How celebrity branding deals are made

Jennifer Love Hewitt, shown with Advanstar CEO Joe Loggia, was among the stars at the Las Vegas show.
Jennifer Love Hewitt, shown with Advanstar CEO Joe Loggia, was among the stars at the Las Vegas show.
(Isaac Brekken /
Los Angeles Times

The arranged marriage of a fashion brand and a Hollywood celebrity — whether as denim spokesmodel, fragrance inspiration or full-fledged apparel design collaborator — can happen in as many different ways as there are famous faces and clothing makers to connect.

One example played out in a Las Vegas restaurant this summer. Jennifer LoveHewitt, “Twilight” actor Kellan Lutz, Denise Richards and other celebs rubbed elbows, exchanged business cards and broke bread with apparel company chief executives, denim designers and retail representatives sheltered there from the chaos of the trade show floor.

Chatting at one of the 15 tables were movie producer Lawrence Bender; model Angela Lindval; Silver Jeans President Michael Silver; shoe designer Matt Bernson; the CEO of hat manufacturer Dorfman-Pacific, Doug Highsmith; and Perry Ellis International Chief Operating Officer Oscar Feldenkreis.


The speed-branding luncheon, which took place during the biannual MAGIC apparel trade show in Las Vegas in August, was organized by two L.A. locals, Michael Baruch and Jeffrey Best.

Fred Segal Beauty cofounder Baruch and event planner Best have helped connect brands with bold-faced names at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

“At Sundance we had this valuable constituency up there on the side of a mountain,” Baruch said. “So we ended up bringing products and brands to them — Heineken was the green room sponsor, for example, and GM was a sponsor for seven or eight years, so we had people shuttled around Park City in a fleet of Cadillac Escalades.

“But here the situation is reversed, with all the brands and retailers gathering in Las Vegas for three days of trade shows, so I had the idea to bring the celebrities to them,” he said.

Joe Loggia, the CEO of Advanstar, which owns the trade show, said the 15 tables of 10 each were specifically organized to pair brands with specific celebrities.

“We knew Jennifer Love Hewitt was very interested in a beauty [products] deals, so we made sure to sit her next to a guy in that industry,” Loggia said. At a previous lunch, “we sat [Highsmith] next to Cedric the Entertainer.” The hat-wearing comedian recently launched a signature line of hats.

“There’s no random anywhere,” Loggia said.

Except, perhaps, in human nature.

Gary Garner, Cedric’s business partner in the Who Ced? hat line, and an attendee at the inaugural lunch in February, said ultimately it was someone else at the table who proved to be the most valuable introduction.

“We met Sonny Shar, the president of Pentland Brands — a company that doesn’t even do hats, they do shoes. But Sonny took us under his wing, mentored us, told us all about the world of licensing and introduced us around to some key people in the industry.”

A few months later, Cedric’s hats hit the market with a manufacturer that they ultimately connected with through other means, Garner says.

But, as Highsmith points out, there are benefits to brands beyond simply locking down a deal.

“When we were here last season we met a Hollywood starlet who gave us her contact number, and we ended up sending her a few hats,” Highsmith said.

“The next thing you know she turns up on the red carpet at Cannes wearing one of them. So I’d say that lunch was worthwhile for us.”