Pret-a-Reporter

How Industry Civilians Can Score Free Clothes Like a Star (Hint: Not Easily)

Rich Polk/Getty Images for St. John; Lester Cohen/WireImage/Getty Images; Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images; Michael Kovac/Getty Images
Jeanne Yang, Rachel Winter, Cary Fukunaga and Kathryn Bigelow

Got friends in stylish places? Good. You're going to need them as fashion experts offer five tips for noncelebrities looking to score some swag.

All through awards season, actors and actresses are besieged by publicists bearing largesse — couture gowns, hand-tailored tuxedos and blinding jewels. Then there are the "civilians" — studio heads, actors' wives, writers, producers and agents. "People see clothes flying around town and think everything is up for grabs, that it's open season on clothes and everything is free. Guess what? It's not," says stylist George Kotsiopoulos. "People are loaning stuff for publicity. If you are an agent, nobody cares if you're wearing their tuxedo. Designers just want a great picture of an actress who looks hot in their dress." Yet even though it's PR and social media that are driving the world's most powerful runway, it's not impossible for noncelebrities to score some swag.

Here's how:

1. Cultivate a stylist

Stylists are the gatekeepers to all the designer wranglers in town. If up-front about their intentions, they can sometimes borrow a dress for nontalent (with the caveat that they fit into unforgiving size 0 samples). Lacking a loaner, stylists often get discounts for clientele, and designer boutiques on both coasts monitor award-season sales so someone else doesn't show up in the same dress. Stylist Jeanne Yang says the best way to get a stylist on board with you is to think of the long haul, especially for wives who appear on the red carpet with their actor husbands. To break in, she says, "Buy an amazing dress and be cool about it, and if you start getting press, the designers will start to take notice, and then we can work a favor."

But don't burn a stylist — they talk to one another. You don't want to end up in the no-dress zone. One stylist recalls a client who refused to pay for a gown that had been altered, leaving her on the hook for the $5,000 price tag, "which I couldn't really afford."

2. Be hot

This awards season, Beasts of No Nation director Cary Fukunaga has emerged as a fashion "It" guy. Dolce & Gabbana dressed him for the National Board of Review and SAG awards and trumpeted the news in press releases alongside stars like Christian Bale, Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton. Publicist Brooke Pace, whose firm Alta Moda handles designers like Alberta Ferretti and Moschino, says European designers often home in on interesting players, "whether it's a film that they admire or the person's artistic sensibility." Adds style consultant Andrew Weitz, who sees fashion brands reach­ing out to be connected to Fukunaga: "They see Cary — he's a young guy, fit, an established director. Why not try to attach themselves?"

3. Direct prestigious films

Esteemed industry figures often are targeted by designer houses, from the long association of Giorgio Armani with director Martin Scorsese, to Dior providing tuxes for Steven Spielberg, to designers in 2010 lining up to dress The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow. It's a bragging point for a fashion brand. "Dressing a director is garnering attention within the entertainment industry, so you're positioning yourself," says publicist Pace.

4. Have friends in stylish places

Fashion publicist Marilyn Heston often fields requests from "the wife of someone or an industry person who's attending the Oscars," she says. "I always think, if I can accommodate somebody, then why not?" She recalls loaning producer Rachel Winter, whose Dallas Buyers Club was a best picture nominee in 2014, some jewels from her client Bulgari for the Oscars. "We had a friend in common who had asked me, 'Would you be willing to help her out?' And I said, 'I'd be delighted.' It was girl power."

This story first appeared in the March 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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