At a time when asking "who are you wearing?" can be misinterpreted as trivializing, THR's third annual issue toasts the icons and upstarts rewriting fashion's rapidly changing lingua franca amid a mashup of Hollywood, millennials, Snapchat and the new modern glamour.
(Pictured: Kerry Washington and Christian Louboutin were photographed June 11 at Quixote Studios in Los Angeles.)
What does it say about the state of the red carpet when at the Emmys, Amy Schumer appeared more comfortable name-checking her brand of feminine hygiene ("I'm wearing Vivienne Westwood, Tom Ford shoes and an o.b. tampon") than Giuliana Rancic did asking the question, "Who are you wearing?" The E! co-host relegated what would — until very recently — have been the very first question asked to a tacked-on afterthought, almost forgetting altogether to query Game of Thrones nominee Emilia Clarke about her gown.
In 2016, the red carpet is undergoing something of a revolution. Two years after #AskHerMore, and at a juncture when body-positive messages are social media manna — from Selena Gomez declaring #TheresMoreToLove to Chrissy Teigen showing off her stretch marks on Instagram — the idea of making the red carpet just about the dresses is under attack as charges of "frivolous" and "anti-feminist" abound. (Related: the climate of an election cycle where talking heads fearing charges of sexism steer clear of any style talk about the eternally pantsuited Hillary Clinton.) Some veteran industry insiders disdain the new conversation as politically correct hypocrisy: "The ridiculous #AskHerMore movement fueled the notion that it's taboo to ask someone what they are wearing on the red carpet," says former E! Fashion Police co-host George Kotsiopoulos. "As we all say, this is the entertainment industry, and we are not curing cancer. People tune in to awards shows to watch their favorite stars dressed to the nines. If you strip away the tinsel from this town, then what's left?"
Even if the tinsel is now more inclusive. THR top red-carpet designer Christian Siriano made headlines by outfitting Leslie Jones when no one else would but also by dressing diverse talent from Angela Bassett to Kathy Bates — and seven other Emmy attendees. The former Project Runway winner practically single-handedly has created a new genre of feel-good fashion that has earned him a coveted spot on Michelle Obama's must-wear list.
Yet even lauded filmmaker — and THR top designer — Tom Ford is hand-wringing about fashion's fate. In a recent THR interview, he questioned the relevance of the red carpet in today's context, saying that it's become a "spectator sport" and that "most Americans … are actually not consuming [fashion] any longer." It's true that retail revenue for luxury brands has been spiraling, with a 48 percent decrease in sales of full-priced online items during one summer week compared with the same week in 2015, and sales of in-store goods plummeting even further. Ford and fellow THR top designer Christopher Bailey of Burberry are leading the charge to boost consumption with the new instantly gratifying, see-now-buy-now sales model, disrupting the natural order of exclusive gowns going from the runway to the red carpet. (Coincidentally, both forward-thinking designers have shown collections in L.A., moving the needle on the city's status as fashion's next capital.) "It feels like we are at a turning point and that the way we do and deliver fashion is bound to change soon," says Cate Blanchett's stylist Elizabeth Stewart, who also styled Viola Davis for the Emmys.
But when anyone can buy a frock off the catwalk, is it special anymore? At a recent New York Fashion Week show, actress Priyanka Chopra praised the new equalizing approach yet wondered about maintaining a sense of exclusivity: "I can understand it's great for business. But will it kill the role of anticipation and aspiration?" Not to worry, Hollywood still will get preferential, first-look treatment. Some see-now-buy-now brands allowed such stylists as Kate Young and Cristina Ehrlich a sneak peek of their collections in February. Perhaps Hollywood should take a page from Ford and Bailey and make red carpets as profitable as possible, suggests Young: "For Margot Robbie's Suicide Squad press tour, she had four premieres and 20 looks that retailer ModaOperandi.com was already selling. I could take the whole mood of what I'm doing [for any given event] and create a shoppable thing around it."
Another sea change? That elusive, status-averse next generation, a Bernie Sanders crowd for whom luxury might be a dirty word. Iconic brands such as THR top designers Carolina Herrera and Chanel are millennializing by featuring such beloved (or provocative) models as Kiernan Shipka, 16, Willow Smith, 15, and Lily-Rose Depp, 17 (Herrera also debuted her Shipka-starring ad campaign on Snapchat). New hires Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga and Raf Simons for Calvin Klein are expected to reboot these fashion institutions by using a streetwear edge. And nobody harnesses social media, the millennial lingua franca, as effectively as Gucci, with its imminently Instagrammable clothes and accessories, resulting in red-carpet domination in 2016. "Thank you, Gucci," says Hollywood stylist Micaela Erlanger. "I think fashion should have levity and playfulness and whimsy."
And then there is this: at a time when disruption is at an all-time high, perhaps the most radical path is to stick to what one does best. As THR cover subject and stalwart style icon Christian Louboutin says, "In a world driven by publicity and marketing, keeping on being true to yourself, doing things just the way you think you should, is freedom."
Who wore it Margot Robbie, Brie Larson, Amy Adams, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Jessica Chastain, Cara Delevingne
Social presence McQueen — which last season showed in London rather than Paris for the first time in 15 years — boasts an Instagram following of 3.3 million. Followers respond to images like the "dream combination" of Chastain's silver embroidered McQueen gown for Cannes, says her stylist Elizabeth Stewart.
Why 2016 is an important year Six years after McQueen committed suicide, two biopics are in the works. Maven Pictures, the indie production company co-founded by Trudie Styler, is delving into the storied relationship between McQueen and longtime muse Isabella Blow, while HBO's Looking producer Andrew Haigh has a project based on the biography Blood Beneath the Skin.
Nicole Kidman in Alexander McQueen
Who wore it Dakota Johnson, Kim Kardashian-West, Zoe Kravitz
Social presence Though the brand has 2.3 million followers on its own, it doesn’t hurt that celebrities with enormous social media followings like Kim Kardashian-West and Kanye West are big fans. Kanye’s affection for the designer is well documented, with the rapper tweeting in February, “I’m going to steal Demna from Balenciaga.”
Why 2016 is an important year The Parisian label appointed Gvasalia as new creative director in October of 2015 following the departure of Alexander Wang, who was with the house for six years. Gvasalia is also one of the primary designers behind the ultra-hip label Vetements. Industry insiders expect him to bring a streetwise edge to the fashion institution that in March 2015 reported double-digit growth across almost all categories according to Balenciaga CEO Isabelle Guichot. Women’s Wear Daily reported that market sources estimate that the brand generates revenues of approximately $391.5 million a year.
Zoe Kravitz in Balenciaga
Who wore it Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga, Kate Hudson, Reese Witherspoon, Naomi Campbell, Karlie Kloss
Social presence Best pal and client Lady Gaga gives Maxwell continuous shout-outs to her 18.7 million IG followers and 63.5 million Twitter followers. "She is my biggest supporter," Maxwell tells THR.
Why 2016 is an important year Not only was the 1-year-old label recognized as a finalist for the 2016 LVMH Prize for young designers and Swarovski Award for Womenswear from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the 31-year-old designer also dressed the first lady in a custom ivory strapless gown for a White House state dinner. "Brandon makes his collections like people make classic records," Gaga told THR in February. "He doesn't put anything on top that takes away from what makes it distinctly graphic, unique and memorable."
Why the red carpet still matters "It helps build a broader audience because so many women around the world are watching," says Maxwell, who worked as Gaga's stylist for seven years before launching his line. "It's also where I got my start, so it feels like home."
Lady Gaga in Brandon Maxwell
Who wore it Zoe Saldana, Blake Lively, Naomi Watts, Lily James, Saoirse Ronan
Social presence @burberry has 7.5 million followers.
Fashion philosophy In April 2015, Burberry’s first fashion show in Los Angeles set the town ablaze. “The Griffith Observatory was an incredibly special moment for us,” says Bailey, chief creative officer of the $8 billion brand. “It reflected what we always try to do: take risks and just keep moving forward with new ideas.” The brand’s London Fashion Week “see now, buy now” show took that innovative spirit further, even as millennials like James wax nostalgic: “My earliest Burberry memory is when I was maybe 16 or 17 and all of the guys I fancied would wear the old-school Burberry ’90s checked shirts and caps. I think it should come back; it was a really cool look.”
Why 2016 is an important year The Brit brand provided custom Burberry looks for Adele’s wildly successful 25 world tour. “We are so fortunate to work with such amazing talent during all stages of their careers, from musicians who are just starting out to Oscar and BAFTA award winners,” says Bailey. “It is a great privilege to be able to champion and support them on their journeys both on and off the red carpet.”
Zoe Saldana in Burberry
Who wore it Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez Brie Larson, Saoirse Ronan, Lupita Nyong’o
Social presence The brand has 6.4 million followers on Instagram.
Why 2016 is an important year In August, it was confirmed that Belgian designer Raf Simons, formerly of Dior, was appointed as chief creative officer of Calvin Klein, whose sales hit approximately $8.2 billion in 2015, with $2.9 billion generated in annual revenue. Simons’ appointment consolidated all creative control for the company, which has not had one leader since the brand was sold in 2002. The label tapped Margot Robbie as the face of the Deep Euphoria fragrance and continues to make waves with its #mycalvins ads starring millennial stars like model Bella Hadid and rapper Young Thug.
Saoirse Ronan in Calvin Klein
Who wore it Lupita Nyong’o, Kiernan Shipka, Renee Zellweger, Blake Lively, Diane Kruger, Emmy Rossum, Lady Gaga
Social presence Herrera hired fresh-face Shipka, 16, to represent her iconic label and released the Resort 2017 portfolio with the Mad Men alum exclusively on Sweet, a Snapchat Discover publication that gets 15 million unique views a month. According to Herrera, Shipka represents the fashion house’s core values. “I mean, look at her, she is the perfect one” says Herrera, 77, who has led her brand for 35 years. For her part, Shipka believes “all of Mrs. Herrera’s designs really do withstand the test of time. There is this femininity to them, but there also is a strong assertiveness.
Red carpet moment “I loved Lupita when she was in Toronto,” said Herrera of the bold yellow and blue strapless dress the Queen of Katwe actress donned for the film’s TIFF premiere. “It was perfect for her figure, for her style and the colors. I thought it was great, dynamic!”
Lupita Nyong'o in Carolina Herrera
Who wore it Lily Rose Depp, Daisy Ridley, Willow and Jaden Smith, Julianne Moore, Dakota Fanning
Social presence The $7.2 billion brand (valued as of May) engages 14.9 million Instagram followers but also can count on top fan bases of "It" girls and avid posters Willow Smith (1.8 million followers) and Depp (2 million followers).
Why 2016 is an important year The brand continued its relationship with Hollywood by custom creating costumes and jewels for Woody Allen’s Cafe Society, starring Blake Lively and Chanel muse Kristen Stewart. Only the names at the top of the A-list or fashion’s elusive heat index will do for Chanel: “It’s very much a relationship that’s been built over the years, and I feel unbelievably fortunate,” Keira Knightley, the face of the label’s latest jewelry collection, told THR during NYFW.
Willow Smith in Chanel
Who wore it Daisy Ridley, Blake Lively, Leonardo DiCaprio, Emilia Clarke, Britney Spears, Amy Adams, Charlize Theron
Social presence The brand has 8.3 million followers.
Fan memory A constant red-carpet presence, Louboutin shoes are a must for Hollywood devotees across the board, including THR cover subject Kerry Washington, who recalls: “I remember the first time I was at a photo shoot, and when I slipped them on I knew how special they were. I’d never worn a red sole before, so it was a real Cinderella moment,” says the Scandal actress of the first pair of Louboutins she ever wore. “At the end of the shoot, you become a pumpkin and you give the shoes back. So I imagined one day, I will be able to have some.”
Fashion philosophy “Follow the path of your dream and keep on being faithful and true to yourself — people respond to that,” designer and brand co-founder Louboutin tells THR. “In the world now, things are really driven by publicity and marketing. People are surprised when I say I’m designing my own shoes. I say, well, it’s the thing that I like the most to do. You can still be part of a conglomerate of huge companies, with huge marketing budgets and keep on your little cup to yourself, to keep on doing things just the way you think. That’s freedom.”
Blake Lively in Christian Louboutin
Who wore it Leslie Jones, Michelle Obama, Zendaya, Angela Bassett, Maura Tierney, Niecy Nash, Christina Hendricks, Coco Rocha
Social presence The designer’s Twitter account, which has 372K followers, has served as a vehicle for him to reach out to actresses and vocalize his support for inclusivity in the fashion industry.
Why 2016 is an important year Siriano was lauded the year’s champion of feel-good fashion after he stepped up to create a custom look for Leslie Jones’ Ghostbusters premiere in August, as well as for having a very diverse runway during New York Fashion Week, casting many women of color and multiple plus-size models. Michelle Obama also donned one of his frocks during the DNC, and the designer dressed nine women at the Emmys. Siriano tweeted in June: “It shouldn't be exceptional to work with brilliant people just because they're not sample size. Congrats aren't in order, a change is.”
Leslie Jones in Christian Siriano
Who wore it Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron, Rihanna, Dakota Johnson
Social presence The $31.4 billion brand has 11.7 million IG followers; Bella Hadid's post alone announcing herself as the face of Dior makeup garnered 256,000 likes.
Why 2016 Is an important year In June, the iconic Parisian fashion house confirmed the appointment of Chiuri as the new artistic director and first female design head, following Raf Simons' exit. Rihanna is the brand's only ambassador to head a personal design collaboration, with six sunglasses that start at $840, plus a $1,950 24-karat gold-plated version.
Charlize Theron in Dior Couture
Who wore it Rachel McAdams, Diane Kruger, Naomi Watts, Kendall Jenner, Nina Dobrev, Elle Fanning
Social presence In addition to the label's 4.3 million followers, Dobrev's IG of her embellished floral tulle gown at the Vanity Fair Oscar party was a hit with her 9.8 million followers. "Whenever I wear Mr. Saab's designs, I know it's going to be a moment," she says. "He doesn't just make clothes, he makes showstoppers."
Why the red carpet still matters "I started dressing celebrities almost 20 years ago and quickly realized that the red carpet is one of the best catwalks," Saab tells THR. "Real women picture themselves more easily in a dress worn by a celebrity rather than a model. It has significantly helped to build my brand's awareness on an international level."
Diane Kruger in Elie Saab Couture
Who wore it Emma Stone, Amal Clooney, Blake Lively, Rooney Mara
Social presence Including the contemporary Giamba line, the label has 2.2 million IG followers, with 483,000 liking Lively's multicolored minidress at a Cannes photocall for The Shallows.
Why 2016 is an important year The unabashedly feminine brand remains a favorite of such Hollywood stylists as Petra Flannery, whose client Stone wowed in a green and pink Giambattista Valli frock at the Venice Film Festival.
Emma Stone in Giambattista Valli
Who wore it Cate Blanchett, Jessica Chastain, Naomi Watts
Social presence 6 million IG followers.
Why 2016 is an important year Though Hillary Clinton's donning of a $12,000 leather Armani jacket during an inequality speech in April wasn't a banner moment, longtime client Leonardo DiCaprio suited up in the label at every major awards show, including for his Oscar victory.
Naomi Watts in Armani Prive
Who wore it Kirsten Dunst, Ryan Gosling, Sienna Miller, Dakota Johnson, Cate Blanchett, Florence Welch
Social presence The brand has amassed 10.3 million followers. A video of Beyonce and daughter Blue Ivy wearing matching denim Gucci jackets was viewed 7.6 million times, and another post of the pair wearing coordinating dresses by the label in Paris got 9.2 million views on the star’s IG page.
Why 2016 is an important year Valued at $12 billion as of May 2016, with sales hitting $4.3 billion according to Forbes, Gucci dressed Ben Affleck in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and outfitted longtime muse Florence Welch for her How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful tour. Lady Gaga made headlines for performing the national anthem in a sparkling, custom red Gucci suit at the Super Bowl.
Kirsten Dunst in Gucci
Who wore it Amal Clooney, Zayn Malik, Rami Malek, Charlize Theron, Gwen Stefani, Kendall Jenner
Social presence With 4.8 million IG followers, creative director Choi says she finds "social media inspiring as a designer."
Why 2016 is an important year During its 20th anniversary year, which boasted events in London and New York attended by the likes of Diane Kruger and Ari Emanuel, the shoe brand also saw Leonardo DiCaprio take home the Golden Globe for The Revenant "wearing our men's shoe, which was especially exciting," says Choi. She also counts shoeing Princess Diana and "Uma Thurman stepping out at Cannes wearing our flat sandals with an evening gown" among the highlights of the brand's storied history.
Kendall Jenner in Jimmy Choo
Who wore it Rachel McAdams, Naomie Harris, Kristen Stewart, Emily Blunt
Why 2016 is an important year McAdams donned his white slipdress at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, the same dress later worn by Scarlett Johansson and Kerry Washington. “Winning the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund last year helped me gain wider recognition within the fashion industry, and the CFDA's continued support of the Jonathan Simkhai brand has been insurmountable,” explained the designer. “This, along with the support I have received from fashion editors, celebrity stylists, and some of the world's leading retailers, as well as having a fantastic internal team that works incredibly hard, has helped to push the brand forward every single day. Controversy helped boost the profile of this young brand when Kylie Jenner sported a do-rag to Simkhai’s fashion show at NYFW.
Why the red carpet matters "Having my designs worn by some of the world's leading ladies has definitely played an important part,” says Simkhai of becoming a more recognizable brand. “It has been a tremendous honor and a dream come true to dress these extraordinary women. I feel blessed and so grateful to have this level of support."
Rachel McAdams in Jonathan Simkhai
Who wore it Alicia Vikander, Selena Gomez, Cate Blanchett, Taylor Swift
Social presence Swift's IG on the Met Ball stairs got 1.3 million likes, a fraction of the $27.3 billion brand's 12.9 million followers.
Why 2016 is an important year Award-season darling and brand ambassador Vikander wore custom Vuitton to every major awards show. The most followed celebrity on IG, Gomez, with 99.4 million followers, became the new face of the brand in June.
Alicia Vikander in Louis Vuitton
Who wore it Sarah Paulson, Kerry Washington, Sienna Miller, Lady Gaga
Social presence With annual revenue estimated at $950 million, the brand has 5.1 million followers on IG.
Why 2016 is an important year In 2015, the designer made a comeback as a red-carpet staple. Said Jacobs to THR: "I was never interested in making 'eveningwear' kinds of clothes. Then I became conscious of one of my favorite models Jamie Bochert wearing long evening dresses for day — how cool that was! I started to feel about the red carpet the way I had about Instagram: I hated it, refused to look, but then I got full-on addicted!"
Kerry Washington in Marc Jacobs
Who wore it Emily Blunt, Zendaya, Olivia Wilde, Katy Perry, Kate Hudson
Social presence Kors deftly deployed Snapchat filters on National Sunglasses Day on June 27, which for one day only allowed users to superimpose on faces his Kendall II glasses. The filter was viewed more than 104 million times. "Everyone sees everything now, so it changes the eye and what we have to think about," says Kors, whose brand enjoyed a total increase of 7.8 percent to $4.7 billion in revenue in fiscal 2016.
Why 2016 is an important year A highlight was the Golden Globes carpet when Hudson and Wilde stepped out in Kors: "It was a double whammy!" the designer tells THR, adding: "Zendaya wearing a turtleneck and crystal-encrusted Perspex skirt at the Star Wars premiere was really a fashion lover's dream come true." Plus, Kors ventured into the tech space, debuting a smartwatch with voice-activated Google search and social media alerts at the SoHo flagship during NYFW.
Olivia Wilde in Michael Kors
Who wore it Selena Gomez, Brie Larson, Sienna Miller, Lady Gaga
Why 2016 is an important year In less than two years, Kim and Garcia left Oscar de la Renta following the appointment of Peter Copping to start up Monse, were snapped up by Carolina Herrera for 17 months, then hired back to de la Renta, this time to lead the charge. New York’s hottest design duo was nominated for CFDA’s Swarovski Award for Womenswear for Monse. Its modern, asymmetrical styles also were a hit with Hollywood insiders, from Sarah Jessica Parker with her Hamilton-inspired outfit for May’s Met Gala to one of their favorites, Larson’s Vanity Fair Oscar party look. The carpet “has given us brand awareness to the public outside of fashion,” says Garcia. The pair’s first de la Renta collection will be Fall/Winter 2017.
Sarah Jessica Parker in Monse
Who wore it Saoirse Ronan, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Jennifer Aniston, Rihanna, Justin Bieber
Why 2016 is an important year All eyes will be on Vaccarello, who was appointed in April as creative director following Hedi Slimane’s exit in March after a star-studded runway spectacle in Los Angeles and $1 billion in revenue in 2015. (Vaccarello’s appointment also comes just before two new museums dedicated to the work of legendary founder Yves Saint Laurent open in 2017 in Paris and Marrakech.) “Having worn Anthony’s designs over the last few years at his namesake brand Anthony Vaccarello, I can’t think of anyone better to take over the helm at Saint Laurent,” Huntington- Whiteley tells THR. Adds the Mad Max: Fury Road actress, “The combination of the two is a match made in heaven.”
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in Saint Laurent
Who wore it Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Drake, Margot Robbie, Julianne Moore, Lady Gaga, Charlize Theron
Social presence The brand has 3.5 million followers on Instagram, and 70K followers on Twitter.
Why 2016 is an important year The designer turned Hollywood director was one of several brands at New York Fashion Week to join the “see-now, buy-now” movement. The same collection earned rave reviews, and his dinner-and-a-fashion-show drew plenty of famous faces, including Julianne Moore, Iman, Rita Ora, Karlie Kloss and Tom Hanks.
Bottom line When luxury sales are slipping, Ford hopes to boost consumption with the new, instantly gratifying, see-now, buy-now sales model.
Margot Robbie in Tom Ford
Who wore it Ruth Negga, Meryl Streep, Kirsten Dunst, Rooney Mara
Why 2016 is an important year Valentino is another label to watch following co-creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri’s move to Dior in June. The duo had seen revenue hit $1 billion in 2015, a 48 percent hike from the previous year, and one of their most well-received Shakespeare-inspired haute couture collections provides plenty of red-carpet bait. Whether Piccioli can maintain the momentum remains to be seen.
Elle Fanning in Valentino Couture
Who wore it Taylor Swift, Emma Stone, Kerry Washington, Brie Larson
Social presence After joining Instagram in December, Versace has grown a following of 851,000 with the premiere post of herself and Gigi Hadid on an ad-campaign shoot followed by backstage videos, private-jet snapshots and plenty of shirtless male models.
Why 2016 is an important year Following a year in which retail sales jumped 28 percent, contributing to overall revenue of about $720 million, Versace surprised and delighted fans when she toned down her signature cut-down-to-there styles in favor of sophisticated looks at July’s Paris couture shows. The inspiration? Herself. She says she was inspired by the elegant black Atelier Versace gown that Jennifer Garner wore to the Oscars.
Jennifer Garner in Atelier Versace
Who wore it Katie Holmes, Viola Davis, Claire Danes
Social presence The Instagram video Posen posted of Danes twirling in her gown at this year’s Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology-themed Met Ball got 1.6 million views — pure social magic.
Why 2016 is an important year Danes’ Cinderella-inspired Met Gala gown was a shining moment. Posen had 30 battery packs sewn in to power the LED lights that illuminated the fiber optic-woven organza. It took more than 500 hours to make and was hands-down the most buzzed-about look with countless Disney princess memes. Posen tells THR: “I want to make people dream using fantasy and glamour, to make people tap into their imagination.” Posen also serves as creative director at Brooks Brothers in addition to designing for his namesake line.
Claire Danes in Zac Posen