Ermal Hajrizi

The Business of Awards Season Fashion

Ermal Hajrizi
The Business of Awards Season Fashion

By Lina Goelzer

The month of February marks the peak of awards season: the time of year when members of the film and music industry recognize their work.  However, not only the entertainment world gets excited; fashion designers jump on the opportunity to gain invaluable exposure.

Celebrities need an endless supply of gowns for awards shows such as the Golden Globes, the SAGs, the Grammys, and the Oscars, as well as equally glamorous ensembles for the after-parties.  In recent years, the fashion community has complained of increasingly homogeneous red carpet style.  Therefore, people get attention for taking fashion risks and breaking convention.  Everyone presents their sartorial best; awards season is the time for high fashion and haute couture. Celebrities get just as much, if not more attention for their style than for their awards.  For example, actress Lily Collins stole the spotlight at the Golden Globes, earning raves for her rose-covered Zuhair Murad gown. Although she didn’t win a Golden Globe for her role in Warren Beatty flick Rules Don’t Apply, she made countless “best dressed” lists.             

“Best-Dressed” lists, along with dress predictions, are ubiquitous in magazines and on the internet.  Celebrity style has become its own influential media channel.  Shows such as “Live from the Red Carpet” on E! are broadcast to millions, displaying every dress, shoe, and accessory.  Not to mention, there are hordes of paparazzi wherever celebrities gather.  Instagram, Pinterest, blogs, and other forms of social media give these images longevity; photos can be reused on the internet, unlike in magazine editorials.  And while editorials may reach hundreds of thousands of subscribers,  awards shows reach millions. It’s the best form of low-investment advertising for any designer.

Clearly, the red carpet is a powerful weapon for any clothing brand.  Major luxury brands, such as Dior and Gucci, are experts at using it to their advantage.  Case in point:  Jennifer Lawrence, the a longtime face of Dior, has starred in the brand’s ad campaigns and consistently wears their dresses on the red carpet.  As a matter of fact, in 2014 Lawrence signed a 3 year contract to serve as a Dior brand ambassador, rumored to be worth around twenty million dollars.  Due to Lawrence’s continuing popularity, the move paid off.  Celebrities often also have the privilege to preview designer collections and wear custom-fitted pieces days after they were seen on the runway.

The relationship between celebrities and designers is symbiotic:  many up-and-coming brands are using celebrities to expand their brand.  The red carpet is becoming increasingly open to new designers, who gain global brand awareness and increased sales.  For designer Prabal Gurung, the starting point was when Zoe Saldana wore one of his dresses to a Star Trek premiere in Germany.  Soon afterwards, Demi Moore tweeted “Oh I am wearing this new designer to look out for.” Gurung went from being an unknown with no more than 18 Twitter followers to being the seventh most frequently searched brand in 2013.    “It has had a tremendous, tremendous impact in every way.”

Dressing a celebrity can open new doors for a young brand, grabbing the attention of retailers and investors.  “Designers have learned that getting their gown on the right body is second to none,” stated Tamara Mellon, cofounder of Jimmy Choo.  At the same time, the celebrity also benefits:  “I think there’s a lot of exposure for both the designer and the celebrity when it is a perfect match,” said designer Jason Wu.  Stylists are the gatekeepers responsible for finding that match.

 “The red carpet and awards season is such a global platform and incredible opportunity for…designers to build their brands and get their name out there.”   In the world of style, the awards season has become almost as important as Fashion Week.   With so many people involved, awards shows are just as much of a production as the films they recognize.  The question is, who gets to provide the wardrobe?

Lily Collins in Zuhair Murad at the 2017 Golden Globes.  Image via E! Online

Lily Collins in Zuhair Murad at the 2017 Golden Globes.  Image via E! Online

Designer Prabal Gurung accompanies actress Diane Kruger, who is wearing one of his designs, on the red carpet. Image via Pop Sugar

Designer Prabal Gurung accompanies actress Diane Kruger, who is wearing one of his designs, on the red carpet. Image via Pop Sugar

Jennifer Lawrence, a brand ambassador for Dior, has worn the label for multiple high-profile award show appearances.  Images via Elle

Jennifer Lawrence, a brand ambassador for Dior, has worn the label for multiple high-profile award show appearances.  Images via Elle