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Luxury branding meets kudos gladhanding

Oscar's Big Weekend 2012

If the events-packed week leading up to Sunday’s 84th Academy Awards is any indicator, the American economy is back with a vengeance. At least in the luxury market that is Hollywood.Brands of every kind are clamoring to subtly throw their goods at the stars, enticing them to parties and gifting suites all week long.

“America is a really good bet for luxury marketers again,” says Vanity Fair vice president and publisher Edward Menicheschi. “It’s been astonishing. We are on the front edge of what’s happening in the luxury market and we see that there is currently a robust economy in the high-end. That energy had all shifted to China, a couple of years ago there was a sense that the U.S. had kind of seen its better days, but now it has absolutely come roaring back to life at the high-end. In fact, we had a record year in 2011, the best year in our history — by a lot.”

Which explains why the magazine got its annual Campaign Hollywood Oscar week celebration ball rolling earlier than ever before — on Monday night with a bash at Siren Studios hosted by Shailene Woodley and Juicy Couture. It’s what Menicheschi called “a very young Hollywood night.” It was the first of the mag’s every-night-of-the-week shindigs, hosted by celebs who chose a charity to benefit from the fun. Woodley went with All It Takes, her own org dedicated to protecting the environment. On Wednesday night, Colin Firth joined the men’s brand Ermenegildo Zegna and the mag for a special dinner at the Chateau Marmont to support OxFam America; and on Thursday, Vanity Fair joined forces with Chrysler to launch the Eva Longoria Foundation at the actress’ Beso restaurant in Hollywood.

Menicheschi’s publication didn’t have a monopoly on high-end sponsors this week, either. Top Swiss watch manufacturer Jaeger-LeCoultre took over the Chateau Marmont on Tuesday night, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Charlie Chaplin’s honorary Academy Award with a private dinner. Funding the party, along with Harvey Weinstein, was a natural for the company, as Carmen Chaplin, Charlie’s granddaughter, says.

“I directed a short film, called ‘Tryst in Paname,’ and I used a watch in it from Jaeger-LeCoultre,” says Chaplin. “A long time ago, the Swiss government had given my grandfather a Jaeger-LeCoultre watch that my father admired as a child, and his father gave to him. So I thought it was fun to put it in my movie. Jaeger-Le Couture liked it, and so they got involved with our party.” Regarding Weinstein’s participation, most of “The Artist” principals were in Paris for the Cesar Awards, which left it to Alexander Payne to deliver a mini-lecture on the glories of Chaplin.

Quincy Jones, Berry Gordy, Steve Tisch, Jessica Biel and David Arquette felt the lure of Vertu, the luxury mobile phone manufacturer, who, along with Wolfgang and Gelila Puck, sponsored an elite dinner party at Cut on Thursday night. “It’s what we as a brand try to deliver for our customers, ‘life beautifully arranged,’ ” says Casey Gorman, the managing director of Vertu Americas, quoting that company’s advertising slogan. “So it’s not just a big party where we’re trying to get as many bodies in the door as possible and serve them cocktails. It’s much more select than that.” Perhaps that’s because those phones retail for $5,000-$10,000.

Paul Smith hosted a very British bash for Oscar nominee Gary Oldman on Thursday night. Come to think of it, who wasn’t thrown a party Thursday in Hollywood? The Oscar Wilde Awards feted John Logan, Michelle Williams and Melissa McCarthy at Santa Monica’s Bad Robot. Alfre Woodard hosted a get-together for the Oscar-nommed Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Essence magazine honored Spencer, along with a few other actresses, at the Beverly Hills Hotel. And OK! Magazine made Adrian Grenier guest of honor at its Greystone Mansion party.

Frey Wille didn’t honor anybody Thursday, but the Austrian jeweler did open its new Rodeo Drive boutique that night. Montblanc took over a suite at the Beverly Wilshire from Monday on to showcase its new Princess Grace Collection of fine jewelry, and also sponsored the Tuesday night Vanity Fair bash at the Bel-Air Hotel. QVC made the Four Seasons garden its home once again on Thursday night for its third annual the Buzz on the Red Carpet party, but decided against giving out its famed groaning goodie bag this time out.

“We wanted to change the focus this year,” says Jamie Falkowski, the brand’s director of strategic brand initiatives. “Plus, it will mean less crashers trying to get in!”

And it isn’t just manufacturing brands getting into the party mix, as some restaurants and hotels see Oscar Week as the prime time to get the word out that theirs is the hottest spot in town. The Sofitel Hotel hosted a BB Forever bash Tuesday night, debuting a photo exhibit by Henry-Jean Servat featuring shots of Brigitte Bardot in her prime, while on Wednesday night Beso Hollywood, with owner Eva Longoria and pals Mario Lopez and Paris Hilton, launched its entertainment showcase with a party for the flamenco group Gitano. Other A-listers gathered at the new eatery Mr. C Beverly Hills to check out artist Domingo Zapata’s Oscar Art Showcase on Wednesday.

“Ignacio Cipriani asked me to showcase a few pieces at Mr. C.,” elaborated Zapata, the artist darling of collectors like Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Orlando Bloom and Jessica Alba. “Because they wanted to do an event during the Oscars to promote the restaurant, which just opened in Beverly Hills. So I am bringing a little bit of everything of my latest collection and I am going to try to astonish Hollywood with a painting of a big, glorious mustache!”

Smashbox and the Art of Elysium celebrated quirky artists as well, at their fifth annual Pieces of Heaven art auction held Thursday night at Smashbox Studios, with such guests as Michael Fassbender and Rashida Jones lending their support. Also back for the fifth time was the Hollywood Domino Gala, where famous faces got serious during a domino tournament Thursday night at the Sunset Tower Hotel, all to benefit Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice org.

“A lot of my friends love playing the game, they are fanatics at this. Penelope and Demi and Charlize are all really good at it,” Haggis says somewhat bewilderedly. “I stare mystified at it! But we’ve been the lucky recipients of the event, so I love it, too.”

Love was in the air at the ninth annual Global Green Pre-Oscar Party, which took over the Avalon on Wednesday night. Eco-minded stars such as Rosario Dawson arrived in the electric Chevy Volt and later danced to the tunes of Sheila E. while surrounded by a party created with green products.

Green, too, was some of the offerings at the luxury suites that happened earlier in the week, at the Secret Room Red Carpet Luxury Lounge and the Roger Neal Style Hollywood Beauty and Couture Suite, both held at the L’Ermitage Hotel. But the best beauty perk of the week was brown, as St. Tropez held its annual Lights, Camera, Glow! spray-tanning sessions in a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel, making sure Hollywood’s biggest stars would look tan and rested as they finished out the week of hard partying with the Oscar extravaganza on Sunday night.

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