‘The jewellery doesn’t come alone. It comes always with security guards.”
Céline Wackie-Eysten, Chopard’s director of communications, describes lending the brand’s jewels, worth several hundred thousand pounds or more, to actresses to wear on the red carpet at prestigious events.
Harry Winston — which in 2014 lent Charlize Theron $15m worth of jewellery for the Oscars — became the first jeweller to lend diamonds to an actress for the Academy Awards in 1944. The brand’s founder dressed Jennifer Jones, who won the best actress Oscar that year for her role in the film The Song of Bernadette.
Seventy-five years on, red carpet dressing is synonymous with glamour and brings business benefits to those designers whose jewels are worn.
Euromonitor International, a data provider, forecasts that the global market for women’s luxury fine jewellery will grow by 1.8 per cent year on year in real terms to $33.8bn in 2019.
“The jewellery market is very fragmented and it is obviously very difficult for brands to stand out, so this [red carpet dressing] is one way of getting the message out there and maybe reaching a wider audience,” says Fflur Roberts, head of global luxury goods at Euromonitor.
Depending on who is wearing an item, a celebrity endorsement “brings credibility”, generates excitement about a brand and helps tell a “deeper story” about both the brand and product. It also boosts sales, she says.
Chopard began lending jewellery for the red carpet after it became an official partner of the Cannes Film Festival in 1998. “For the high jewellery [segment] it’s really an important part of the image of this kind of product,” says Ms Wackie-Eysten. Having a beautiful necklace worn by a top actress on the red carpet “is a showcase of the piece in the best way possible”, she says. Last year, the brand dressed actresses including Cate Blanchett and Julianne Moore.
“The second benefit is that it has an effect on sales indirectly through the image of glamour and the aspirational image you build, and also directly sometimes on the pieces that are worn on the red carpet,” says Ms Wackie-Eysten.
Chopard has unveiled its Red Carpet Collection at Cannes every year since 2007. The collection features the same number of unique jewellery pieces as the edition number of the film festival: there will be 72 pieces launched at this year’s 72nd festival. The brand hosts private clients at the event, sometimes selling them pieces the day after they were “seduced” by seeing them on the red carpet.
Valérie Messika, founder of French brand Messika, says the main focus of red carpet dressing is not to sell jewellery but “to create the desirability of the brand”. During 2018, the jeweller provided pieces to actresses including Allison Janney for the Baftas, Gillian Anderson for the Golden Globes and Naomi Watts for the Venice Film Festival.
Having the brand’s pieces worn by beautiful women, who bring their personality to an outfit by mixing a dress, make-up and hair styling, “brings another perspective to the jewellery,” she says. “It gives you another vision of the pieces and of the brand,” says Ms Messika.
Launched in 2005, one of Messika’s first celebrity loans for an awards ceremony was to singer Beyoncé for a Grammy Awards performance in 2015. It provided jewellery for the Oscars for the first time in 2018, lending actress Danai Gurira its 18-carat white gold and 36.2-carat diamond Siren Song necklace.
As a relatively small brand, Ms Messika says lending for the Oscars can be difficult for logistical reasons, but also because as “one of the most powerful events in the world” the event attracts competing brands. “Sometimes there is a lot of politics so it is quite complicated,” she says, explaining that some famous women have global advertising contracts with big brands.
Suzanne Kalan, founder of her eponymous Los Angeles-based brand, agrees that red carpet dressing is easier for jewellers in the US because they are “surrounded by the stylists and celebrities”.
Posting photos on Instagram of famous people wearing her pieces has in the past led to more likes and a rise in customer enquiries, Ms Kalan says. By contrast, Messika has found it receives fewer likes for posts of a celebrity than it does of close-ups of its jewellery.
Chopard sees peaks in its “likes” and new followers during the Cannes Film Festival, where jewellery loans can help the brand reach audiences it otherwise might not. One of the images that had the biggest impact for the brand last year was of Thai actress Araya A Hargate, who has 8m Instagram followers.
Ms Wackie-Eysten says there are people at Cannes who “are maybe not globally so well known” but who are influential in their local market and can have a big impact on those regions. Even if an actress is not personally strong on social media, their image can still generate a positive impact for a brand through, for example, backstage or exclusive content, Ms Wackie-Eysten says.
Ms Kalan says having her pieces worn on the red carpet has translated into enquiries from customers and retailers. “The end result is more sales,” she says. “More sales and more credibility.”
Her business is growing by 30 per cent each year. Ms Kalan is unable to quantify precisely the difference red carpet loans makes to total sales. “But we noticed that instead of getting, for example . . . one sale let’s say this week on that item, we would get maybe 10 or 15 sales on that exact same product,” she says.
She adds: “All of that makes a difference because in the long run these customers do come back if they’re happy and satisfied, and then we grow our customer base and we grow our sales.”
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