Awards season brings with it the excitement of the celebrity swag bags, and very few people are able to come close to putting together a better celebrity gift lounge than Lash Fary, creator and Founder of Distinctive Assets. Lash and his dynamic team are in their 17th year as the Official Grammys Gift Lounge.”
Lash shares the excitement of putting together the 2016 Grammys Gift Lounge and trending products and brands you will soon know about or have in your household.
Q: How did you pull off another great year as the Official Grammys Gift Lounge for 2016?
LF: Yes, another year! It’s my favorite time of the year and the most exciting three days of the Grammys rehearsals. Once again we have our Grammys Gift tent and it’s our 17th year gifting the presenters and performers of the show. We have a really nice blend of products with things for him and her. They can go home and share items with their kids. This year’s bag contains $25,000 worth of merchandise. There are two components of the show as always, the interactive gift lounge which they select themselves and items gifted to them. We had Justin Bieber and L.L. Cool J in the Grammy Gift Lounge on Friday evening and LL’s wife Simone Smith (Simone I. Smith Jewelry) was present. Simone is also one of our vendors in the Grammy Gift Lounge. Simone has these beautiful lollipop necklaces and this year she launched her men’s line of incredible bracelets. Since she has an incredible man in her household (LL Cool J) he is the spokesperson for her new men’s wear line of jewelry, “Focus for Men,” which is available at Kohl’s. We have a $6200 fitness workout package in this year’s gift bag from “My Fit TV” which includes a week long fitness retreat where you go workout and get in shape in these private villas. Celebs such as Angela Bassett and Jessica Biel have visited the facility, as well as actress Elizabeth Rohm. We have included hair care line “Tools by Gina” which has amazing technology that uses pure infrared technology that steams the hair dry instead of applying direct heat so that the hair doesn’t get damaged.
Q; Women love hair care tools that are not damaging and steaming hair is considered beneficial because it hydrates and brings life back to the hair.
LF: Yes, and that is why her line of products (Tools by Gina) are doing so well. The presenters and performers have a choice of 3 hair tools which include a curling iron, flat iron or a blow dryer. They are in the $250 range and the artists get to choose the one they would get the most use out of.
Q: Each year for the Grammys Gift Lounge you continue to come up with items that are unique and cutting edge, do you sometimes wonder how to top the previous year?
LF: The truth is I have a lot of help from the brands that we work with. I’ve been doing this for so long that it’s a really good thing to have a strong reputation with the brands that we partner with. They often come to us with product, especially if it’s an amazing item, as in the case of “Tools by Gina.” Many times vendors will have great items and they want to get them in the hands of the celebrity and we assist them. I’ve worked with Simone I. Smith for so long that each year she comes here for The Grammys’ she has the new jewelry collection with the men’s line. I’ve known the guys from “Fit Club TV” for a really long time and they’ve just recently launched this new concept with the clothing line. It’s really about being in touch with brands and ensuring that they let us know when they have a new product to launch. SCUF Gaming is a new brand that we started talking to and felt it was a really good fit. It’s about having a conversation year round with the brands or their publicity firm or marketing team so that when branding time comes around they’re letting us know what new products they want to launch. Yes, I get the credit for it because it’s here in the Grammy’s Lounge, but it’s the product that enables me to showcase it.
Q: This year you have a popular vendor that was with here in the Grammys’ Gift Lounge in 2012 return, Belldini.
LF: Yes, they’re back and they had done the CMAs with us in Nashville for a couple of years. They have an extensive collection of knits and moved away from the celebrity involvement for a bit because they were so busy growing. You can’t fault a brand for growing and now they’re in several major retailers such as Macy’s and Nordstrom’s. Now they have settled they’re back into the celebrity branding because they really enjoyed it. They recently did The Latin Grammy’s in Las Vegas with us. Little Big Town was here in the Lounge and told them that they remembered them from the gifting lounge during the CMAs. The other benefit to the brand is catching the artist on the rise. We have young artists here which may be their breakout show. We have one young artist here now by the name of Madi Wolf. You may not know her name now, but you will. She’s on the cusp of breaking big and opening for major bands. It’s the best possible time for a brand to get a star involved with their product, when they’re on the rise, like “Little Big Town.” You look five years down the road when they’re nominated for a Grammy and they don’t have to take your merchandise, but they remember you when you were kind to them on their way up and when they get to the top they recall those moments. They still want to help you and give back. The same with Justin Bieber, when he came to our gift lounge he was just a kid. His video had just hit YouTube and no one knew who he was but he came into the Grammy’s Gift Lounge and we got the most adorable pictures of him when he was just a kid. When he came through the other night it was full circle. He’s now one of the top music performers. When we gifted him initially we knew he was going to be a big star and then him coming in to visit with us is his brand paying us back. He was just as nice in the lounge the other day and taking pictures and it was a great time seeing him doing that and enjoying hanging with LL Cool J in the Lounge.
Q: You’re the king of gifts and with Valentine’s Day recently behind us and Mother’s Day approaching what are some do’s and don’ts for re-gifting?
LF: I’m a huge fan of re-gifting. People always ask if celebs really care about the gifts. I tell them yes, some of them really do care. It’s fun for them where they get exposed to cutting-edge products that they don’t have to go to the mall to shop for and dealing with paparazzi and what comes along with it. When it’s Valentine’s Day there is a reason to re-gift because they can get these amazing pieces of jewelry from Simone I. Smith and give it to their wife or girlfriend or give their husband or boyfriend their gorgeous bracelets for men from “Focus for Men.” We have a fabulous vendor by the name of Philip Ashley Chocolates who creates these wonderful chocolates. For the guys it was amazing seeing them at the Belldini booth taking pictures to send to their wives and girlfriends to see if they liked what they picked out. I’ve always loved re-gifting especially if it’s to someone people love and care about. That way it doesn’t go to waste by just sitting in a box or a bag in someone’s closet. Travis Barker and his kids were here a few years ago and they’ll be visiting us again this year and they were really into the gaming which is a big hit. It’s a whole family experience. What’s great is that the artists get to share the experience with their loved ones here in the gift lounge.
Q: As soon as the 2016 Grammy’s are over how soon do you start thinking about 2017?
LF: Ironically, we’re already thinking about 2017 and four vendors who wanted to be a part of the Grammy’s gift lounge this year, but couldn’t have already signed on to do 2017. I take a little break because we have the Oscar’s gift bag in just a few weeks “Everyone Wins”. As soon as Grammy’s and Oscar’s are done we start focusing on 2017. We deal with some very large brands that need long lead times to plan and budget.
Q: What it’s like for the vendors to experience the celebrity gift lounge for the first time.
LF: For the vendors it’s a 3-day experience with a parade of artists. It varies because Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes was here in the Grammy’s Gift Lounge the other day and she was very unimposing and just as lovely in person. She was just going about her way in the lounge and one of the vendors had no idea who she was. Lionel Richie was in the lounge the other day and all of the vendors recognized him. Zendaya was here too and the vendors who had kids often know who the younger celebrities are because of their kids. The experience is different for each one depending on the celebrity because they know they’re obviously an artist or performer presenting at The Grammys, but may not always be familiar with their work. It’s a powerful experience for the brands to literally put their brand into the hands of a celebrity. It’s an amazing experience for me too and one that I don’t take for granted, which is so valuable to these brands which is why they pay to be here.
Q: You see many brands getting recognition when a celebrity mentions them via social media without being paid to do so. How impactful is that?
LF: It’s very impactful to have a celebrity using your product. Look at the Versace pants Carolina Panther’s quarterback Cam Newton wore recently. People were searching and trying to get those pants all over the internet, to find out that they were $849 from the 2014 Versace Spring menswear collection that were no longer available for purchase. I tried to find those pants myself. The other day when LL and Justin Bieber were in the Grammy Gift Lounge with LL’s wife Simone’s new men’s bracelets they were both getting thousands and thousands of hits on Instagram of the pictures with the two of them in the jewelry. There is huge power brands have today and access to celebrities that they didn’t have ten years ago when I was doing this in the early stages. When I first started doing this, if you didn’t get a celebrity on Entertainment Tonight they didn’t consider anything else press. Whereas now they’re almost more excited that it’s not broadcast TV, but online. They can share links and post across various social media platforms. Even if it is a smaller website, the fact that they can share it online within a social media context is so meaningful. I’m really excited about where we have gone in terms of that and branding involving social media.
Q: Do you sometimes stop and pinch yourself when you think about 17 years as “The Official Grammy’s Gift Lounge?”
LF: Oh my God, you make me feel old, even though I don’t feel or look it thanks to wonderful vendors like “The Age Interventionist,” who is a part of our gifting this year. 17 years is a long time to do anything and it makes me proud. Yes, we launched this concept and try not to take that for granted. No matter what type of relationship, it is a big deal to have a 17 year relationship with The Grammy’s and The Recording Academy which are both iconic and they are one of my favorite clients to work with. They are gracious, amazing and loyal and I love everything about the show and our working relationship.
Q: What are some of the hottest trends now?
LF: Being healthy, organic and gluten free is popular and not everything gluten free is necessarily good for you. As Barbara Streisand says, “The excellence is in the details.” People laughed at Starbucks years ago when they said no one would pay $5 for coffee and now no one blinks an eye. This year we have “The Natural Mixologist” here in the Grammy’s Gift Lounge. Natural and organic mixologists are the trend and they offer custom cocktails for your event that are organic, gluten free and vegan. It’s high priced luxury, the finest, pure and organic products in these high-end settings. Whether it is Tools by Gina, Phillip Ashley Chocolates or Fit Club TV its offering luxury and great quality brands to the celebrities which in turn increases the brands awareness. It used to be that you could only get those things if you lived in Hollywood, but now you can order the hottest items on-line and it’s available to mainstream America.
What I’m most excited about is technology, as in the case of “Tools by Gina.” It used to be that you could only have products of that caliber if you lived in Hollywood or went to a high-end salon. Now everyone has access to products which has created an even playing field. We helped launched Keurig a few years back when people had no clue about putting a pod in a machine which would later become available to everyone. The Red Manicure Gel we launched too as well as Moroccan Oil eight years ago. Many people had not heard of them at the time and now you’d be hard pressed to find a woman who hasn’t heard of Moroccan Oil or hasn’t used it.
Learn more about Distinctive Assets and their marketing services, celebrity placement, product placement, product introduction and branding opportunities within the entertainment industry by visiting distinctiveassets.com. Follow Distinctive Assets on Twitter.
To view the entire list of nominees and winners or to view the re-broadcast of The 58th Grammy Awards visit CBS.com.