Why celebrities and designers flock together

Sunday February 23 2014

Beyonce, who opened the show with a sultry performance of

Beyonce. Celebrities and fashion designers have a symbiotic relationship. PHOTO/AFP 

More by this Author

The one thing that New York Fashion Week Fall 2014 and London Fashion Week Fall 2014 reveal is that celebrities and fashion designers have a symbiotic relationship. They both need exposure, credibility, social leverage and cachet.

These relationships are not for free though. They are cemented through negotiations, and celebrities are actually paid to attend the fashion shows.

Not all celebrities are created equal. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the top celebrities to have on your show are Rihanna ($97,500; Sh8.5m), Beyonce, ($100,000; Sh8.9m), Kerry Washington ($40,000-$60,000), Blake Lively and Kim Kardashian ($50,000; Sh5m). And, apparently, if a designer does not pay, the celebrities don’t show up. The younger a celebrity is, the less she is paid, and as she keeps proving her fashion clout, she gets paid more.

Businessinsider.com indicates that bloggers and other fashion influencers can get paid anything from $2,000 to $10,000. Some fashion houses will arrange for celebrities to be flown, and pay for their accommodation, states vanityfair.com.

The less known celebrities only get clothes to wear for the shows, which they later return. Sites like fabsugar.com and fashionista.com have an interesting breakdown on who is worth what on average, breaking it down from A list to D lists.

According to fashionista.com, red carpet darlings earn “from $15,000 to generous non-monetary compensation such as flights, hotels, transportation, clothing.” Some celebrities, however, attend shows because they are friends with the designer and there is no monetary compensation.

All this, perhaps, is why a picture of Lupita Nyong’o on the front row next to the Vogue editor Anna Wintour in the just concluded New York Fashion Week went viral. For a first timer, sitting right next to the most powerful woman in fashion is pretty epic.

The front row fashionistas apparently sometimes called mocktresses, are increasingly considered transmitters of fashion but not everyone likes the idea of paying celebrities for that photo opportunity.

A London designer is quoted by telegraph.co.uk as saying that “It is so unprofessional. I have never paid a celebrity and I will never do it. It’s stupid. What do they show you in the papers after a fashion show? Not the clothes, but the celebrities who are being paid to sit at the show.”

Also, your leverage shifts from one year to the next, depending on how much publicity you are generating, and your popularity index that can be influenced by anything from your last album/movie’s success or flop, who you are dating, which fashion houses are wooing you to which magazine covers you seem to be landing. A celebrity is only as good as her buzz.

The connection

Why then, would anyone opt to do it and why is it becoming so common? First off, it is all about business. The designers think of it as PR, and they practice it because they see a return on investment. Not only does inviting a celebrity connect them to their demographic, it gives them credibility and modernity.

That is why the highest paid celebrities are entertainers who are instantly recognisable world over. They have a far reach and appeal that is international. Though it is doubtful Rihanna gets paid over Sh8 million because she will sell a dress in Nairobi!

With the rise of Instagram and Twitter, celebrities are like mini-leaders with their own constituents. Fans and followers already know what you stand for.

In instances where a celebrity has a relationship such as a contract or endorsement deal with a fashion house, part of that contractual obligation may be to attend fashion shows. Celebrities also need to do their part and stay on top of their fashion game to maintain that status.

Some have crashed and burned so badly they have been banned from sitting at the front row of any self-respecting designers showcase. What does this mean for Kenya? Well, so far, not much. Becoming a fashion icon locally is not an easy task.

There aren’t many legitimate opportunities that allow you to shine. That doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. It takes fashion-forward thinking on both the fashion industry’s part, and the positioning of one self as a celebrity.