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Call these past 12 months a time of upsets, from the presidential election to the best picture race. Now add Hollywood red-carpet fashion to the list. Who would have thought that political pins and ribbons could (almost) outshine diamonds on Oscar night?
THR's No. 1 stylist Karla Welch wanted to make a statement, so she pinned blue ACLU ribbons to all of her clients' gowns, including nominee (and cover star) Ruth Negga's Valentino. So did Kate Young (No. 3), who affixed Planned Parenthood pins to nominee Michelle Williams' Louis Vuitton and presenter Dakota Johnson's Gucci clutches. (That's not to say that Jessica Biel's giant $2 million, 200-baguette diamond Tiffany & Co. tribal collar — courtesy of Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn, No. 7 — was any less dazzling.)
Of course, whether a stylist outfits his or her star client with tiny bits of flair, megawatt bling — or even puts a glitzy parrot gown on Nicole Kidman at the SAG Awards, like Julia Von Boehm, No. 5, did — it's no small statement when it comes to the booming business of the red carpet. Nearly 21 million viewers tuned in to ABC's Oscar preshow alone, with even more social media impressions generated, all of it leading to increased retail sales and greater brand recognition.
Says Stacey Jones, founder of entertainment marketing agency Hollywood Branded Inc.: "The red carpet is a thousand times more important to a brand than any advertisement." As the power stylists on THR's list know well, you can't put a price on Hollywood glamour — not even Trumpian turmoil can dim that.
Additional reporting by Jane Carlson.
Read more: Music's 5 Most Influential Stylists | 5 of Hollywood's Most In-Demand Men's Stylists | 5 Rising Hollywood Stylists to Watch
Why she matters: A year ago, the world had never heard of Ruth Negga, but between her subtle turn in Loving, for which she was Oscar-nominated, and her exquisitely standout red-carpet presence, courtesy of Welch, the actress is now a fashion force. That's the power of a No. 1 stylist. Welch, who won the top spots on Vogue's best dressed lists for all three of Hollywood's major red carpets — the Emmys, Golden Globes and the Oscars — possesses a range as dynamic and varied as her clientele. She favors high-risk looks by Rodarte, Gucci and Louis Vuitton for Negga (balanced by the Oscar nominee's penchant for demure long sleeves); lady-with-an-edge selects for Prada-prone Emmy winner Paulson, 42; modern body-conscious picks for supermodel/girlfriend-in-law to Jared Kushner, Kloss, 24; and eclectic glam for Michelle Williams' awards-season plus-one, Philipps, 37. Negga credits Welch for her new "It" girl fashion status: "Before I ever started the [Loving] campaign, I was reading the top 25 stylists [list] and was like, 'I pick that girl.' There was something about her energy, that fierceness. Before I go anywhere, she does my [red carpet] poses for me, and I just copy them." The 35-year-old star's crowning moment was crimson Valentino couture topped off with a 146.16 carat Gemfields x Irene Neuwirth ruby headpiece at the Oscars. Welch also boasts an impressive #Beliebers following. "Anytime I put Justin in a suit, it gets a lot of attention."
Top looks: Negga, for whom Welch created her own #MegaNegga hashtag on Instagram and Twitter, glittered in silvery Louis Vuitton at the Golden Globes ("Modern armor," says Welch). The L.A.-based stylist, who accessorized all of her clients' Oscar looks with blue ACLU ribbons, also adored Paulson's emerald Emmys Prada, as did the actress herself. "I would like to be buried in it, walk to Gelson's in it, go to the movies in it," jokes The People v. O.J. Simpson actress.
Why she matters: THR's No. 1 stylist in 2015 juggled two female nominees: Stone, 28, and Adams, 42, as well as several fashion-savvy A-listers. "At the Globes," says Flannery, "was Zoe wearing fashion's current favorite, Gucci; Reese looking sexy in Versace; Amy continuing her story from film to real-life fashion in a sleek Tom Ford creation; and Emma in a starry Valentino that gave a glimpse of her dreamy Hollywood ride."
Top looks: Stone shimmered down the Oscar carpet in La La Land-inspired Givenchy beaded fringe, the evening's most tweeted fashion. "A magical moment — Emma being the first Oscar winner to wear Givenchy since Audrey Hepburn," says Flannery of the best actress' frock that took 1,700 hours to whip up. Says Stone, "I have never been pushed into wearing anything, and I always feel comfortable, which is the coolest part." Another "wow" was Saldana, 38, in Dolce Gabbana at the Met Gala. "The dress was made of hand-painted feathers, and the train was 10 feet long," says Flannery. "Zoe had to be transported in a vehicle she could stand up in."
Why she matters: Young pulls off the neat trick of being both fashion-cool and a commerce magnet. When asked who her style icon is, Williams, 36, quickly replies, "Kate Young!" The stylist, who topped THR's list in 2012 and 2016, long has dressed Williams and Portman for their Dior and Louis Vuitton campaigns, respectively, but also saw Robbie land a Calvin Klein fragrance commercial and Gomez cash in on a rumored $10 million Coach paycheck last year.
Top looks: Young outfitted nominees Williams exclusively in Louis Vuitton and Portman in Dior — with a departure for surprising Jackie-esque yellow Prada at the Globes. Johnson, 27, in a simple, plunging Valentino champagne gown was one of Young's favorites, as was the Alexander McQueen unicorn gown Robbie wore for Suicide Squad.
Why she matters: Best supporting actress winner Davis, 51, was one of the most tweeted-about stars at #Oscars, second only to host Jimmy Kimmel. "Our awards-season M.O. was clean, strong and colorful," says Stewart, who outfitted the Fences star in a kaleidoscopic wardrobe of red Armani Prive, yellow Michael Kors and blue Jenny Packham. "It's her year!"
Top looks: For the Globes, "the inspiration was to find a dress that represented lightness and strength in dark times. I loved that Viola looked sunny on the carpet," says the Santa Monica-based stylist of Davis' canary sequin gown. Stewart also dressed best picture (mishap) presenter Faye Dunaway, 76, in a white Atelier Prabal Gurung buttoned-sleeve gown, captioning her Instagram photo: "There's no mix-up about who looked great at the Oscars tonight!"
Julia von Boehm
Why she matters: After a few years of playing it safe, Kidman is back. This awards season, the Lion nominee consistently delivered high-impact moments worthy of her iconic chartreuse John Galliano for Dior at the 1997 Oscars. New York-based von Boehm, who started her career assisting Carine Roitfeld, possesses an uncanny ability to land the most coveted designer pieces for her leading lady, including the Alexander McQueen silver-beaded crashing-wave gown, which Kidman's two young daughters helped select for the Globes. "When I put this on, they both said, 'Mummy, you look like a beautiful fairy,' so that was it," said Kidman.
Top looks: While it ruffled a few feathers, the Australian actress' plunging emerald Gucci gown with beaded exotic birds was the clear SAG Awards winner. Says von Boehm, "Two parrots to her left and right were a risky move but stunning."
Why she matters: For many of the town's most dashing gents, Urbinati turns out timeless menswear with a twist, using color, pattern and sometimes tailored separates instead of suits. "I had 15 people Oscar night, including two winners," namely, best director Damien Chazelle and best actor Affleck. "It was nuts!"
Top looks: The former clothing buyer's choices included Gucci DIY tuxes with piping for Hiddleston at the Emmys, and in brown velvet for Atlanta two-time Globe winner Glover, 31 ("I don't know anyone who could have pulled that off better," says Urbinati). She also avoided playing it safe with Manchester by the Sea's Affleck, 41, at the Spirit Awards: "When the Muslim ban happened, Casey took a baseball shirt to be embroidered with 'Love' on it in Arabic. He wore it under a royal blue Brioni suit. Twitter went nuts, and I was so proud."
Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn
Why they matter: Hollywood's hottest styling duo delivers the drama, as evidenced by 27-year-old Rules Don't Apply Globe nominee Collins' fresh, retro awards-season run, including a screen-siren-worthy marigold Amanda Wakeley. Lopez enjoyed an endless supply of showstoppers — more than 1.2 million @jlo Instagram followers double-tapped on an image of the 47-year-old star's sweeping, candy pink Ralph & Russo Grammys gown.
Top looks: On Oscar night, Biel, 35, dazzled in metallic KaufmanFranco with a 200-baguette diamond Tiffany & Co. necklace worth about $2 million, cementing her status as awards season's sexiest plus-one. "It was very different — deconstructed gold sequins and rhinestones with pops of skin showing in a giant tribal-inspired necklace," says Zangardi. "It was a hit!"
Why she matters: One word: Meryl. The New York-based stylist is the mastermind behind Streep's looks, from the black Givenchy with multicolor mirror embroidery worn while delivering her impassioned speech at the Globes — the night's most tweeted moment — to an ethereal Valentino bird print at the SAG Awards.
Top looks: Pre-Oscars, Streep's name was splashed across headlines for allegedly declining to wear a dress by Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld without payment. Erlanger defended her client in a strong statement: "At no point were there any conversations regarding monetary compensation. … This is not how my company operates and is very much in conflict with Ms. Streep's personal ethics." At the Academy Awards, the Florence Foster Jenkins nominee, 67, arrived glorious in sapphire blue Elie Saab Haute Couture.
Why she matters: The Fanning sisters continued their red-carpet reign in Valentino, Miu Miu and Rodarte, while McMillen collaborated exclusively with designer Joseph Altuzarra on an awards-season wardrobe of strictly suits for feminist Wood. "I'm not trying to protest dresses, but I wanted to make sure that young girls and women knew that you don't have to wear one if you don't want to because your worth is more than that,” said the Westworld actress, 29, who channeled Marlene Dietrich and David Bowie. McMillen also reportedly dressed La La Land’s leading man Ryan Gosling, 36, for his dapper tour de force.
Top looks: Dakota, 23, lit up the Venice Film Festival in iridescent Miu Miu (the Brimstone actress hashtagged an Instagram post with #nevertakingthisoff), while sister Elle, 18, stunned in a delicate pink Zuhair Murad ball gown at Cannes. "It was Elle's first time there, and I had tears in my eyes," says McMillen.
Why she matters: Monae wears only two colors — black and white — but the Hidden Figures and Moonlight star's stylist does not find that palette limiting. "I mean it in all humility that I have the hardest job of any stylist, but it is so creatively challenging in the best way possible," says Reilly, who has turned out bold and graphic Chanel, Carolina Herrera and Armani Prive for her client of four years. "The biggest compliment was that people didn't necessarily realize Janelle only wore those two colors, because each look was different."
Top looks: Monae, 31, dazzled at the Oscars in an Elie Saab Haute Couture tulle ball gown with bird brooches, lace and $1.5 million in Forevermark diamonds. Says Reilly: "It was our grand finale."
Why she matters: The bicoastal stylist was introduced to Dunham, 30, by her Girls co-star Allison Williams, 28, who has worked with Ehrlich for nearly five years. "My first look with Lena was for the Democratic National Convention. We chose a white, off-the-shoulder Gabriela Hearst dress, classic slingback heels and minimal jewelry," says Ehrlich of the departure from Dunham's signature mash-up style.
Top looks: Ehrlich commissioned designer Jason Wu to devise a custom crimson gown for Chopra, 34, at the Emmys. "We wanted to create a modern interpretation of Old Hollywood royalty, and red just felt right," Chopra tells THR. The Baywatch actress teased her chiffon train with a video that garnered nearly a million views on Instagram.
Why she matters: Theron, 41, in a Dior tux at the Cannes Film Festival, arguably was the sexiest example of androgyny ever. The Last Face actress posted a snapshot for her 1.9 million Instagram followers, simply captioning it: "Love a good suit." Says Fremar, "Cannes is a place where I can try different things, be avant-garde and just go for it."
Top looks: The New York-based stylist, who topped THR's list in 2013, started working with one of Hollywood's new faces, Sofia Boutella. The 34-year-old, who stars opposite Tom Cruise in this summer's Mummy (June 9) wowed in feathery Chanel Haute Couture at the Oscars.
Why she matters: Walsh carved out a unique style for Westworld's Newton — hello, coppery flame sequins at the Globes — and signed NBC's headline-making news anchor Kelly, 46, whom she dressed in black-and-white J. Mendel for the Vanity Fair Oscar party.
Top looks: Newton, 44, wore a beaded Schiaparelli Couture with wild horses to the SAG Awards. "It was Westworld in a dress that happens to be exquisite couture," says Walsh. The NYC-based stylist says she received the most attention for Washington's sexy cut-out Brandon Maxwell at the Emmys: "Kerry was at the height of her pregnancy. The best moments are always a gamble."
Jill Lincoln and Jordan Johnson
Why they matter: The duo helped usher in Dior's current "New Look" on the carpet — contemporary, feminist-minded fashions with whimsy under artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri. Lawrence, 26, donned the label's embroidered ball gown skirt for the Passengers press tour.
Top look: Lincoln and Johnson also got Modern Family's bombshell out of her mermaid silhouette and into an Audrey Hepburn-esque Zuhair Murad frock at the SAG Awards ("Like a ballerina," says Vergara, 44).
Why she matters: Singer, who made her #THRStylists debut in 2016 as one of five rising stars, favors sleek over promlike gowns, which can be a gamble in safer arenas like the Oscars. Best example: the Moonlight nominee's minimalistic Calvin Klein by Appointment white sequin sheath at the Academy Awards. "Naomie liked the idea of doing something short. We knew it'd be a fashion moment," says L.A.-based Singer. She collaborated with the actress' NYC-based stylist Laura Jones, who adds: "It was sleek but felt effortless, true to Naomie's aesthetic." The day after the awards show, Harris, 40, swept several best dressed lists.
Top looks: The daughter of Hollywood power lawyer Marty Singer especially loved Harris' neon pink, Velcro-trimmed Chanel frock at the Spirit Awards ("Major side-boob action," laughs Harris) and a statement-making metallic Gucci suit at the Hollywood Film Awards. "Naomie was the only woman not wearing a dress," says Singer. "The press said she was 'wearing the pants in Hollywood.' "
Why she matters: The 21-year veteran stylist has mastered fierceness on the carpet, from Blunt, 34, in a floral Alexander McQueen at the BAFTAs ("feminine and strong," says Paster), to new client Rose, 30, in a edgy Vionnet gown with gold chains at the Resident Evil: The Final Chapter premiere. During Rose's press tours, including for xXx: The Return of Xander Cage and John Wick 2, says Paster, "We had six weeks for Ruby to make an impact in the fashion world."
Top looks: For the Girl on the Train's London premiere, Paster outfitted Blunt and Haley Bennett, 29, in dramatic Alexander McQueen and gold pearl-encrusted Valentino Haute Couture, respectively.
Nina and Clare Hallworth
Why they matter: The Hallworth sisters commissioned a week's worth of haute couture for Dunst's turn as a Cannes juror: "pink Gucci encrusted with peonies, marigold and black lace John Galliano for Maison Margiela and nude lace Valentino … all garnered enormous press," says Clare of the 14-look Croisette wardrobe.
Top looks: "Kirsten's dress from the Oscars was a reimagining of Christian's 1952 'Sonnet' dress by the house of Dior," says Nina of the Hidden Figures actress' black silk faille couture.
Why he matters: Hidden Figures' Henson, 46, was a standout in a flawlessly fitted midnight blue Alberta Ferretti velvet with a 103-carat Nirav Modi diamond necklace at the Oscars — the second most tweeted red-carpet fashion that night.
Top looks: Bolden describes the Empire star's purple satin Marc Jacobs minidress with lightning bolts at the Grammys as his "riskiest look." The stylist also applauds DuVernay's decision to wear Lebanese designer Ashi Studio to the Oscars. Says Bolden, "I believe we'll continue to see these types of statements more and more."
Why she matters: The reigning stylist to modern-day Disney princesses (Beauty and the Beast's Watson, 26; Cinderella's James, 27) and small-screen royalty (Game of Thrones' Turner, 21; The Crown's Kirby, 28) mixes regal Elie Saab with cutting-edge Monse. Most recently, Corbin-Murray commissioned more than a dozen eco-chic looks — recycled polyester from used plastic bottles — for sustainably minded Watson's press tour to promote Disney's live-action remake.
Top looks: Watson — Instagram's No. 2 most followed actress with 24.2 million — hit the mark in a midriff-baring 3.1 Phillip Lim spun from biodegradable yarns and an Elie Saab (Eco) Haute Couture caped gown created from leftover fabric for Beauty and the Beast's Shanghai premiere. Says Corbin-Murray, "It was a challenge to do a sustainable fashion tour but amazing to create beautiful things that are less harmful to the planet."
Wendi and Nicole Ferreira
Why they matter: The versatile Ferreira sisters span the range of high Hollywood classic (Cruise) to unique personal styles (Banks, Oyelowo) to leading men of the moment (Pine). They suited up Bridges and Spencer for their Globe-nominated roles — a traditional Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo for the Hell or High Water actor, 67, and a beautifully tailored Laura Basci tuxedo for the Hidden Figures actress.
Top looks: After a series of sharp suits (Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, Zegna) for summer's Star Trek Beyond tour, Pine ventured into new territory for Hell or High Water: "I told my stylists, 'Let's just go for a Nashville country singer who has become a hit man for the mob and lives in Little Cuba,' " Pine, 36, says of the inspiration for his camp shirt with high-waist trousers at the film's premiere in Austin.
Why he matters: Quelle surprise: No one could have guessed Dion, 48, would emerge as the style icon at July's Paris Haute Couture shows. She owned the week, gaining more than 169,000 Instagram followers as she sat in front rows at Giambattista Valli and Christian Dior while wearing one highly photographed Titanic sweatshirt by Vetements, all courtesy of her new stylist. Jokes Dion, "Law has changed me like 65 times a day."
Top looks: The Beauty and the Beast songstress rocked emerald Zuhair Murad Haute Couture at the Grammys. "Celine hadn't walked that carpet in almost 15 years," says Roach. "The dress was very Dynasty." Another defining moment for Law was Marvel's Spider-Man: Homecoming star Zendaya, 20 — Instagram's most followed actress, with 38.8 million — in a chic nude Calvin Klein bra top and skirt at the Billboard Music Awards. "Zendaya had never been that exposed on the carpet, and we weren't sure how her younger fans and parents would respond," says Roach of the Disney Channel actress. But it was a hit. Next up: Roach will spin a red carpet narrative for Zendaya's world tour timed to Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7).
Why she matters: Saltzman continues to push boundaries with longtime client Paltrow's rainbow-sparkle Gucci LBD at the LACMA Art + Film gala in L.A. "We shortened it to the max," says the London-based stylist.
Top looks: Thurman, 46, graced the Met Ball in custom Tommy Hilfiger with a never-before-seen 1948 Cartier diamond brooch — "Oh so elegant," says Saltzman, who in 2016 started working with xXx: The Return of Xander Cage star Deepika Padukone, 31, Bollywood's highest-paid actress with an Instagram following of 15.4 million. Says Saltzman, "Deepika's fans track me down."
Why she matters: Swennen's work with Stewart, 26, has yielded a new definition of cool on the red carpet (even debuting a buzz cut March 7). Consider the all-white Rodarte, with a ruffled crop-top and safety-pin-accented trousers, at the Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk premiere at the New York Film Festival. Says Swennen, "I loved the Victorian flair with rock 'n' roll."
Top looks: The L.A.-based stylist put Balfe, 37, in a high-fashion, two-tone Delpozo at the Golden Globes.
Why she matters: The risk-taking British stylist didn't cave to the tres traditional Cannes dress code: "We opted for a short, red polka dot dress for Bella," says Lovell of 29-year-old Heathcote's Armani Prive at the Neon Demon screening. Lovell also dressed Wiig, 43, in parrot motif Marc Jacobs for the L.A. Masterminds premiere and put Hathaway, 34, in Givenchy leather overalls (yes, overalls) at Toronto.
Top looks: Heathcote lit up the Fifty Shades Darker carpet in Saint Laurent gold lamé.
Why she matters: The London-based stylist joined forces with Rogue One star Jones in the fall and brought otherworldly glam (Giambattista Valli, Burberry, Gucci) to the $1.05 billion-grossing film's mega press tour.
Top looks: Jones, 33, dazzled in a golden Dior gown at the Rogue One premiere in L.A.
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