Hollywood’s yearlong call for inclusion is changing the look of the red carpet, with a new generation of stylists rising to dress the season’s diverse roster of stars.
The shutout of “Crazy Rich Asians” and female directors notwithstanding, Tuesday’s Oscar nominations marked several historic firsts: “Black Panther,” with its predominantly black cast, became the first superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture. “Roma” newcomer Yalitza Aparicio was the first indigenous actress to be nominated for Best Actress, while “If Beale Street Could Talk” actress Regina King joins just a handful of African-American women to ever be nominated for the honor. They are in the same category as Melissa McCarthy, who has famously said “my size isn’t the most interesting thing about me,” 45-year-old Olivia Colman, 71-year-old Glenn Close and pop-singer-turned-starlet Lady Gaga.
As the red carpet becomes more diverse, a new string of image-makers is stepping into the fashion spotlight — stylist Jason Rembert, who has made inclusion a cornerstone of his work with Issa Rae and others, will launch his own label Aliette at New York Fashion Week next month — and luxury brands seem to be expanding their once-narrow definition of celebrity VIPs.
“Back in the day, you knew Salma Hayek, Jennifer Aniston and Nicole Kidman would show up wearing a huge name on the red carpet. But now, you are anticipating what Mahershala Ali, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright and Michael B. Jordan are going to be wearing, too, and you know it’s going to be a respected high-end designer. That’s a big shift in Hollywood,” says stylist Ade Samuel, who has gained notice for dressing “Black Panther” actor Jordan in a mix of European labels including Loewe, Burberry and Berluti, along with Virgil Abloh’s Off-White and men’s wear by Ghanaian-born designer Adrien Sauvage, to cultivate a “clean, dapper aesthetic” inspired by Miles Davis and Sammy Davis Jr. “The inclusion rider is very important to Michael,” she adds, referring to the diversity policy the actor launched in September with Warner Media. “I want to make sure we connect that to what he’s doing in fashion.”
Lady Gaga has long been a fashion icon. But after years of working with Brandon Maxwell and Nicola Formichetti, both stylists-turned-designers, she has for the last year been styled by emerging duo Sandra Amador and Tom Eerebout. The stylists have tapped Valentino and Calvin Klein for her classic awards show gowns that are intended to “bridge the two worlds she is living in — the movie world and the pop world,” Amador says. They’ve also been busy designing costumes for her Las Vegas shows.
Stylist Sophie Lopez says that, in the beginning, “designers weren’t exactly throwing things” at first-time actress Aparicio, who was discovered by “Roma” director Alfonso Cuarón’s team during a casting in her small Mexican town. “They asked to see what she had done before, but I had no red-carpet photos to show them. I had to talk to people a lot, say ‘Let’s go off to lunch, let me tell you about this girl.’ I wanted to make sure she had the same privilege every other actress has on the red carpet.”
Two fashion houses did step up from the beginning, even before “Roma” won the top prize at the Golden Globes. “Prada and Valentino … they were with us from the start,” says the stylist, who sought out the star because she herself is Latin, Spanish-speaking and under 5 feet tall, as is the Aparicio.
A spokesperson for Prada and Miu Miu said Miuccia Prada is “always on the lookout for new talent,” praising Aparicio’s performance as “graceful and powerful.”
With an Oscar nomination, the star now has her pick of designers. “Since the Globes, everyone is interested,” adds Lopez, noting that Aparicio’s cred was also helped by Vogue Mexico editor Karla Martinez, who put Aparicio on the January cover. With an eye toward fashion representation, Lopez is adding several Mexican and Latin designers to the red-carpet rotation for Aparicio and her other “Roma” client, actress Marina de Tavira, including looks by Johanna Ortiz and Sandra Weil.
When it comes to resources, Chloe Hartstein, who is dressing not one but two Best Actress nominees — McCarthy and Close — names size-inclusive designer retail web site 11 Honoré as a new go-to. “It’s beautifully curated, and it’s got a great selection at all price points,” she says of the L.A.-based e-commerce business, where she found the starry Reem Acra dress McCarthy wore to the Golden Globes. The e-tailer is also dressing “Pose” producer Our Lady J for awards season, after the trans star complained on social media about not being able to find clothes to fit her.
Inclusion sells, says Hartstein, who got Close out of her Armani comfort zone and into a custom ice-blue Gabriela Hearst look for the Critics’ Choice Awards. “The people who buy these clothes are not always young girls,” the stylist says. Dressing “The Wife” star was a no-brainer, adds Hearst. “We get inspired when we dress role models of talent.”
Alberta Ferretti echoes the sentiment, in reference to dressing “Beale Street” actress King in a custom rose gold gown for the Golden Globes. “Regina to me personifies the women who wear my clothes,” she says.
“It’s always been important to us to establish a variety of voices and faces on the carpet,” says King’s stylist Wayman Bannerman, who with Micah McDonald comprise the Wayman and Micah styling team that just hit the front row at the Chanel, Valentino, Ralph & Russo and Iris van Herpen couture shows. When reached by phone, the duo — who also dress KiKi Layne, Tessa Thompson and Shameik Moore — hinted at a new level of their own celebrity coming soon, their first branding partnership. It would put them in the same club as top stylists Kate Young, Karla Welch and Elizabeth Stewart, who have snagged lucrative collaborations with blue chip brands Tiffany & Co., Levi’s, Walmart and more. Says McDonald: “If art is supposed to imitate life, it should look like it.”
Here’s a look at the new stylists to know this awards season:
Years styling/first client: Three years, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
Current clients: Michael B. Jordan, Letitia Wright, Hayley Kiyoko, Justine Skye
How I got my start: As an assistant at Teen Vogue, then an assistant to stylist Simone Harouche.
POV: “I don’t do trends, I’m looking at the brand of the artist.”
Choice look: Michael B. Jordan in a custom Off-White by Virgil Abloh tuxedo at the Met Gala.
Red carpet trick of the trade: Double-stick tape. “It can hold jewelry together, shorten the hem of pants, everything!”
Years styling/first client: Twelve years total; four years doing awards season/British band the Klaxons.
Current clients: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Kate Hudson
How I got my start: In magazines in London, including British GQ, then in music styling with the band Muse in L.A.
POV: “I am under 5 feet myself, so I have 35 years’ experience dressing petite women. You have to watch your proportions, your waistline, gowns can be difficult for more petite people, because they make you look shorter,” she advises. “If you are doing tea length, it’s better to see the ankles, and not to have straps on shoes.”
Choice look: Yalitza Aparicio in fairy-tale Prada at the Critics’ Choice Awards.
Red carpet trick of the trade: A bar of soap. “When you have stiff zippers, on a corset dress, for example, and the pins get stuck, if you rub a bar of soap on the zipper, it lubricates it. It’s saved me many times.”
Wayman and Micah (Wayman Bannerman and Micah McDonald)
Years styling/first client: Six years (five awards seasons), Forest Whitaker
How I got my start: (McDonald) In corporate fashion at Marc Jacobs and Alice & Olivia. (Bannerman) Post-investment banking, interning at GQ, then working at other Condé Nast magazines, then the New York Times Style section.
Current Clients: Regina King, KiKi Layne, Tessa Thompson, Forest Whitaker
POV: “We like to see diverse people express individuality,” Bannerman says.
Choice look: Regina King in custom rose gold Alberta Ferretti at the Golden Globes.
Red carpet trick of the trade: A great steamer. “Do you remember the movie ‘Joy?’ about the inventor Joy Mangano, and her line of products? She actually makes a really good steamer,” McDonald says. “It packs a punch.”
Years styling/first client: Ten years, Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann
How I got my start: In fashion p.r. in New York, then assisting stylist Samantha McMillen.
Current Clients: Glenn Close and Melissa McCarthy
POV: “I like to do research to get a sense of who my clients are and what they like. Then I meld what I have in mind for them, and what they want to express for a press tour or an awards season. Because at the end of the day, it’s great to create a narrative.”
Choice look: Glenn Close in ice-blue Gabriela Hearst at the Critics’ Choice Awards.
Red carpet trick of the trade: Deodorant spot remover sponges. You can use them to remove makeup, too.
Sandra Amador and Tom Eerebout
Years styling: Eight, one as Gaga’s main stylists. In addition to her red-carpet looks, the duo has also designed costumes for the star’s residency shows in Las Vegas.
How I got my start: (Amador) Assisting Brandon Maxwell when he was styling Gaga. (Eerebout) Assisting Nicola Formichetti when he was styling Gaga.
Current Client: Lady Gaga
POV: “There’s no method to the madness,” Eerebout says. “We are just trying to bridge the worlds she is living in, the movie world and the pop world, and find the right look for each moment,” Amador says.
Choice Look: Lady Gaga in a periwinkle blue Valentino gown and matching hair at Golden Globes.
Red carpet trick of the trade: Double-sided tape. Says Eerebout: “We use a lot of it.”