c.2015 New York Times News Service

c.2015 New York Times News Service

Fashion month marches into its homestretch. And yet, despite the recreating of Diana Vreeland’s apartment at Marc Jacobs in New York, a waterfall at Hunter in London and a giant boom box at Moschino in Milan, it’s hard not to think the most headline-grabbing show of the season may have already happened in a town not generally known for its ready-to-wear cred.

Los Angeles, the Academy Awards. When it comes to generating social media buzz and focusing peoples’ attention, the red carpet has become serious competition for the runway.

Best- and worst-dressed lists from the Oscars appeared to take up far more digital space than live streams of London Fashion Week, which occurred at the same time. In a Google search days after the events, the Oscars racked up more than 34 million results, while London Fashion Week attracted just 4.2 million. Meanwhile, in April Burberry is holding a “London in Los Angeles” extravaganza, partly to celebrate the Beverly Hills store that opened last fall, and in May, Dior will bring its resort show to the city.

Which raises the question: What does this mean for the future of the traditional catwalk? As the Oscar/fashion week dates change from one year to the next (conflicting in the past with both Milan and Paris), and events around the awards proliferate, how will designers, forced to choose, weigh the costs and benefits of the competing shows? (Even if the Oscars telecast itself drew just 36.6 million viewers, its smallest audience since 2009.)

“Red carpet is mostly about getting the name out there — it is one of our most powerful and efficient ways to communicate our vision of fashion and haute couture,” said a representative for Givenchy, which dressed Rosamund Pike, the “Gone Girl” actress and Oscar nominee, for her entrance moment, to rave reviews. “It is mostly about what the concept of our brand will be to the millions of persons that watch.”

For some companies, the red carpet serves as the fashion equivalent of a Super Bowl ad. Paying celebrities to wear jewelry is a known practice: a 2007 lawsuit involving Charlize Theron, her production company and the watchmaker Raymond Weil revealed that Theron had been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to wear products from Chopard and Montblanc at awards shows. The implication was that the associated editorial coverage was worth the investment.

“In today’s day and age, a red carpet placement can be comparable to marketing and advertising, and with the right placement, on the right person, for the right event, it can even be more impactful,” David Kotlar, president of the jewelry company Harry Kotlar, wrote in an email. (The company had lent the actress Katie Cassidy a $1 million pair of diamond cluster earrings for the Oscars.) “Having a presence there is an amazing opportunity. It has the power to put a brand on the map.”

Ed Filipowski, the president of KCD, the public relations agency that puts on many of the runway shows at New York Fashion Week and beyond, said: “From the moment you’re on the red carpet, you see the results immediately. They’re everywhere. It’s not like 10 years ago, where you’d have to wait a week or months to see it in a magazine.”

For smaller labels, that can have enormous impact.

“My designs are about creating glamour, and therefore it is essential to design for the red carpet,” Jenny Packham wrote in an email. Packham got on the map by outfitting the Duchess of Cambridge in everything from a flowing turquoise gown for the London Olympic gala in 2012 to a simple polka-dot shift for her first public appearance with Prince George. She most recently won praise for dressing Taylor Swift in a marigold-colored gown after the Golden Globes.

That kind of publicity can attract the attention of editors and buyers who may not otherwise be inclined to attend a runway presentation. Filipowski pointed to the resurgence of Givenchy under Riccardo Tisci, who joined the brand as creative director in 2005, as an example.

“To see his growth on the red carpet and how it’s accumulated and has become ever-present, and what stature and image it’s brought to the house, you can really see the effect that red carpet dressing can have on the overall positioning of a designer,” Filipowski said.

As for Tisci, he said through a representative: “We have experienced a lot of positive feedback from our red carpet moments, and we are very proud and grateful. But a fashion house’s life is based on runway shows.”

In other words, red carpet glory is all well and good, but (apologies to the Clash) it’s crucial to rock the catwalk.