Fashion's “Brand Ambassadors” Make Up to $500,000 a Year

Blake Lively Chanel Mademoiselle handbag campaign

Mirror, mirror: Blake Lively reflects on it in her Chanel Mademoiselle handbag campaign.

Blake Lively for Chanel. Natalie Portman for Dior. Emma Watson for Lancôme. Designers have long selected pretty young things to be the face of their brand, but is there anything in it for the actresses—aside from a gifted Chanel bag, a wealth of Dior dresses at your disposal, or all the cosmetics you could ever want?

In a word: Yes.

The New York Times reports that these glorified spokesmodels—now called “brand ambassadors”—can make between $200,000 and $500,000 a year, not including free merchandise (the aforementioned Chanel bag alone will run an average shopper at least $3,000) and travel expenses.

Simon Doonan, whose position at Barneys New York recently switched from creative director to creative ambassador-at-large, shared his thoughts on the title. “It’s a more couture way of saying spokesmodel,” he told the Times. “It’s a spokesmodel with a lot of gravitas.”

“I think maybe in the ’80s and ’90s, being a model was something really glamorous and sophisticated and interesting,” said Hitha Prabhakar, a principal of retail consulting firm the Stylefile Group. “And now, when you tell people that you’re a model, it’s almost like, ‘Uch.’ There’s not a great association to it. But when you tell someone you’re an ambassador—I mean, you think about an ambassador to a country, they’re actually official, they’re doing things.”

Tinsley Mortimer, the socialite who until last year was a brand ambassador for Dior, said the company hired her “to bridge the gap between their loyal customers and the celebrities that appear in their ads.”

Doonan had a characteristically humorous spin on the job. “I think ambassadors should be sending lots of cables, so my e-mails are often peppered with the word ‘Stop,’ just to simulate the feeling of a cable,” he said. “The other way people know you’re an ambassador is people bring you a large Bakelite telephone to answer when you’re in a restaurant.”

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