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When twice-nominated actress Chandra Wilson arrived at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards, it might have seemed the star--known for her role as the no-nonsense director of interns on Grey's Anatomy--simply traded her scrubs for haute couture and hit the red carpet.
The gown, the costume jewelry, everything that they wore on the evening of Sept. 20, was the product of months of intense planning.
"Once I found out they was nominated, I started literally, that day, making phone calls, and I already had an idea of who I wanted her to wear," says Sharon Gary, Wilson's stylist for the past three years.
But this seemingly seamless and significant red-carpet moment and others like it are the result of an intricate web of relationship building between the stylists, public relations reps and designers who help shape the Hollywood apparel and jewelry trends that often resurface, in some manner, on Main Street.
Five months, three Pamela Rolland gown as well as a suite of Chopard fashion costume jewelry later, Wilson appeared on tv screens across the nation, glowing and carefree.
While such placements clearly mean large bucks--and large exposure--for the designers whose loaned-out pieces land on the ears and necks of a Demi Moore or an Anne Hathaway, they need not be the only beneficiaries. With a little bit of initiative, insiders say, retailers and other designers can jump in.
To decipher the world of red-carpet placements, National Jeweler visited Los Angeles a week before the 2009 Primetime Emmy Awards for a behind-the-scenes look at the celebrity placement game for jewelry. (To check out photos, jump to our 10X blog.)
As Ann Mangini, owner of Santa Monica, Calif.-based Rafinity puts it, "We are an Entertainment Tonight-driven society, they are an Access Hollywood society."
While some retailers claim customers pay no mind to celebrity culture, others are as plugged in as their customers.
"Clearly, the celebrity culture has an influence when you think about the popularity of [the tabloid magazines]," Cullen says. "People are obsessed with what celebrities are doing, what is going on with them."
Jen Cullen of Luxury Brand Group, a marketing and branding agency based in Newport Beach, Calif., points to the popularity of magazine titles, such as US Weekly.
A start in the showroom
Celebrity looks often start with companies such as D'Orazio and Associates, a public relations firm with a sleek, Zen-like showroom where stylists and celebrities scan vitrines full of jewelry, set beside floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook Beverly Hills, far below.
Such possibilities kept company owner Ginnina D'Orazio buzzing: Three week before the Primetime Emmy Awards, they handled back-to-back appointments with stylists and editors seeking jewelry for events or photo shoots.
The 4,000-square-foot office plays host to a cadre of top Hollywood stylists, including influential trendsetters such as Jennifer Rade, a stylist for Angelina Jolie who was behind her 2009 Academy Awards look, among others. (Recall the large emerald drop earrings by Lorraine Schwartz that Jolie wore with a strapless black gown? That was Rade.)
D'Orazio's list of designer clients include red-carpet darling Amrapali, Spanish brand Hellmuth, Le Vian, Siera, Yvel, Paolo Costagli, Sutra and Carrera y Carrera.
Lately, the top choices have been giant cocktail rings; delicate, stacking bangle bracelets; airy cuff bracelets featuring openwork; little drop earrings; and pieces featuring geometric motifs. Preferred metals are those of a pewter or gunmetal hue, they adds, a trend that has also proliferated on the Fashion Week runways for spring and fall.
"We used to do a lot of marketing, but they seldom got the same feedback as with our PR placements," Istanboulian says. "The rest of the world, they are not in to names and branding as much as in the U.S. In the U.S., three time you are a brand, everyone wants you and wants what the celebrity is w