Feb 21, 2008
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Fashionistas await Oscars red carpet catwalk

Feb 21, 2008

HOLLYWOOD, Feb 20, 2008 (AFP) - The eyes of the fashion world will turn to the Oscars red carpet here Sunday for the eagerly-anticipated annual fashion show where the catwalk models are members of Hollywood's elite.

From sartorial faux pas such as Bjork's 2001 swan dress to shimmering triumphs such as Halle Berry's 2002 gown, the Academy Awards are an unrivalled opportunity for designers to showcase their wares in front of millions.

Patty Fox, official fashion consultant for this year's Oscars red carpet, says her goal every year is to "return glamor to Hollywood and make the viewing public interested in what the stars are wearing."

The media exposure guaranteed at the Oscars, where fashion and celebrity magazines will devote pages and pages of coverage to the red carpet parade, is a priceless marketing opportunity.

During a fashion preview show at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last week, neither Fox nor Martin Katz jewelers would predict who was likely to be wearing who on Sunday.

But one star will be dazzling photographers with a four-million-dollar ring, said Neil Lane, a designer from Martin Katz.

"I can't say who it's going to be, we have to keep the mystery," said Lane, who predicts that this year's Oscar trend will be ear-rings.

"Long ear-rings and bracelets and perhaps some long necklaces that we haven't seen in a while," he said.

Fox meanwhile expects a rich palette of color to light up the red carpet. "This year will be anything from reds to browns to tangerines, yellows ... it's going to be a wide spectrum," she said.

Although most stars have their own stylists, Fox can help put Oscars guests in touch with designers or jewelers, connecting "the artist and the muse."

Increasingly major fashion houses prefer to outfit stars exclusively, notable examples including Nicole Kidman (Chanel), Renee Zellweger (Carolina Herrera) and Julia Roberts (Valentino).

Nevertheless the Oscars represent a prime opportunity for lesser known designers to make their mark, particularly if the actor or actress wearing their clothes ends up being a winner.

Elie Saab hit the jackpot in 2002 when his exquisite gown was worn by best actress winner Berry, giving the Lebanese designer's profile a huge boost.

But while most celebrities are only too happy to act as clothes horses, the growing commercialization of the Oscars is not to everyone's liking.

Julie Christie -- the legendary British style icon who won a best actress Oscar in 1967 for her role in "Darling" -- said in a recent interview she had unhappy memories of her best actress nomination for "Afterglow" in 1997.

"The film company wants you to look fantastic, and borrows clothes and diamonds from designers and jewelers for you to wear," Christie, who has been nominated for best actress again this year, told a British newspaper.

"I will not do that again. It is a pernicious pastime. Models wear designer things, so you become like a salesperson.

"There are actual signs outside the ceremony that say, 'Turn around.' Why? Because they want you to advertise the dress. I don't want to be involved in an advertising jamboree."

by Paula Bustamante

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