The Dirt On How Celebrities Get Free Clothes

July 8, 2016 by Sara Alderman
shefinds | Celebrity

You’re probably familiar with the idea of celebrities borrowing or being gifted clothes, but unless you’re part of the fashion industry, you might not know much more than that. Of course Jennifer Lawrence is going to wear Dior to the Oscars; she is the face of the brand. But she doesn’t get to keep the haute couture gown after all the trophies are handed out. However, what celebrities wear on a day-to-day basis (jeans, dresses, handbags) is usually gifted to them by a brand through public relations agencies. This is a practice called “celebrity seeding.” Think of it like product placement you see in movies and TV shows, just on a Kardashian’s (or whoever’s) body. A successful seeding can be measured by whether or not the “endorsed” product takes off, like Mara Hoffman bathing suits. So before you drop $200 on a bikini, you should know celebrities didn’t actually buy one because they liked it. More often than not, celebrity seeding is what’s really driving trends.

Which Celebs Make The Cut

Seeding begins when a brand and/or PR agency identifies certain factors they are looking for when dressing a celebrity: their image, who is being photographed often, who has a specific style that will fit the brand and, most importantly, who has an audience. One PR exec says, “If given the choice to gift Lindsay Lohan or Selena Gomez, one might be more inclined to choose Selena. She has a great image, is photographed often and is known for her great style.” They don’t necessarily need a big project coming out, as long as the desired criteria is met. Kenneth Loo, “the one in charge” (his words, not ours) at creative marketing firm Kenwerks adds, “I usually recommend clients to steer clear of controversy, reality stars and any celebrities that attract bad press.” However, all of these rules can go out the window if a brand presents a “wish list” of celebrities to dress based on personal opinions.

What They Get To Keep & What Goes Back

Once a finalized list of gifts is created, (roughly 20 pieces per month for smaller brands, 60 per month for bigger ones), packages are prepared with notes and informational materials. Kenneth says, “One of the biggest mistakes that companies do is just dumping product in a box and sending to celebrities.” His agency always follows up on their gifts whenever applicable.

Sometimes, celebrities do not always wear what they are sent for various reasons. They might not be allowed to accept gifts per their job (like TV hosts) or from existing contracts with different brands. Other times they might just straight up not like the clothes and will never wear them. So in these situations, it is not unlikely for a celebrity to send back the free clothes they receive. One PR exec says they see returned pieces as feedback. It allows an agency to better gauge what styles a certain person may or may not want to wear in the future.

So, Where Does A Stylist Fit In?

A stylist’s job is to make sure their client looks good for anything, whether it’s an appearance on The Tonight Show or grabbing a cup of coffee. They also work with celebrities to define an individual style. This begins by determining what type of appearance the celebrity wants to go for and then a wardrobe makeover happens. From then on, the stylist goes shopping and puts together outfits for their client based on the defined style.

Ilaria Urbinati is a celebrity stylist who has worked with Nina DobrevBradley CooperElle FanningRyan Reynolds and Emmy Rossum. She says the most important thing about deciding who to work with is that they have to trust her as a stylist. “Dressing someone is a collaborative process, and I want my client to feel comfortable and have fun. If they have a movie or an album coming out, then that presents more opportunities for me to work with them, but it’s not a deal breaker by any means.”

Her work begins when a client needs something to wear. Ilaria says, “I love working with my client as a team and I strive to dress them in ways that bring out their unique style and individual personality; so I’ll work with my client before reaching out to any specific designer showrooms or PR agencies, and they’ll usually pick a couple of looks from different brands.” Once Ilaria knows what look she wants to create, she works directly with the fashion house or brand’s PR rep to secure those specific pieces. She has also had designers contact her directly if they want one of her clients to wear their designs. Once she receives everything, Ilaria and her client team up to finalize the whole look, picking everything from the dress down to the shoes, jewelry and clutch.

Why Everyone’s Wearing Marant

It’s no surprise Isabel Marant is one of the designers that celebrities request the most. After her wedge sneakers were seeded throughout Hollywood, the shoe style completely blew up and was knocked off by tons of other brands. But how did you know that BeyoncéMiranda Kerr and Kate Bosworth were wearing these kicks? That would be from us, the editors who write about what celebrities wear.

Our inboxes fill up hourly with emails from PR companies about what a celebrity wore the night before, or how Jessica Alba has been spotted in this under-$100 army jacket multiple times. There’s no way we would be able to identify the item without these pitches from PR reps. The stories we cover on celebrities carrying the same handbag or wearing the same dress demonstrates how all parts of the seeding process come together. From the brand/PR companies sending the items, to stylists dressing their clients and PR reps emailing us to write about how many stars are wearing a specific item.

Ilaria also filled us in on the other “young cool” designers in demand now:  Antonio Berardi, Peter Pilotto, Mary Katrantzou, Carven and Giambattista Valli. Then there’s the usual suspects like, ChanelPradaValentinoLouis Vuitton and Jason Wu. She also mentions that on the beauty side, color contact lenses are definitely becoming a trend right now. She styles The Vampire Diaries actress Nina Dobrev with AIR OPTIX COLORS all the time, including this weekend’s Teen Choice Awards where the lenses would compliment her dress.

How Trends Really Get Started 

You saw your favorite celebrity in rag & bone’s Newbury booties so you had to have ’em. But now that you know Sienna MillerRachel BilsonKatie Holmes and Gwyneth Paltrow didn’t actually go to the store and buy these shoes, do you still want a pair?

What about this year’s matching set trend? Would it have taken off if Jennifer Lawrence, Zoe Saldana, Alessandra Ambrosio and Khloe Kardashian all weren’t photographed wearing it? Probably not. It’s pretty difficult to pull off the two piece look, but seeing someone you look up to wearing it, like a celebrity, will make you more inclined to buy it. Which is exactly what PR companies are trying to make happen by seeding the trend.

And don’t forget to check out: that time ASOS knocked off Celine, Kate Hudson’s $24 sandals and the Coordinate Collection bracelet we love

[Photo: Splash News]





Sara Alderman has covered topics from fashion to beauty and beyond.

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