All that glitterati not...

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In a celebrity-obsessed culture, the objects of obsession are very conscious about their public appearance.

Every time they step out, they look to get noticed, get heads turning, tongues wagging. The media and the public never fail to oblige.

Sometimes the efforts celebrities take to be at their flashy best gets more attention than they would have liked.

Young, up and coming actress Tang Thanh Ha grabbed the attention of fans and peers at the International Film Festival that took place in Hanoi last October when she appeared in two beautiful, elegant indigo-blue and beige gowns.

Shortly after all the praise flowed in, a blogger stole Ha's thunder by pointing out that the gowns she wore, which had purportedly been bought during her trips abroad, were replicas of evening gowns designed by Lebanese designer Elie Saab for his Spring-Summer collection this year.

The scandal was spiked further by the blogger's keen eye describing the dissimilar and somewhat unsightly waist and shoulder details in Ha's dress compared to the originals.

Ha refused to comment on the issue.

Although there is no definitive proof that Ha wore copycat Elie Saab gowns, netizens were of the opinion that she should not have worn fake dresses for a high profile international event like the festival.

Other copycats

After Ha, singer Phuong Vy and actress turned singer Minh Hang were caught up in similar affairs. Hang's sexy, transparent costume was rumored to be identical to Sophia Kokosalaki's design for her Spring and Summer collection 2010 and Vy's outfit at the Vietnam Idol gala looked like a mock-up of Valentino's Fall and Winter Haute Couture collection this year. If Vy was wearing an authentic dress, she would have spent about US$15,000 for her shining moment.

Vy's manager responded to all this chatter saying he has not heard anybody complaining about this stuff.

"We do not want to comment on this, for this is just public curiosity and speculation. Nobody has asserted that Vy is actually wearing a fake Valentino. We will raise our voice when anyone speaks out," the manager said to Thanh Nien.

Brandishing brands

It is no secret that many local celebrities like to flaunt not just their talent or their bodies, but their fetish for branded products.

Singer Dam Vinh Hung's ostentatious lifestyle, provocative statements and his Louis Vuitton collection grab as much attention as his singing talent. Likewise pop star Ho Ngoc Ha's Hermes Birkin bags, that Wikipedia says cost between $9000 and $150,000 each.

Many artists, however, have averred that less than a handful of local artists can afford such pricey stuff.

Talking to Thanh Nien about the Tang Thanh Ha's scandal, Than Thuy Ha, a former top model who now owns a fashion store, noted that a celebrity's life was not an easy one.

"When we have expensive cars and branded wardrobes, the press and public will surely wonder, "˜where on earth did we get that kind of money from?.' Every woman loves to look like a diva walking on the red carpet, but to an artist, spending $10,000 for a branded dress is a tough decision, sometimes out of reach.

"About the buzz around Tang Thanh Ha, I totally sympathize with her even if she was wearing a fake. Maybe she did not know that she was wearing a replica of Elie Saab. It is the first time that I, myself, have heard about this designer."

Model Trang Nhung said the artists who use brands, fake or otherwise, could be divided into two types.

"It is not a big deal wearing what looks like designer stuff," said Nhung. "I think there are people who like to use brands and those who just love the design and do not care whether it has a brand name or not."

Designer Ngo Nhat Huy feels differently. He thinks local celebs must pay heed when they dress up.

"Wearing fake brands has accidentally affected Vietnamese designers, because we are suspected of being copycats. This is a blot on our reputation. Celebrities must think carefully about what they are wearing before stepping out."

Designer Huu Loi, favored by many local celebs, echoed the warning about the craze for using fake branded products.

"There are not many local artists who can afford thousands of dollars for their outfit and they usually spend less than VND10 million ($500) for each. So it becomes "˜normal' when they refer to foreign catalogues or collections and have their designers remake them."

"How can designers do this? I do not blame the artists but their designers have no sense of morality. We must be cautious about what we do. Foreign designers have the right to sue those who steal their works."

Singer Minh Hang's sexy, transparent costume is rumored to be identical to Sophia Kokosalaki's design (L) for her Spring and Summer collection 2010

Tang Thanh Ha's indigo-blue gown is rumored to be a replica of an evening gown (R) designed by Lebanese designer Elie Saab for his Spring-Summer collection this year

Tang Thanh Ha's scandal spiked when a blogger's keen eye caught the similarities between Ha's gowns, worn at the Hanoi International Film Festival, and the original Ellie Saab (L)

Phuong Vy's outfit at the Vietnam Idol gala looks like a mock-up of Valentino's Fall and Winter Haute Couture collection this year (R)

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