NEW YORK — Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Fashion publicist slapped by angry editor over seating snafu at Zac Posen show, slaps back with $1-million lawsuit against the alleged slapper. Kimye (Kim Kardashian and Kanye West) cause rush-hour paparazzi scrum arriving at Grand Central Station for Marchesa show. Celebrity divorcee Katie Holmes launches second act presenting Holmes & Yang collection for the first time in the big time, at fashion week hub Lincoln Center. A three celeb-pileup — Emma Stone, Amy Adams and Diane Kruger — dominates the hubbub at Calvin Klein.
The clothes? Who had time to look? New York Fashion Week was as much about tabloidish exploits and celebrity photo ops as it was about clothes.
It’s an event where a humiliated Hollywood wife (model Liberty Ross) can come to find redemption, walking tall on the runway at Alexander Wang’s high-profile show and showing up her husband, director Rupert Sanders, and his young paramour, Kristen Stewart, while she was at it.
And it’s where Olympians can come to polish their personal brands, bringing their medals backstage to pose with designers (sprinter Sanya Richards-Ross with designer Lubov Azria at BCBG) and testing their reporting for media outlets. (Ryan Lochte, the swimmer with questionable style chops, covered the runways for E! Entertainment.)
There were enough basketballers on the scene (Russell Westbrook, Chris Bosh) to play a pickup game. Tyson Chandler and wife Kimberly were reporting a story for Vogue magazine. And Rajon Rondo (who had never been to a fashion show in his life before he popped up here last week) was deputized as GQ magazine’s fashion intern. It may have been the first time in fashion week history that an intern was guaranteed a front-row seat.
Fashion week, which started Sept. 5, was up against the MTV Music Awards, the Democratic National Convention and the Toronto International Film Festival. And still, the celebrities came out in droves. Why? Well, who doesn’t love a fashion show? But there are other reasons, as well.
“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” Sasha Charnin Morrison, US Weekly fashion director, said of celebrities and designers. “The photographs of a celebrity at a show get live streamed, Tweeted and blogged about, which is invaluable for a designer.”
You can have a clunker of a movie — or a marriage — but show up at fashion week and it can be elevating. “You have to get out there and work it if you want magazine covers and ad campaigns,” Morrison said.
Susan Kaufman, editor of People StyleWatch, points to three categories of celebs who show up in the front row. “For younger starlets, it’s strategic to get out and about to gain exposure,” she said. It’s also a good platform for promoting upcoming film and TV projects, and a fashion show can be tacked onto appearances on New York-based TV talk shows.
“Then there are those celebs who already have relationships with designers, like Sarah Jessica Parker at Diane von Furstenberg, or Florence Welch and Kirsten Dunst at Proenza Schouler,” Kaufman continued. These women are tastemakers, already known and followed for their fashion sense, who attend shows of designers they like to wear or with whom they are friendly.
The third group are high-wattage seat fillers — celebrities who receive special treatment, such as appearance fees, free clothing or travel expenses, in exchange for posing for the cameras while wearing a designer’s clothes. “Some designers could use the attention,” Kaufman said.
But is it too much of a distraction when, during a designer’s $100,000 runway-show production, guests are sheep-dogging to get a camera-phone shot of Kanye, instead of looking at the gown that took 100 hours to make?
No, according to Kelly Cutrone, a fashion publicist-turned-author and TV star who handles several designer clients. (Cutrone had her own brush with tabloid fame in 2009 when she let Ashley Dupre, the call girl who brought down then-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, into Yigal Azrouel’s fashion week show and was fired by the designer as a result.) “It’s fantastic” to have the celebrity presence, she said. “It draws the attention of the press and the bloggers from all over the world to all the designers who are here showing their creations.”
While there are always brands that will pay to stock the front row with bold-faced names, Cutrone said celebs also seek out fashion shows on their own volition, and sometimes at the last minute. She calls them “drive-bys.”
“We’ve had some amazing drive-bys this season,” she said. “Paula Abdul showed up at one of our shows, and at Jeremy Scott we had Tyra Banks — she was planned on because we’re on a show together — but Ryan Lochte was there. Apparently he’s a fan. And [hip-hop recording artist and record producer] Swizz Beatz was there with his baby. It was pretty amazing. It’s more random than last year’s drive-bys of Joe Jonas and [photographer] Terry Richardson.”
The draw is easy to explain, Cutrone said. “It’s a great way for them to really be in control of their own brand and their own image, and position themselves in a place and in a way that there’s the potential to be seen by fashion brands that might be willing to throw millions of dollars at them.”
Kaufman said there are times when celebrities can be distracting at a fashion show, but that was not the case this season. The dressed-up bloggers and hangers-on (that dude with the banker’s haircut, in a ball gown and a “bite me” necklace for instance) are driving just as much of a photo-snapping frenzy, Kaufman said. “They are the new celebrities.”
And the new gossip column fodder.
Word has it that flamboyant front-row fixture and blogger Bryanboy is “really, really scared” about the effects of the new level of fame he expects from his star turn as a judge on the upcoming season of “America’s Top Model.” Apparently, he doesn’t want to be a role model.
Adam Tschorn contributed to this report.