Actress Vivica Fox shook her head as designer Randi Rahm pinned her $1.5 million silk gown with diamonds into place on Fox’s tall, lithe body.
Fox adored the dress but had just nixed some pink diamonds presented to her as possible accessories for Sunday, when she plans to go to various post-Oscar parties.
“I love this part,” said Fox, winking, as the jewelers returned with more rare, colored diamonds.
Well, who wouldn’t love having diamonds offered up on a silver platter?
Fox, who recently starred in Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill Volume 1” was one of several Hollywood stars getting the royal treatment this week as jewelers, dress designers and cosmetics companies set up camp in Beverly Hills to woo them ahead of the Academy Awards presentations on Sunday.
“Oscar suites,” as they are commonly referred to, have morphed over the past six years into high-end one-stop shops for the rich and famous, although the stars hardly ever have to pay a dime for the privilege of wearing million-dollar couture gowns, shoes and earrings or for getting pampered with expensive facials and other beauty treatments.
The theory goes that if a design house or jeweler lands one of their pieces on a star or a nominee, it translates into millions of dollars in free publicity and sales, such as the major coup by designer Elie Saab who last year dressed best actress winner Halle Berry.
At Beverly Hill’s Le Meridien, where Fox was being fitted, there were no fewer than 15 suites set up on one floor, including some crammed with couture gowns, others glittering with gems from the Natural Color Diamond Association and another hosted by famed footwear designer Stuart Weitzman, who was showcasing shoes ranging from $300 to $2 million a pair.
“It’s amazing. It’s like having a red carpet trade show in town. This is where relationships are made and formed,” said stylist Ricci DeMartino, who gets paid to dress stars like Angelina Jolie, Patricia Heaton and Cameron Diaz.
“Every designer wants a star on the red carpet to say their name. It can translate into millions of dollars of business,” said Roger Neal, a spokesman for Weitzman, who this year made $2 million stiletto sandals adorned with 565 Kwiat diamonds for country/pop artist Alison Krauss.
Grammy-winning Krauss will sing two Oscar-nominated songs from “Cold Mountain” during the Oscar telecast on Sunday.
Neal said Weitzman will make a replica pair with crystals for Krauss to keep after the Oscars. The designer typically gives away 200 pairs of shoes to actors during Oscar week.
Meanwhile in other parts of Beverly Hills, Kwiat Diamond, Revlon and Estee Lauder set up suites at the Four Seasons hotel, fashion accessories retailer Jimmy Choo pitched camp at the Peninsula and jeweler David Yurman was at L’Ermitage.
Through the week, stars like Sharon Stone, Marcia Gay Harden, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Michele Branch and Jennifer Tilly have been sighted around the suites.
Hairdresser to the stars, Frederic Fekkai, also hosted his own beauty spa, with pedicurists, manicurists and even a plastic surgeon on hand to provide last-minute touch-ups with botox, collagen and facial peels.
Even if the stars don’t select anything at the suites, they are often showered with thousands of dollars of free gifts or “swag” such as diamond necklaces, or red crocodile tote bags from Revlon and free purses.
That said, some fashion insiders refuse to play ball or offer anything for free. “I would never do it,” says Lily et Cie’s Rita Watnick, who dressed Renee Zellweger in her now-famous yellow vintage gown for the Oscars.
“I don’t want anything to influence them, other than the beauty of a piece,” she said.