In the days leading up to the Academy Awards, Hollywood and Beverly Hills were abuzz with activity as celebs, stylists and industry insiders prepared for parties and events. Many made time to visit the gift suites that popped up around town to get pampered, support charities, and check out — and receive free samples — of the latest products.
KATHY DULIAKAS' CELEBRITY OSCAR SUITE & PARTY
This gift lounge benefited the nonprofit Kind Campaign (www.kindcampaign.com), an anti-bullying initiative that seeks to promote positive friendships among girls. "We have a documentary film, 'Finding Kind,' screening across the country in schools," said co-founder Molly Thompson. "We're putting the film and curriculum on DVD in a Kind Kit," which will include messages of experience, advice and encouragement taped at the event.
On the eco end, there were soy wax candles and spa products like shower and bath teas from Chilanthropy (www.chilanthropy.com), which gives five percent of sales to a variety of charities, Maleku Jewelry (www.malekujewelry.com), crafted by indigenous artisans in Costa Rica, and supports children and well-building there, Twisted Silver's (www.twisted-silver.com) refurbished mixed metal jewelry, and Nava Natural's (www.navanaturalcosmetics.com) yummy organic Hot Chocolat body lotion.
"Project Runway" designer Gordana Gelhausen was on hand to promote her GOGA line and store in Santa Monica (www.shopgoga.com), and gifted gauzy scarf-like wraps to attendees. "I call 'Project Runway' the 'American Idol' of fashion,' she said, grateful for the exposure, and for showing that a foreigner can succeed in America. She's a big fan of sustainable fabrics, as natural wools and cottons were all she had to work with in her native country, the former Yugoslavia. Plus, "I dye my fabrics and you can only do that if you use natural fibers like cotton, wool, rayon and silk." She's joining other "Runway" designers for a fashion show in Palm Springs on March 30.
Natasha Henstridge (pictured right) attended for the Kind Campaign, but liked many of the products, including the Rock Your Tube (www.mbyork.com), a stretchy cotton garment that can be worn several ways, and the genius Hot Iron Holster (www.hotironholster.com), a silicone holder for flat irons and hair dryers that adheres to the bathroom sink or vanity. Henstridge plans to produce and play a small part in the comedy "The Conference" and she's working on a dress line for curvier figures. "Nothing ever fits me so I'm just gonna make my own," she explains. She has changed all the bulbs in her house to energy-saving ones and never lets the water run, but she's still getting the hang of taking her own bags to the supermarket. "I forget to take them to the car so I buy them each time," she confides. "I have so many!"
"My wife dragged me here. It's all women's stuff but it's great because she's happy," said Gilles Marini, who did find something to his liking in Zing Vodka (www.zingvodka.com). The "Switched at Birth" star (pictured left) promises fireworks on the series' season finale, which has to do with the birth of his child. "It's going to be pretty intense. No one is going to see it coming." Besides the chickens he's raising, Marini is an avid gardener and grows fruits and vegetables at home. He figures 75-80 percent of his property is devoted to edible plants, and the rest is cacti. He collects rainwater in barrels and recycles it, and it drives him nuts if his daughter leaves the faucet running or there's a broken toilet at the gym: "I can't stand wasting."
ROGER NEAL STYLE HOLLYWOOD
Raising awareness for animal rescue organizations, Steps4Paws (www.steps4paws.com) enlisted attendees to help canines. A line of tee shirts launching in April will raise funds for the cause.
The one-of-a-kind jewelry and accessories from SISA (www.sisadesign.com) were not only eye-catching but eco-friendly, made from recycled materials like telephone wire, broken glass, and bits of lace. Erin Fader's vintage-inspired jewelry pieces (www.erinfader.com) are a hit with celebs like Marcia Gay Harden, and Roxo's charm bracelets featuring pop culture characters (www.getroxo.com) have become a must-have for kids.
Miracle Noodle (www.miraclenoodle.com) offered a fat-, gluten-, starch-and calorie-free vegan alternative to pasta, while Olez (www. Olez.com) presented its natural, apple stem cells-based hair products, and Jeneuve (www.jeneuve.com) showcased its new natural, no-animal-testing skin line. Actress Renee Taylor was on hand to promote Renee Taylor's Face Love (www.rtfacelove.com) the skin smoothing, tightening, puffiness-erasing product she and her makeup artist, Cindy Cohen, developed together. Taylor is on the road this spring with her one-woman show, "My Life on a Diet."
GBK RED CARPET GIFT LOUNGE
There was a significant charity presence at this event, including Global Green (www.globalgreen.org), promoting its green schools contest, the arts advocacy and education nonprofit The Creative Coalition (www.thecreativecoalition.org), Beat liver Tumors' (beatlivertumors.org) Say Yes to Hope campaign, the heart disease prevention nonprofit Guard a Heart (www.guardaheart.org), City of Hope's (www.cityofhope.org) efforts on behalf of health issues, and the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation (www.sugarrayleonard.com), supporting juvenile diabetes. Leonard (pictured right) had celebs sign an outsize Everlast boxing glove for auction and will hold a charity boxing match at the Santa Monica Pier on May 21.
Leonard also signed a glove and poster for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids at the Nicorette/Nicoderm CQ table (www.facebook.com/Nicorette), where celebs were asked to pledge to quit smoking.
Eco-products were plentiful, ranging form NVEYeco's (www.nveyeco.com) organic cosmetics and Milena's soy candles (www.milenasboutique.com) to Ecogenics' (www.ecogenics.com) organic skin care and Viavo's (www.viavo.net) avocado oil body wash. Chick Boss (www.chickboss.com) employs women in Guatemala to make its mixed metals and turquoise jewelry pieces, and Tiro Jewelry (www.tirodesignstudio.com) donates a percentage of sales to animal shelters. Among the handicrafts The Artisan Group (www.theartisangroup.org) presented were pendant necklaces made salvaged computer motherboards and parts by Motherbored Jewelry (www.motherboredjewelry.com). Gemesis man-made diamonds (www.gemesis.com), which are grown in a lab with minimal environmental impact, are by nature conflict-free.
Other highlights included hands-free Bluetooth accessories from Hi-Fun (www.hi-fun.com), convertible and reversible travel bags from Minim (www.minimnyc.com), and Jose Eber's hair tools (www.joseeberhair.com).
DEBBIE DURKIN'S ECO-OSCARS
We Rock Green Mics (www.werockgreenmics.org), an eco-performance collective, was the designated charity at this gift lounge, which featured such goodies as Shaklee natural home cleaning products (www.shaklee.com), L'Arganium (www.thedruggist.net) organic argan oil and cream, and handmade luxury blankets from Minky Couture (www.minkycouture.com).
SECRET ROOM RED CARPET CELEBRITY RETREAT
Benefiting Easter Seals (www.easterseals.com) and requesting celeb signatures on a gift bag for auction, this gifting event also had representatives on hand from Wild Heart Ranch (www.wildheartranch.org), a wildlife rescue in Oklahoma, and the Cameras For Kids Foundation (www.camerasforkidsfoundation.org), which teaches photography to underprivileged teens in foster care.
Many of the vendors had an eco-conscious aspect. Mala Collective (www.malacollective.com) makes beaded jewelry in Bali from sustainable rudraksha seeds, and donates a portion of profits to a birthing and wellness center there. Eminence Organics (www.eminencerganics.com), which makes skin care products like vanilla almond body lotion and hand cream, plants a tree for every product sold.
There were other organic beauty potions on offer, from Karora bronzer (www.karoracosmetics.com) and essential oils from Bella Mira (www.bellamiraessentialoils.com) to Bare Love Beauty face and body cream
(www.barelovebeauty.com) and Lynex (www.lynex.com) dragon-fruit anti-aging cream. Jewelry fans found a dazzling amount of bling, courtesy Kate King (www.katekingkewellery.com), Ronaldo (www.designerjewelrybyronaldo.com), Viva Beads (www.vivabeads.com) and beautiful crystal pieces from Candori (www.candorijewelry.com).
The eclectic mix of vendors included colorful pillows from Kim Salmela (www.kimsalmela.com), hair accessories from France Luxe (www.franceluxe.com), anti-aging vitamin packs from VitaMedica (www.vitamedica.com), free tickets to IMAX theaters (www.imax.com) and ingenious space-saving spinner luggage from Biaggi (www.biaggi.com) — it folds and fits under a bed!
Additional photos by Manuel Carrillo.