actress in 2002, the big names in fashion don't leave much room for new talent anymore, said Hollywood fashion publicist Marilyn Heston.
Ms Heston, the founder of publicity firm MHA Media whose success stories include introducing Jimmy Choo shoes and Lebanese designer Saab to Hollywood, said the Oscars red carpet is today dominated by established luxury brands.
Mr Pedraza said that the ultimate coup for a designer is to dress a young rising star on the Oscars red carpet, as fashion houses are trying to appeal to millennials who are likely to become customers as they earn more money.
This year, all eyes are on 12 Years A Slave best supporting actress nominee Lupita Nyong'o, who has so far captivated fashion critics with her vibrant colour choices.
From a vermillion Ralph Lauren column gown with a cape at the Golden Globes, a turquoise figure-hugging Gucci dress with a floral detailed neckline at the Screen ActorS Guild Awards, to a jade Dior Haute Couture gown at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts film awards in London, the 30-year-old actress has topped the best-dressed lists.