Exhibit A, the red carpet: actress in designer gown, $1,000 heels, after four hours prep. Exhibit B, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival: same actress in cutoffs, rocker boots, effed-up T-shirt, messy hair, no prep -- OK, some prep.
Coachella -- which runs April 11 to 13 and April 18 to 20 in Indio, Calif., with such anticipated performers as Lorde, The Replacements and Outkast -- brings out the rocker chick in every actress. Emma Watson, Diane Kruger and Emma Roberts have displayed their inner wild child at past festivals, publicly flaunting cutoffs, tees and some sort of motorcycle boot -- the more worn-in, the better. Says stylist and designer Emily Current of Current Elliott, who, along with Meritt Elliott, dresses Roberts: "Music festivals breed a free-spirit approach to dressing. Every girl has a Penny Lane inside her -- and this is the perfect opportunity to let her shine!"
But is it really so uncalculated? "Don't tell me actresses aren't reaching out for those clothes from companies. It's become as big a place to be seen as the red carpet," says L.A.-based designer Corey Lynn Calter, who has been to Coachella four times and has grown cynical. "That cutoff shorts look is almost as much a uniform at this point as a gown."
Indeed, this year THR hears L.A. showrooms have been abuzz with denim and weekend brand companies plying stylists and their clients with shorts, boots, even sundresses to wear to the desert. As one insider in the business of getting clothes on actors' backs tells THR, "It's getting harder to dress girls for Coachella because now they're demanding money. One actress asked for 50 grand to wear one item!" Lea Michele and Lacoste, however, are denying a New York Daily News report that she has been paid $20,000 to wear brand clothing at the fest. Says a Lacoste spokesman, "This story is 100 percent false."
Last year, there were signs of such celebrity seeding. Kruger wore head-to-toe H&M for an H&M party, as did her boyfriend, Joshua Jackson. A number of fashion brands host bashes as well. Guess, Lacoste and Adidas, all of which are party sponsors this year, can get a big boost from a Coachella credit. After all, many more women buy casual items than Gucci gowns.
But paydays for cutoffs? It appears so, if it means talent will tweet and Instagram their looks and pose aplenty -- not unlike on the red carpet. Except this one's dirtier.
This story first appeared in the April 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.