Pret-a-Reporter

This Is How Opening Ceremony and Kenzo Ended Up at the Emmys

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Natasha Lyonne and Mindy Kaling

The coolest labels in the game are "dabbling" in custom red-carpet dressing after making Emmys gowns for Mindy Kaling and Natasha Lyonne on Monday

Hollywood awards show carpets tend to host all the same heavy hitters as far as fashion is concerned: Ralph, Donna, Giorgio and the like. And while there was no shortage of style’s biggest names at the Emmys on Monday, Kenzo and Opening Ceremony — two of fashion’s coolest, most innovative labels — began what is sure to be their eventual insertion into the red-carpet lexicon. Mindy Kaling, who was styled by Hayley Atkin, sported a custom modified Kenzo frock based on the Paris brand’s fall collection, while Orange Is the New Black star Natasha Lyonne wore a custom lace gown dreamed up by Opening Ceremony founders and Kenzo creative directors Humberto Leon, Carol Lim and Lyonne stylist Karla Welch

“It’s fun to bring something that’s a little more fresh,” Welch told Pret-a-Reporter of using the 11-year-old brand on Lyonne, which has become a downtown fashion darling known for tech initiatives, performance art fashion shows and an always star-studded front row. Not to mention an edgy, modern vibe that has found fans (and collaborators) in everyone from Spike Jonze to Rihanna. Lyonne’s gown itself — a tea-length fishtail lace number based on a past-season Opening Ceremony shirt Welch had admired — was made from scratch especially for the actress. “They jumped through hoops,” she says of Leon, Lim and their team. 

“We don’t generally do custom,” Leon said of the looks, which mark both brands' first forays into true red-carpet dressing. “It’s really exciting to have [Lyonne and Kaling] at the Emmys. It’s new for us.”

Leon worked with both women and their styling teams from start to finish — helping pick out the lace fabric used for Lyonne’s pin-up style, long-sleeved gown and attending both fittings for Kaling’s racy red number. 

“The requests came at different times,” Leon said. “Both were different approaches. But the process was the most fun part.”

The dresses, while modern and elegant, were a far cry from the blinding, more traditional black-tie options seen throughout Monday’s red-carpet pre-show — a fact that Welch says is fine by her. 

“It doesn’t always have to be a glitzy gown,” said the stylist, who also helped put together Robin Wright’s jaw-dropping jumpsuit. “That’s not for everyone. Natasha isn’t someone who needs to wear a sparkly gown.”

So is red-carpet dressing part of Leon’s burgeoning business strategy from here on out? 

“It’s really fun to dabble in this and it’s something I definitely want to get into. It’s so nice to have this be a category to work on,” he said, quickly adding that this is a mere experiment thus far. “We’re dabbling. But it’s nice to see how something like this can take shape.”

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