What was that about a new era of austerity as the recession rages on? At Village at the Yard on Sunday, a slew of lesser-wattage stars were stuffing their bags with goodies at the swag suites, putting to the lie pre-Sundance speculation that publicists would be wary of allowing their clients to help themselves to free high-end products during a time many are struggling to make ends meet
“You’d think celebs would be wary of taking free stuff this year, but we’ve seen just as many eager faces as usual,” noted one publicist. Jay Lyon – Whitney Port’s boyfriend on MTV’s reality show “The City,” whose band is playing at the Hollywood Life lounge later this week -- carried out loads of Fred Segal gift bags. “What should I bring for Whit?” he tossed off to a leggy blonde Australian. Other B-listers like singer Ryan Cabrera and “Prom Night” actress Brittany Snow, were also perusing the racks of clothing.
Event coordinators at this year’s festival said they’d barely noticed a slowdown at the gifting suites, lavish lounges that offer Hollywood stars and credentialed media complimentary gifts.
“In this type of entertainment environment, the political and financial moods usually get left at the door,” said Ashley Thompson, owner of the NYC boutique Owl’s Lab -- which was set up at the Sephora gifting suite offering things like handbags and jewelry. She did, however, note a slight decrease in attendance from last year to this year.
Paris Hilton stopped by Owl’s lab and “grabbed just about everything,” said Thompson, who said other visitors included Kaycee Stroh from the “High School Musical” films and ex- Danity Kane band member Aubrey O’Day.
At Kari Feinstein's Style Lounge events on Main Street, Robin Williams initially only took a laptop – though when he found out the suite was involved with actor Mehki Phiffer’s charity, he decided to instead donate the computer to the cause.
Others interpreted more creatively the idea that taking swag was an act of generosity. “People look at gifting suites as a time for celebrities to be greedy,” said a representative for Feinstein’s lounge. “But a lot of the celebrities who came by saw it as an opportunity to help businesses that are struggling in these economic times, and help them flourish by lending their name and face to all of these designers who are trying to make a name for themselves.”