The Red Carpet & Its Marriage to Designers


A long, long time ago… Actually it wasn’t that long ago, maybe the 90s or so, actors relied more on their own taste or style to determine who or what they wore on their long walk down the Red Carpet. Before the Joan and Melissa Rivers came along and started breaking down the style choices of Hollywood’s hottest on E!, actors would most often than not pick out their dresses for the big night depending on perhaps a stylist here or there but nothing like it is today. The result was an array of choices across a broad spectrum of taste and style. Compared to today’s Red Carpet, the event was eclectic, weird, and sometimes quite absurd. It amounted to a rather unexpected affair that provided quite a bit of fodder for the media.

But the tides took a turn in the 90s, when notable and up-and-coming designers started tapping A-listers to wear their very best offerings which gave rise to a marriage (of sorts) between top fashion brands and the spectacle that is the Red Carpet. Also at play, was the Red Carpet smackdowns that would find actors getting ridiculed for their style choices. Though entirely done in jest, if you are to believe the late-Joan Rivers. Regardless of intentions, actors responded to the growing ridicule by turning to stylist who in turn outsourced their clients’ outfitting needs to the hottest designers in fashion, who began to cover Hollywood stars in tasteful ensembles that tended to be less risky, changing the Red Carpet into the stylized and fashion epicenter it is today.

Over the next 20 years the Red Carpet would become a must-do for fashion designers and houses around the world. Armani, Dior, Stella McCartney, and so on would all become mainstays, covering the world’s hottest celebrities in gorgeous ensembles that would wow the media and more.

But this marriage between the Red Carpet and fashion started to have a dulling effect on the event. Actresses would think twice about going with something vintage and a bit off if they thought it would get them noticed in a negative way. The dependence on stylist would also do away with the spontaneity that made the Red Carpet such a blast. Like when Bjork appeared grinning sheepishly in that infamous swan dress, or Cher’s incredible Bob Mackie ensemble from the ’86 Oscars. Sure, the Red Carpet is still the hotbed of the latest trends in fashion and continues to fuel style tastes for celebrities and non-celebrities alike. But gone are the fun days of outlandish self-expression through theatrical dresses, pant suits, and costumes.

Before her untimely death, Joan Rivers voiced her concerns about how yawn-inducing the Red Carpet had become as more celebrities, stylist, and publicists became invested in having a flawless experience. For Rivers, all the fun and excitement came from the actors who were still willing to put their own style on display and the confidence they had in doing so like Helen Bonham Carter, Nicole Kidman, Tilda Swinton, and so on. To this day, these actors continue to partner with designer brands in a way that ensures their sense of style and fashion is reflected in the ensemble itself.

There appears to be no divorce in sight between the Red Carpet and the world’s top fashion brands. However, the marriage, like most marriages that manage to survive the test of time, is evolving into a more balanced partnership. Actors are starting to have more of a say in the gowns that designers make for them. Actors are asking that the brands they work with represent their values. They want to work with brands that are eco-friendly like McCartney. They want to work with minority designers. Fashion is no longer just a thing you wear, it represents personal ideals and morals—and the Red Carpet and fashion are reimagining their marriage in response to these evolving mindsets.


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