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Gifting Lounges: we've always imagined them as magical worlds where celebrities frolick to and fro, getting showered with fantastic freebies as unicorns dance around rainbows. This weekend, we visited a couple of Emmy-related ones and experienced the reality.
(We'll preface this by saying we were fully prepared to rub shoulders with Jon Hamm as he filled a bag full of iPads and Prada.)
Let's start off with the products: items like jewelry, trips, foods, beverages, beauty products and clothing. Most are relatively unknown brands, sometimes mom-and-pop startups who've paid for the opportunity to introduce their products to celebrities, who they hope in turn, will then introduce said products to you. We're not sure some of these companies, selling things like new age-themed jewelry, sassy babyware and custom hand-made platters are going to be around for the next gifting-lounge season. That said, we did discover a few things we liked.
We were taken with some of the earrings by RGK D'Zines which sells handcrafted jewelry from India, a pair of which Brenda Vaccaro said she'd be wearing on the red carpet. Like us, Kate Flannery from The Office, appreciated some of the most amazing scented candles we've ever smelled, from Milena's. In fragrances like chocolate- orange, caramel and cranberry, these all-natural soy based products are supposedly so gentle, their melted wax can also be used as a skin lotion. Unfortunately, they can't be eaten.
We liked Stuffed Cupcakes delicious yet somewhat messy cupcakes, which can be eaten, and TC Fine Intimates shapewear lingerie, which can help hide the bulges under our dress if we eat too many of them. We also found ourselves happily regressing back to our punk rock days when we saw the display by Pinup Couture, who make vintage looking dresses and fun retro traveling cases which Betty Page would have loved.
There were a couple of very unusual products: My-Happy Feet socks, billed to cure "The high heel hangover," which are odd looking socks with loops over each toe that are supposed to give your feet a rest after walking in high heels; and FreshCloz which circulates ozone through a garment bag to act like a mini dry cleaner in your closet. We don't know if either of these actually work, because unlike the celebrities, we didn't get free samples, but we liked the concepts.
Wandering around a gifting lounge, receiving free gifts and learning about new products seems like a great idea to us, but we're not quite sure why celebrities show up for them, particularly the wealthier ones, because they do, in a sense, have to work for that free merchandise. Stars are led from table to table where they are introduced to the vendors, learn all about their products, often at GREAT length, and then usually pose for photos with the products. Jennifer Love Hewitt, Bob Balaban, Dennis Quaid, Kathryn Joosten, Scott Adsit, and Mad Men's beautiful eleven year old mistress of her own domain, Kiernan Shipka all put in appearances at the gifting lounges we visited. It's ironic to see Academy Award winner, Adrian Brody, who was probably paid an enormous sum of money to do an Ermenegildo Zegna print campaign a few years ago, and Neil Patrick Harris who doesn't even do ads, allowing their names and likeness to be used in conjunction with jewelry products we wouldn't even have wanted free samples of.
So next time you're reading about gifting suites at The Oscars or Sundance, and you're wishing that you could be hobnobbing with celebs and getting free loot, know that somewhere out there, Academy Award nominee Bob Balaban is hearing a long drawn out description about how a new-age brand came into being, all in exchange for a free baseball cap.