Lights! Camera! Fashion!

An ode to the unsung heroes on the red carpet.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

An ode to the unsung heroes on the red carpet. 

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The Oscars wrapped as I was writing this column and of course, the water-cooler topic at the office was all about red-carpet style. Hollywood’s glitterati and their outfits have long fascinated the rest of the world, including team BAZAAR. Even after hours spent dissecting runway collections and shooting samples, bingeing on what celebrities are wearing is the perfect intermezzo between all the fashion talk at work. 

While we typically have differing opinions on who’s worthy of being on the best-dressed list (Emma Stone vs Emma Watson, Jessica Chastain vs Jessica Biel), there are some women who can do no wrong in anyone’s books. Whether she’s promoting a blockbuster or championing an indie flick, Tilda Swinton almost always nails her look. The British actress often opts for Haider Ackermann runway pieces that blur the line between masculine and feminine, appearing like she was ripped right out of the pages of a fashion spread. The same goes for Cate Blanchett. The Australian actress seamlessly alternates her red-carpet choices between those from established fashion houses, like Givenchy and Chanel, with smaller brands such as Esteban Cortazar and Jonathan Simkhai. Yet her allegiance with the House of Armani is when she hits the high note. The synergy between Miss Blanchett and the Italian fashion empire is legendary. She may not be the official muse to Signor Armani, but it’s not hard to conjure up that notion. She gets stamps of approval every time she wears Armani Privé, carrying his vision from the runway to the red carpet. 

While Swinton and Blanchett make runway pieces their own through their sheer sense of self and style, many actresses choose to wear custom-made creations instead. At the recent Academy Awards, Halle Berry wore a custom gown by Atelier Versace, recreating the funk and spunk seen on the runway by complementing it with a Foxy Brown hairstyle. Dakota Johnson chose to wear a custom-made Gucci dress that many critics would call grandma-chic. For me, I thought she was simply continuing her long-standing support for the brand and channelling the sense of romantic nostalgia that Alessandro Michele has established for Gucci. 

At the extreme end of this spectrum are the stars who opt to wear custom-made yet ubiquitous dresses from fashion houses, ignoring the importance of the designer’s vision. The result is a never-ending parade of similar-looking dresses: A plunging neckline down to there, a slit up to here... why engage a high-fashion designer if you are going to be #basic? By wearing a designer’s creation, a celebrity’s responsibility goes beyond relaying the vision but also amplifying it. Only when more celebrities take sartorial risks can an impact be made, in fashion and beyond. 

Take Rihanna, who makes a statement every time she appears on the red carpet, whether she is in a girlie pink haute couture confection by Giambattista Valli or a bright yellow haute couture gown by Guo Pei (both of which she is said to have worn after first seeing the dresses online—Rihanna, she’s just like us!). The ripples she makes in these outfits are felt long after the red carpet has been rolled up. Thanks to RiRi, Guo Pei is now a name recognised the world over. The same can be said even beyond the traditional red carpet: Thanks to Michelle Obama, for instance, Jason Wu went from being an emerging designer to a household name. 

While gone are the days of the love affair between fashion and film—as exemplified by the relationship between Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn, whose mutual adoration went beyond the dynamics of designer and patron—there is still hope for the annals of fashion history, as long as there are red-carpet risk-takers around.

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