It's not a secret that celebrities get paid to sit front row at fashion shows. We've covered this phenomenon in the past, noting that some celebs may get up to $100,000. And just this week, the New York Post reported on the topic again.
But contrary to the Post's story, which posits that brands are still shelling out for celebs, we believe this trend is on its way out.
Industry sources tell us that fewer brands are willing to pay to get celebrities to sit front row than they were a couple of years ago. According to our sources (who wish to remain anonymous), the 'golden age' of paying celebrities to sit front row happened in 2007 and 2008.
In 2008, for instance, Rihanna, Fergie, Zoe Saldana, Malin Ackerman, Amy Smart, Brittany Murphy, Jaime King, Mandy Moore, Joss Stone, Joy Bryant, and Ginnifer Goodwin all attended at least one Max Azria show. In 2012, the brand pulled less A-listers: Olivia Palermo, Jessica White, Petra Nemcova, Whitney Port, and Daisy Fuentes.
"I certainly have clients that no longer pay celebrities, though they used to," one insider told us. Instead, compensation in the form of free flights, hotel stays, car service, access to a makeup artist and, of course, a huge clothing gift, sometimes worth as much as $5,000, is more common. And those brands that used to offer those sorts of non-monetary remuneration like flights and clothing gifts a few years ago, are no longer doing that either.
"Budgets have dried up," our source said.
While the shaky financial times are partially to blame for the decrease in celebs at shows, over-saturation is a problem, too. New York fashion week has become so media and celebrity saturated, that the pay-off of having a B or C-lister at your show is no longer worth it. "There are certain celebrities that even though they're a good person to have at your show, if they're going to go to seven other shows that week, it's not really worth it to pay them." If a celebrity is popping up everywhere during fashion week, a photo of her at your show is going to be far less impactful.
Which is why, when celebrities do get paid actual money to sit front row, publicists usually try to ensure it's the only show they attend that week. If there's an exclusivity deal in place, the price tag for any given A-lister will go up.
According to our tipster: "[Price is determined by] a ratio, a matrix: How famous are they, or how much do their pictures get picked up? And if their pictures get picked up a lot, like say it's a Kourtney Kardashian, do we want that person at our show, associated with our brand? Some clients would, some clients wouldn't. And then there's the exclusivity side of it--are they just going to our show or are they doing other shows too? If other brands are getting them, are we getting them first, second, last?"
All of these considerations go into determining the amount of money a brand is willing to pay a celebrity. If a celebrity meets all the right criteria, then brands that have the budget are willing to throw down considerable dollars. "I can tell you for certain, there are people getting paid $100,000--absolutely," one of our sources said. Otherwise, you're looking at a much, much lower price range--sometimes just a few grand.
"I think reality TV stars drove the price down," one source said. "I think ultimately brands started thinking 'I can get the same amount of photos and it will cost less if I get a few reality TV stars in my front row, versus paying one A-lister a ton of money.'"
Still, it's only the big-name commercial brands--the DVFs, the Carolina Herreras, the DKNYs, the Tommy Hilfigers--that have the kind of budget available to even consider paying a celeb to attend. Brands like Proenza Schouler, Rodarte, and Altuzzara, as star-studded as their front rows may be, probably don't pay anybody to attend. Celebrities attend for the "cool" factor or because they're friends with the designer. In cases like Marchesa, the "compensation" may be far more ethereal: Some have theorized that a celebrity might go to the show at least partly to get into designer Georgina Chapman's husband Harvey Weinstein's good books.
Overall, though, everyone is paying less.
"Now, with collections being shown online and everything being so digital, the physical show, along with who is sitting in your front row, is just not as important anymore," our source said. "It's just not as valuable to have a bunch of celebrities, especially if they're just random reality TV stars, in your front row."
Could bloggers and editors, who've become celebs in their own right (at least on the Internet anyway), be eating away at a celebrity's attendance fee? "I think that could be true," one source said. "You might actually get more coverage, more web traffic from a certain blogger being at your show than a celebrity."
"Some bloggers like Leandra Medine or BryanBoy are celeb status at this point," another said.
So does that mean that the truly A-list bloggers, like celebs, are collecting fees to attend shows? That's a resounding 'no.' Our sources said they've never been asked for money from a blogger, though they wouldn't be surprised if free clothing or transportation were provided to the very small group of A-list bloggers.
Here's a breakdown of what celebrities get paid: A-List (like Beyonce, Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Chastain) Exclusive: $100,000 A-List Non-Exclusive: $40,000-$60,000 Red Carpet Darling (Kerry Washington, January Jones) Exclusive: $40,000-$60,000 Red Carpet Darling Non-Exclusive: From $15,000 to generous non-monetary compensation such as flights, hotels, transportation, clothing Reality TV Star/Buzzy "Celeb" (Bethenny Frankel, Kris Humphries): Between $0 and $5,000, plus non-monetary compensation depending on the brand. A-list Bloggers: $0 to possible non-monetary compensation