Riches and fame aren't the only perks of being a celebrity entertainer. It's the weirdest thing, but as soon as you make it big and are pulling down the kind of salary where you never have to worry about money again, brands and other rich celebs can't give you free stuff often enough.
Despite their very very comfortable net worths, celebs like Kim Kardashian and Reese Witherspoon receive a deluge of free clothing, cosmetics, and even appliances for the low low price of zero dollars. Most of the time, it's brands sending the gifts with the hope they'll be featured on the stars' social media. In other cases, the goods are just very public displays of wealth between two celebrity friends. And sometimes, as in the case of Beyoncé's new IVY PARK collection, it's both.
Beyoncé is at once a very rich celebrity and a brand. Her athleisure fashion label's new collection for Adidas has been making headlines all week with influential celebs from L.A. to New York donning the outfits Bey gave them for free.99. Reese Witherspoon did a whole TikTok of herself unboxing a wardrobe locker full of the new line and modeling some of the looks within.
It's a genius marketing strategy, of course. When a van pulls up with a veritable walk-in closet of clothing from Beyoncé herself — a woman who is a celebrity to other A-list celebrities — you don't need a nagging email from a publicist to compel you to document that experience for your followers on the 'gram. The new IVY PARK collection hasn't even hit stores or online outlets yet and it's already a foregone conclusion that the entire inventory will sell out in mere minutes.
Awards season, which is currently in full swing, is an annual boon for celebs to amass luxury items at the bargain price of free. The star-studded events almost always have gift bags and whole gift suites dedicated to giveaways where, in exchange for a little social media exposure, celebs can walk away with $25K or more in goods, services, and vacation packages.
Of course the people who hawk their wares to celebs don't see it as a free giveaway. Bullets 4 Peace founder Rafi Anteby, whose bullet-casing jewelry has appeared in several celebrity gift suites, tells Vox, "It’s not free. Their name and the likeness and their look is what they pay with. It’s a fair exchange between brands and artists, that’s how I see it." In fact, Anteby stakes his business's entire success on the exchange. "One hundred percent, without celebrities my brand would go nowhere.”
Still, it strikes me as a little gross that people who literally never want for anything are those most likely to receive truckloads of free merchandise each year. With income disparity growing each year between the poorest and richest quintiles of the population, wouldn't it be kind of great if people who actually need new clothes were the ones getting a special delivery from Bey?
Well, not really — at least there doesn't seem to be a way for that to go down without exploiting the people on the receiving end. I mentioned on Twitter how much public gifts like this bother me, when I think of the people who don't own shoes without holes or warm socks, and a friend of mine astutely pointed out, "I mean, I wouldn’t want to see them exploiting poor people for advertising expensive clothing to make themselves even wealthier, either." Still, as they put it, "this making a big display of lateral unnecessary transfers of wealth seems pretty tone deaf."
I mean, I wouldn’t want to see them exploiting poor people for advertising expensive clothing to make themselves even wealthier, either, but this making a big display of lateral unnecessary transfers of wealth seems pretty tone deaf.— Their Excellency Elan Morgan 🦉 (@schmutzie) January 16, 2020
I don't think this kind of marketing is going away, no matter how many cranky articles about it the internet produces. But there is some hope that celebrities are beginning to look more critically at the conspicuous consumption endemic to their industry. Grace and Frankie star Jane Fonda has declared the red coat she has made iconic in her Fire Drill Fridays demonstrations on Capitol Hill is the last piece of clothing she will purchase in her lifetime.
That's an ambitious promise even for someone in her 80s. And Joker star Joaquin Phoenix has declared he will wear the same bespoke Stella McCartney suit all awards season long.
I'd love to see a trend of celebrities publicly declining the free giveaways, opting to rewear gowns and tuxes more frequently, and generally getting real about the toll all these luxury goods take on the environment.