If there was one thing that stood out on the Golden Globes red carpet — well, one thing besides Helena Bonham Carter's purposefully mismatched shoes — it was the number of actors who selected dresses to fulfill their contractual obligations.
And they often didn't look great doing it.
Entertainment industry figures with endorsement deals are nothing new — but more and more these days, luxury brands are signing celebrities to exclusive, multi-year contracts that cover far more than the usual fragrance deal. Where once a famous lady or dude might have just been the seasonal face of an advertising campaign, now brands are locking in their services for all manner of high-profile public appearances for the duration of the contract. Magazine covers and awards shows are publicity opportunities not to be missed, and luxury companies want as much of that sweet lucre on lockdown as they can get.
Which is why Armani paid Megan Fox a reported $2 million to become a face of the brand in 2009; Fox has worn practically nothing but Armani since. Ditto January Jones, with Versace. Ditto Marion Cotillard, with Dior. Nicole Kidman wore Chanel pretty much exclusively during her tour of duty as the house's spokesmodel. Anne Hathaway wears Armani in public and attends Armani fashion shows with such regularity that she might as well be on the payroll. And any starlet who turns up on a red carpet in Marchesa (as Olivia Wilde did last night and Kate Hudson did last year) is automatically suspect. Harvey Weinstein's wife, Georgina Chapman, co-runs the label. And Weinstein is an industry figure not to be trifled with.
What this means in practice is that some of the more extraordinary dresses — the couture outliers, bound to polarize the peanut gallery — don't get worn. Brands and stars are united under the goal of never looking bad, but a red carpet without risk is a boring affair indeed. Where was the Dior couture? Why wasn't anyone willing to try and match the gorgeousness of, say, Cate Blanchett's periwinkle blue Jean-Paul Gaultier gown from 2005? This selection bias that favors the neutral over the bright, the plain over the dramatic, the pretty over the beautiful is often blamed on gossip bloggers in particular and the level of discourse on teh internets in general, but I think it's more likely the natural consequence of overriding commercial considerations.