Who are they wearing and why does it matter?
Gone are the days when an up-and-coming starlet could attend a major awards ceremony in an understated black midi dress. Now, every photo opportunity is a chance to cause a viral sensation. Something from the star’s own closet will rarely suffice when A-listers can net anywhere between $120,000 and $250,000 in brand endorsements when awards season rolls around. These relationships are symbiotic and work to the mutual benefit of both parties. The star gets dolled up for an evening and might even make a name for themselves in the right dress; whilst the brand can carefully craft their image by only associating themselves with select individuals.
We’ve seen time and time again, how the perfect dress can do more for a career than any award. Elizabeth Hurley’s punk-inspired Versace number and Nicole Kidman’s chartreuse slip courtesy of Galliano at Dior are just a few that come to mind. A romantic might say that these women are stars forged in silk, while a cynic would just call it good advertising.
Nevertheless, the importance of these relationships between houses and their ‘ambassadors’ cannot be understated. An apt alliance can put a starlet on the map, reinvigorate a stale image or solidify the legacy of a designer forever. If we take a look at the Grammys earlier this year, the conscious decisions behind these partnerships seem more apparent than ever.
Dua Lipa in Versace
To begin with, we have the music industry’s newest pop princess, Dua Lipa. The twenty-five-year-old had an incredible year in 2020 with her sophomore effort Future Nostalgia garnering her critical acclaim, six Grammy nominations and a win for Best Pop Vocal Album.
Dua has shifted away from the neon bandeau mini dresses of her debut era and moved towards looking more like Jerry Hall at a Studio 54 after party. Her signature jewel-toned monochromatic stage looks and slinky lace catsuits have almost all been Versace creations. So, there was no surprise when Dua arrived at the Grammys in a barely-there mesh ensemble that had Donatella’s hand all over it and was reportedly inspired by the Aurora Borealis.
This partnership seems logical. The house codes of Versace are mirrored in Dua’s youthful, ultra-feminine ‘It-Girl’ image and she’s able to pull off the somewhat gaudy creations on account of her undeniable sensuality. Even the jewelled butterfly motif across the bust pays homage to both 1970’s Cher in Bob Mackie and Mariah Carey’s 1997 Ungaro butterfly bralette to create a disco/Y2K hybrid that visually summarises Dua Lipa’s sonic profile.
Harry Styles in Gucci
Alessandro Michele may not be the golden child of fashion he was three years ago, but his geek-chic, maximalist style still resonates with a wide audience; shown in the €7,440,000,000 netted by Gucci through gross revenue last year. The self-confessed Anglophile draws inspiration from the eccentric aristocrats of years gone by and creates clothing with a vintage feel that appeals to consumers at all price points.
Gucci carefully chooses the faces that represent them and often lean into their idiomatic expression by selecting stars known for their individuality. Jared Leto, Hari Nef, A$AP Rocky and Lana Del Rey have all been welcomed into the Gucci family, but no one represents the brand more perfectly than Harry Styles. His cheeky English charm and gender-bending tendencies makes him the perfect muse for the house that launched its own gender-neutral clothing line, Gucci MX, in July last year.
Honestly, it’s a smart move for Harry. He seems to realise that the standard three-piece suit won’t suffice for a soft rock god, opting instead for a yellow tartan ensemble complete with a lavender boa that harkens back to the androgynous styles of Bowie and Marc Bolan. By following in the footsteps of these musical icons, Harry cements himself as another in the long line of British eccentrics who aren’t afraid to defy convention in their clothing.
Beyoncé in Schiaparelli
Since American designer Daniel Roseberry took over as Creative Director at Schiaparelli from Bertrand Guyon, the label has become a staple on the red carpet due to the immediately striking visceral appeal of his garments. Each creation has something of the surreal embedded into it, which translates into an incredible Instagram opportunity. This sense of whimsy that we see in Roseberry’s work is simultaneously playful and aggressive and seems to be a spiritual succession to the work of the house’s founder.
Elsa Schiaparelli is probably most famous for the boundaries she pushed in womenswear and her collaborations with prominent surrealists like Cocteau and Dali. The house’s confrontational ‘hard chic’ style made it a favourite of women such as Mae West, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Marlene Dietrich, who used clothing to distinguish themselves rather than to fit in. Now, with an increased expectation for celebrities to serve looks rather than simply wear clothes on the red carpet, Schiaparelli has once again become the go-to for those looking to make a statement.
At the Grammys in March, Queen B herself wore a gathered leather mini dress with gloves that had trompe l’oeil gold fingernails and a pair of drop earrings in gilded brass and enamel made up of seashells, fingers, and teeth. The simple severity in the construction of the garments allowed the surrealist touches to shine. Moreover, this collaboration proved that Beyoncé has no desire to simply be pretty or sexy, her unrivalled domination of the music industry manifests itself in how every outfit she wears is a declaration of power and independence. The Houston-born billionaire has come a long way since Destiny’s Child and now that she is officially the most decorated female recording artist in history, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.
Seeing Thom Browne on the red carpet is always a blessing, especially on someone as perfectly suited to the brand as Phoebe Bridges. However, her skeletal evening gown sort of missed the mark by looking more Halloween costume than haute couture; we’d love to see her in the darker, subversive Thom Browne that excels on the runway.
Also, it was disappointing to see someone as beautiful and talented as Megan Thee Stallion accepting three Grammys in an orange high slit gown by Dolce & Gabbana. The Italian label caused controversy over racially insensitive advertisements in 2018 and the subsequent trolling of protestors online. We hope to see Megan in something equally as flattering but more ethically sourced in the future.