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Nicole Farhi: ‘I don’t believe in paying celebrities to sit at my shows!’

Celebrities sitting front row
Celebrities sitting front row

The dark little secret the fashion world doesn’t want you to know about.

In what probably amounts to a refreshing admission concerning the skeazy practices of the fashion world (yes kids the fashion world just like many high net worth industries is laden with compromised positions despite its curated glamorous manifestations) British designer Nicole Farhi has come out publicly and damned the practice of designers ponying up cash for visible name celebrities to turn up at their fashion collections.

Of course this belies the idea that what sells clothes isn’t necessarily the intricate quality of design or presentation of clothes but rather who is seen wearing them or within proximity to them. In other words it’s just another form of advertisement that essentially amounts to upfront endorsements and celebs are certainly taking advantage of their media whore status (yes write all the gunk you want about me tabloid hack!) and cashing in. And how…

Said Fahri in a recent interview with The Sunday Telegraph’s Stella magazine“What do they show you in the papers after a fashion show? Not the clothes, but the celebrities who are being paid to sit at the show.” 

But not content to just let the cat out of the bag the designer (who one assumes can get away with saying this as she is rather established and has a fierce following) Ms Fahri also offered the following: “They will all hate me for it. I don’t give a s–t because I think it is abominable.”

But just in case you are compelled to think Ms Fahri is speaking out of line comes this revelation courtesy of graziaBut does facilitating a star’s presence in the front row by arranging and paying for flights and accommodation, as well as making sure they are decked out in the brand’s latest designs count as payment? That is the thin line that most fashion PRs have had to tread in the last few years as it has become almost normal practice. But most report they draw the line at paying actual appearance fees. 

Should we be surprised that once again we are finding publicists walking the thin line of ethical behavior? After all their job is to project the best image possible despite sometimes damning practices that if were publicly known could quite possibly lead to public fall out especially in the heightening arena of brand building and awareness that fashion consumption has morphed into over the years.

Offers Abe Gurko, the head of Abe a fashion public relations entity here in NYC: “There is no doubt that it has evolved quickly, as recently as in the past three years. Once word got out that people were being paid, everyone jumped on the bandwagon. They [the demands] kept coming. I had a manager say: ‘She will do it for $125,000.’ I said: ‘Have a nice day.'” 

But in fact some celebs are having a very nice day. A recent poll courtesy of fashionista offered an interesting assessment:

Fashionista.com polled a number of “industry insiders” to compile a list of how much brands would pay for A-list stars such as Rihanna ($94,000+), Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (about $75,000 each) to make an appearance in their front row. “B-listers” (according to the website) like Blake Lively can command a $46,000+ fee, while the Jersey Shore cast are simply “uninvited”.

Of course don’t expect celebs and designers nor their publicists to come out anytime soon and tell you who’s actually getting paid to attend various shows. As for the future of the practice itself? Offers Abe Gurko: “All this back-room dealing cheapens the whole business. And I don’t think it’s going to stop.”

Hmm, what’s the old adage? Buyer beware…. (and below some of the typical front row fixtures that made their presence known during London’s 2012 spring fashion week. Front row of course….)