Designer claims: stars paid to sit front row at fashion shows (+photos)

Celebrities are being paid big bucks to appear in the front row of fashion runway shows, a leading designer has claimed.

Nicole Farhi has become the first major industry figure to speak out about the practice, calling it "abominable".

"It is so unprofessional. I have never paid a celebrity and I will never do it. It's stupid," she said.

The 65-year-old French-born designer, who lives in north London with her husband, the playwright David Hare, added: "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."

During London Fashion Week last month, dozens of celebrities were pictured watching the latest creations and their appearances at shows garnered huge publicity. Most notable was Burberry's show, which had a front row packed with well-known faces including Alexa Chung, Jeremy Irvine and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley - although it is understood Burberry does not pay for front-row appearances.

Miss Farhi believes her comments are likely to see her shunned by fellow designers, but she is unrepentant.

"They will all hate me for it. I don't give a s*** because I think it is abominable," she said.

Farhi need not worry about celebrity endorsements of her clothes. Her most recent show saw arguably the most influential woman in fashion, American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, in the front row.

Having star presence at international fashion shows becomes vitally important as the different fashion houses battle it out for the millions of dollars spent on orders during the events.

Mulberry saw its show splashed across websites and papers after it enjoyed a celebrity-filled front row including stars from television drama Downton Abbey. A spokesman for Michelle Dockery, who was there, said they did not comment on their client's social engagements. Laura Carmichael said she was not paid to appear.

Joining them at Mulberry were fellow actors Tom Hiddleston and Michelle Williams and Elizabeth Olsen, and singer Lana Del Rey - who recently inspired a Mulberry bag design. All were unavailable for comment.

Vivienne Westwood's Red Label show also drew a host of big names, including, perhaps bizarrely, Heston Blumenthal. A spokesman for the celebrity chef said: "Heston was invited to attend and was not paid."

Emma Whitehair, a fashion PR firm said: "Absolutely it happens, but it would be professional suicide to mention brands and celebrities involved. Unfortunately the public can't identify a designer who has a genuine relationship with a celebrity or has someone paid to be in the front row. But it's fair to say some of the biggest brands will have a 'talent' budget.

"Brands with money need to guarantee coverage and that's the only sure-fire way of getting it."

In the US it is common for celebrities to have their travel, hotels, meals, clothes and make-up paid for by the fashion house in return for their attendance.

Recently reputable fashion news website Fashionista claimed singers Rihanna and Beyonce Knowles can get over NZ$100,000 for an appearance at a catwalk show.
Burberry declined to comment. Mulberry and Vivienne Westwood were unavailable for comment.

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