Freebies considered great marketing

Swag never sleeps during Oscar week.

The glam biz went into its traditional freebie overdrive late last week, with designers, stylists and beauty pros all vying to lure glitterati into their Oscar suites for last minute fashion needs, pampering and goodie bags. Unlike last year’s subdued Oscar week, when Iraqi bombing put such a damper on the beauty bonanza designers packed their bags early, this year’s indulge-athon was operating full swag ahead heading into the kudocast homestretch.

By Thursday afternoon, Frederic Fekkai’s red carpet retreat was up and running at his Rodeo Drive salon. The hairdresser to the stars ministered to Jennifer Tilly’s tresses while cameras recorded every move.

The thesp said she became a convert to the communal spirit at Oscar suites last year. “It’s actually more fun than someone coming to your house,” Tilly said. “Every year I say I’m not going to get involved in Oscar madness, then I do. I’ve got to go get a dress this afternoon.”

“To me, this is one of the most exciting weeks in Los Angeles,” says the French-born Fekkai.

The hairstylist, who had a cameo in “Legally Blonde 2,” considers his freebie retreat far more effective than an ad campaign, which his company doesn’t do. “The best way to do a campaign is to really have people experience what we do,” he says. “This is not just a a billboard on Sunset.”

In another part of the salon, Dr. David Sayah was administering Botox injections and dermabrasion, though most of the Botoxing had already occurred to allow the beauty-minded enough time to recover before their walk down the red carpet. While some have requested injections into the armpit, the better to control perspiration, the majority have targeted the frown line. The goal is to inject less to enable some range of expression — whether joy, sorrow or disappointment — yet appear fresh-faced.

Over at the Stuart Weitzman suite at Le Meridien Hotel, a primo swag mecca, visitors were buzzing about the imminent arrival of jewel-encrusted shoes for nominee Allison Kraus. The nominee will also carry a jewel-encrusted Palm Pilot to go with Weitzman’s $2 million footwear. This year, the designer teamed up with Ona Spa, which provided foot massages and pedicures to visitors.

“It’s exposure that makes sense,” said Ona’s Sue Sawyer.

The suites, which opened the Monday before Oscars, tend to skew toward stylists rather than the stars themselves, and reps for Hilary Duff and Cameron Diaz had already swung by the Shizue handbag collection for a look.

The mood was more serene at W Magazine’s Oscar retreat way up in the hills. Located in a private home with views to die for, the second annual retreat began offering upscale treatment from pampering pros such as Paul Mitchell and celebrity trainer David Kirsch on Thursday, with sunset cocktails among the enticements. The goal, associate publisher Virginia Healey says, is a relaxing alternative to traditional Oscar suites.

“It’s perfect exposure,” said associate publisher Virginia Healey. “Plus, it’s fun.”

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