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For the third year in a row, Hollywood finds itself rolling up the red carpet — at least temporarily — in the face of COVID-19, this time with the latest, omicron variant. Tinseltown’s top fashion stylists face a slew of canceled premieres and delayed awards shows, including the Grammys, Critics Choice and Governors Awards with no firm dates set yet for their return.
Yet despite the proverbial feeling of déjà vu, stylemakers who spoke with The Hollywood Reporter say they are soldiering on and putting on a hopeful, if not downright optimistic, front.
“Obviously, the times are insane right now. But I have this renewed hope about where we’re at now, as opposed to a year and a half ago when it was panic all the time,” says Tara Swennen (@taraswennen).
Her star client Kristen Stewart was relegated to recently receiving her Palm Springs Film Festival Spotlight Award for Spencer via Zoom rather than at a glitzy gala due to the recent cancellation of both the festival and, earlier, the awards ceremony.
“And I usually have a bevy of girls that attend award show parties, a lot of them from this past weekend, and those were obviously canceled,” says Swennen. “And then the Grammys got pushed, but I’m still hopeful they’ll happen and, even if they happen virtually, I think we’ve all gotten accustomed to a lot of curveballs. As long as our clients can participate somehow, I’ll still be happy.”
Even with clients like Dune’s Oscar Isaac, Peter Dinklage (Cyrano) and The White Lotus‘ Murray Bartlett on hold for attending award shows, stylist Michael Fisher (@mjonf) seems equally sanguine, saying this time seems different than at the height of lockdown. “It doesn’t feel like that. No one has said the ‘c’ word yet — canceled — everyone says postponing or it’s going to go virtual, which is now just a new way of working, right?” He’s hoping that by February things will get back to where they were this fall. “With all of the original custom suits that I am signed up for and everything, it’s like we had to put a pin in that,” says Fisher.
Other events are also going by the wayside. Fisher relates that he was working with the Cyrano crew on a big Los Angeles premiere that was postponed. “But you can’t really postpone a premiere. Who’s going to care once the movie’s out in theaters?” Similarly, a premiere party for Pam and Tommy client Sebastian Stan has been turned into a last episode post-party. Fisher also had clients booked for his client James Corden’s late night show that went dark with his recent COVID diagnosis. “It is just such a shame that their projects and films and television shows are not getting the attention and celebration they deserve.” Also waiting in the proverbial wings, the opening night festivities for client Hugh Jackman’s return to Broadway in the COVID-interrupted The Music Man.
“My level of anxiety is at a five as opposed to a 10 this time around,” says stylist Mark Holmes (@styleitholmes). “All of us are just figuring everything out and it will come around, but it does make things strange, certainly. For most stylists, myself included, this is one of our busiest times of year.”
Holmes adds that he was especially looking forward to outfitting client Trent Reznor for the Grammys as a co-producer of Halsey’s If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, nominated for best alternative album. “That’s something that affected me directly. I have a lot of other actors, which luckily, you know, are in stages of filming and not in necessarily in award cycles, but would have been attending like Bill Hader and Tony Hale, Brett Gelman, Jacob Elordi.”
And stylists have taken some lessons from the past couple of pandemic years, Holmes feels. “We’ve learned that this virtual thing [is something] that everyone hates doing, but it does have some legs. And, you know, it’s a little bit easier for a stylist to pull or do a fitting in a virtual setting and just worry about the top half and be done with it. And it still kind of keeps you engaged with your client and the PR companies,” he says. “We’ve all had hopes of it being behind us, and I still think the worst is behind us, but this seems like some collateral damage from what we saw previously in the last two years.”
For stylist Warren Alfie Baker (@warrenalfiebaker), missing the Critics Choice Awards was a big one, since he has been dressing best actor nominee Andrew Garfield for press around awards contender Tick, Tick … Boom!
“We had a really good run of press and did some amazing looks and were excited to transition that to the red carpet with tuxedos,” he says. “So now we’re on hold a bit, but I’m just glad we were lucky that we got to do that full press tour with no issues.”
For stylist Chloe Hartstein (@chloehartstein) — who works with Succession’s Nicholas Braun as well as Glenn Close, Jimmy Fallon and others — it was a bit of a letdown after getting excited about this year’s award season and the opportunity to have bigger red carpet moments again.
“As soon as omicron popped up, I think we all kind of knew that, you know, things would probably be a bit more restricted or would kind of be postponed. I feel totally fine about that. We’ve been through this before, we’re prepared now,” says Hartstein.
“Part of it goes back to the feeling of being an artist, of being a freelancer,” she continues. “Everyone can connect to that in our industry — me as a stylist and hair and makeup and for actors and actresses and writers. We live our lives kind of thinking every job is the last, right?”
Getting reflective, Hartstein adds, “It’s a constant exercise in trusting that things happen when they need to happen, that they happen when they’re supposed to happen. So, if anything, I think you have to let go of that control, as hard as it is. And, going back to the awards season, it’s hard because there is a lot of planning involved and a lot of custom pieces being made. And so, there’s a lot of being in limbo there, but if it’s meant to be, we’ll pull it together.”
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