Doug Melville knows you don’t have to be a celebrity to walk a red carpet. But during a chance encounter, he says he found out why being on one can make anyone feel like a big shot.
During the summer of 2007, Melville says he was attending a movie premiere in Los Angeles, when a little girl asked to have her picture taken with him.
“I said, ‘I am just walking by, there is no picture here,’” he remembered. “And her mother goes, ‘you’re famous to her because you’re on the red carpet.’”
Later that night, he started thinking about the business behind these glamorous event staples, and decided to get into the red carpet business. In 2009, Melville launched Red Carpet Runway, where customers can buy their own carpets, displays and backdrops for events. Since its’ launch, Red Carpet Runway has provided walkways for major events including the MTV Video Music Awards, White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the Met Gala and has even “green carpeted” the skyboxes at MetLife Stadium for the Jets.
“Nothing is rented, customers buy everything,” he says. “They can go online and pick their size and color, and it gets sent directly to their house or event.”
Melville says many customers seek out these carpets, which range in price, for private events and birthday parties, which he attributes to the popularity of reality television.
“It’s a trend that has taken over the youth of America with reality T.V., some are feeling they want to be their own celebrity and that starts at home, and create their own ‘set’ per say. People are now ordering their own logos, designing for the backdrop, they can buy a red carpet and roll it right out,” he says.
Since his launch, Melville has had major celebrities and politicians walk his carpets including President Obama and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, but one celebrity sticks out in his mind as most “notable.”
“One of the coolest [celebrity sightings] was when Kim Kardashian changed her hair to blonde, her debut was on a red carpet runway,” Melville says.
Since its launch, the company has branched off into making laptop pads and coasters. Melville says they sell thousands of carpets per year and do about $1 million in sales.
Aside from selling these carpets, Melville is also a red carpet historian. He says the first red carpet was rolled out in 450 B.C., and was used as a symbol of royalty and power.
“It was made with red berries, to give it color. When people had red carpets it showed they had power,” he says. “When it finally debuted in America, James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States rolled it out in 1800.”
The carpet became a staple 90 years ago, when it was rolled out for the “Robin Hood” premiere at the Sid Grauman Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, he says.
“This October, it turns 91—they celebrate its birthday every year at the Egyptian Theater,” he says.
This weekend, however, all eyes will be on the celebrities, and the red carpet they walk on, at the Emmy Awards.