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Last week’s deal to end the longest actors’ strike in Hollywood history has come at the eleventh hour for jewellers involved in various red carpet events and movie premieres throughout the year.
During the strike — in which the SAG-AFTRA union clashed with studios over issues such as the use of artificial intelligence-generated “digital doubles” — actors were prohibited from promoting their upcoming films. So they were noticeably absent from the publicity events that can be huge marketing opportunities for jewellers.
Now, with productions able to restart, the industry is racing to get the concertinaed awards season back on track. However, the Emmys — one of the biggest red carpet events in the Hollywood calendar — has already been pushed back from September to January 2024.
Jewellers perceive film premieres as a powerful marketing tool and place great value on having the spotlight shone on their gems as they adorn the necks of Emmy or Oscar nominees.
During the strikes, actors were not present at big industry events such as September’s Venice Film Festival, but some exceptions to the union rules meant a few celebrities could make unrestricted appearances at other gala events not tied to movie studios.
For example, British actor Kate Beckinsale wore a pair of 118.45-carat Chopard earrings at the AMFAR Cinema Against Aids fundraising event held parallel to the film festival, while American actor Lili Reinhart showed off a Chopard diamond choker at a separate party organised by one of the festival’s primary sponsors, Armani Beauty.
With the strikes come so soon after the pandemic, though, some jewellers think promoting their brands through the entertainment industry’s events has become less of a priority. “You have to do a lot of different things to make your brand stand out there these days,” observes Eva Zuckerman, co-founder of New York-based jeweller Eva Fehren.
Zuckerman estimates that she has halved her spending on film promotion from around 60 per cent of her marketing budget before Covid to about 30 per cent now. She is focusing more on social media and influencer partnerships, from fashion to food, to achieve visibility.
Given the limited opportunities to promote their brands and products on the red carpet, other jewellers have adapted their strategies. The fall-off in events, as well as the lack of stars available, meant that competition between jewellers to dress celebrities became even fiercer.
“Whatever events that people had that were available, we were working hard to make sure that the stylists and celebrities have the best looks, no matter what,” says Los Angeles-based jewellery designer Anita Ko, who turned to fashion to fill the gap, dressing several front rows at catwalk shows.
But London-based jewellery designer Stephen Webster points out that the high fees many jewellers pay Hollywood stars to wear their pieces mean the strike had less of an impact on independent designers like him, who do not have the budget for such promotions or benefit from having a Los Angeles-based store (he shut his in 2019).
He has used his 16-year presence in Seoul, in South Korea, to move beyond Hollywood and capitalise on its widely popular Korean drama, or K-drama. “It’s probably easier for me to get something on one of those [K-dramas] — and more likely,” he says.
An example would be the distinctive geometric 18ct yellow gold and diamond Vertigo Obtuse hoops and a matching lime green enamel ring worn by actress Han Eu-Ddeum in Celebrity, the Korean social media drama released on Netflix in the UK this year.
“And with the lack of content that’s going to come up in the next period, you’re going to get more foreign-made [programmes] . . . going into Netflix,” Webster says, adding that this will enable him to engage with a younger, wider audience.
New York-based jewellery designer Allison Fry, founder and creative director of Fry Powers, used the pause in the third season of the Sex and the City series sequel And Just Like That . . . to design 20 new pieces that the costume designers can choose from now that production is restarting. She says this will give her a chance of having more pieces in the new series and getting ahead of other designers.
Fry’s colourful necklaces and other pieces have been seen on Sarah Jessica Parker’s character since the first series of the reboot.
“The costume team works a couple of months ahead of filming to start putting those looks together, so I’m sure they are reliant on scripts,” Fry says.
Networking was also on Fry’s agenda during the strike, as she tried to book meetings with actors’ stylists, who “otherwise have a very hectic schedule”, she says. Fry wanted to “talk to them about what they like, what they need and build a working relationship that way” for after the strike, she says.
With the strike having come to an end, Fry is considering her options. She says she can still present her pieces in a Los Angeles hotel ahead of the awards season showcases, or stick with her strike strategies of researching
foreign film nominees — “and reach out to the stylists who are working with these actors”.