I recently connected with Anthony Camargo (anthonycamargodesigns.com), as I do with so many these days, online through social media. Anthony had posted a picture of Rita Wilson when Rita and Tom Hanks were in the news because they had caught the coronavirus and were quarantined in Australia.
Anthony posted: “I noticed in the news photo that Rita was wearing my earrings (Anthony Nak designs, his previous company) and thought I’d share a story. Rita had been nominated for an Oscar. I received a call from my publicist saying Rita would like to wear my diamond and gold chandelier earrings. I was flattered and said I would fly to LA to hand deliver as they were $30k. I met with Rita at her and Tom’s home. She pulled out her checkbook and said, ‘How much do I owe you?’ I said, ‘Oh, no, you can borrow them for the Oscars.’ She said, ‘Don’t ever let any celebrity or anyone borrow your jewelry. I want to wear them therefore I want to buy them. She taught me a great lesson in valuing my work. Class acts both of them.”
His story struck a chord and I responded. I’ve long felt that today’s celebrity and designer culture, where celebrities borrow designer jewelry (or even worse, are paid to wear it) cheapens the designers, the celebrities, and the Awards ceremonies. Celebrities become just models advertising jewelry and the awards event becomes an advertisement. Years ago celebrities wore designer jewelry (like Liz Taylor with Bulgari, Cartier and other top designers) and were thrilled to be seen in the latest designer fashions. It was of course their own jewelry they had bought or received as gifts. It elevated them and the designer. As recently as 1999, when Gwyneth Paltrow won her Academy Award for best actress, she wore a 40 carat Harry Winston “Princess” necklace which her parents then gifted to her in congratulation.
As we’re hitting the reset button, emerging from the transformative coronavirus, we have an opportunity to change protocols. There are “class acts” amongst both celebrities and designers who realize that restoring dignity and class by not allowing Awards events to be advertisements (paid or otherwise) benefits both the celebrities and designers. It elevates the status of both, making them inherently more valuable. Important jewels owned by actresses and worn by them in their social lives (as Liz Taylor famously did) confers an aura of glamour and prestige far beyond modeling designer jewelry at an event. There’s a reason royalty throughout the ages is associated with their own crown jewels.
Anthony responded, “After the lovely and educational encounter with Rita I changed my policies. We as designers are told over and over by publicists, magazine editors and celebrities themselves that we should provide jewelry on loan gratis. But the lesson from Rita was a game changer and I’ve never looked back or regretted taking her advice and applying it. Once we set our boundaries and stick to them, others can respond as they wish. We have to decide what our integrity is worth.”
So now’s a great time to consider. Is it time for a change?
Note: After this “meeting of the minds” with Anthony online we soon connected by phone and he told me his fascinating life story. He’s currently reinventing himself again, emerging with a brand new line and collections, which I’ll report on next month.