Hollywood's Top 20 Red Carpet Designers of 2017

6:00 AM 9/20/2017

by Produced and Written by Carol McColgin and Booth Moore

This year's awards season looks are marked by extremes: From the decadence of Rodarte ruffles to the political statements of pantsuits and pins. These are the clothing and jewelry designers who dress the stars and influence global fashion.

THR - Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer Meyer -Photographed By Miller Mobley- H 2017
Photographed By Miller Mobley

At a time when news is fake and Instagram and Snapchat feeds are filtered, Hollywood and fashion fans are rewarding what they see as authentic choices. From Evan Rachel Wood pointedly wearing pantsuits on awards-season red carpets (resulting in skyrocketing sales for Altuzarra) to Emma Watson sporting a lauded Elie Saab eco-gown made of couture scraps during her Beauty and the Beast press tour, "real" is in. Political statement pins, from ACLU ribbons to GLAAD lapel ampersands, have proven as effective in stirring social media frenzy as a stunning gown. "Especially right now, so much of what you see is fabricated moments," says Joseph Altuzarra, one of THR's top 20 red carpet designers. "People can smell the contracted dealmaking behind some of the pieces. They can tell when something is an expression of who someone really is."

On social media, what brands like Louis Vuitton and Dior have "in common is that you have this sense of being there with someone, and the walls have come down," Eva Chen, Instagram's head of fashion partnerships, has said. Case in point: Reese Witherspoon eating pizza with her kids, hashtagged #AwardsShowFuel, before promoting Big Little Lies this Emmy season.

Of course, for the 20 multimillion- and billion-dollar brands on THR's fourth annual list, glamour still reigns on fashion's most effective platform, the red carpet — note Nicole Kidman's scarlet Calvin Klein with dazzling crystal tie at the Emmys. A-list icons are ever in demand as the financial return on carpet placement is high: "People want a little piece of what these women have to offer, so yes, it's 100 percent good for business," says jewelry designer Jennifer Meyer, marking her first appearance on THR's list. All designers who made the cut, listed here in alphabetical order, were selected based on prevalence of red carpet hits during the Oscar and Emmy seasons, magnitude of star power they attract and strong social media presence. The fantasy and escapism they create on the most anticipated carpets are perhaps more welcome than ever in Hollywood and beyond.

A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

  • Alexander McQueen

    Who wore it Jessica Chastain, Nicole Kidman, Rosamund Pike

    Big number 6.74 million followers on Instagram and Twitter, with a 66 percent increase on IG alone since September 2016.

    Red carpet moments Creative director Sarah Burton is known for her visionary, statement-making designs with intricate hand-embroidery and nature motifs: a crystal phoenix for Chastain's Cannes juror look; a spangled ocean wave for Lion nominee Kidman at the Golden Globes ("My girls said, 'Mummy, you look like a beautiful fairy,' " said Kidman); jet-beaded sea creatures for Dakota Johnson at the Fifty Shades Darker London premiere; or Pike in a medieval gown with falcons at the Toronto Film Festival. The designer, 42, traveled to Great Britain's rural regions for inspiration, recently revealing that McQueen himself once fashioned a collection around National Geographic images of jellyfish.

  • Altuzarra

    Who wore it Evan Rachel Wood, Gal Gadot, Amal Clooney

    Big number Joseph Altuzarra, 34, who debuted handbags in 2015, focused on expanding his footwear business in 2017, reporting 300 percent growth year-over-year. Demand for his tailored pantsuits skyrocketed after Westworld nominee Wood suited up nearly exclusively in them for awards season. Says Altuzarra, "Our velvet blazers from the fall-winter collection that are similar to one that Evan wore [at the Globes] have been selling out."

    Red carpet moment Wood emailed her team over the holidays to let them know she planned to wear only pantsuits for awards season: "I am sure if you asked a lot of actresses, they would like to wear suits and they are too afraid to do so," she says. "That pissed me off. We're still appreciating dresses, but it's about choice." Altuzarra describes her custom black velvet tux with satin accents at the Globes as "impactful. In a sea of chiffon, people are like, 'This person is authentic and really who she wants to be.' " But don't call it a power suit. Notes Wood, "It's like saying power is associated with dressing like a man instead of just feeling powerful in whatever you're wearing." Adds Altuzarra: "It feels antiquated." The designer believes that Wood is changing awards-show dressing. "Evan took a huge risk, and it paid off. We are getting different kinds of requests from stylists, and actresses are thinking differently about what they're going to wear."

  • Armani

    Who wore it Viola Davis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Anne Hathaway, George Clooney

    Big number 21, the number of Armani-clad actors at the Oscars, including nominees Nicole Kidman, Denzel Washington and Isabelle Huppert, presenter DiCaprio, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and best supporting actress winner Davis, whose crimson silk gown garnered 52,388 likes from the brand's 9 million IG followers.

    Red carpet moments Hathaway emanated timeless chic when she stepped out in a vintage black Armani Prive gown with embroidered pleated tulle at the Colossal premiere in New York. Armani also remains the go-to for leading men's classic tuxes, whether it's Stephen Colbert's at the Emmys or Clooney's and Matt Damon's at the Suburbicon premiere during the Venice Film Festival.

  • Calvin Klein

    Who wore it Julianne Moore, Barry Jenkins, Lupita Nyong'o

    Key deal A seven-figure contract for Paris Jackson to be the face of the brand, part of the label's push for millennial relevance.

    Red carpet moments Since his first collection in February, Belgian chief creative officer Raf Simons, 49, has come out of the red carpet gate dressing the cast of best picture winner Moonlight, including Naomie Harris and Trevante Rhodes, for Oscar night and debuting an underwear campaign starring Mahershala Ali the next day in an unprecedented coordinated film and fashion marketing strike. For May's MTV Movie Awards, Stranger Things' star Millie Bobby Brown, 13 (a face of the Calvin Klein by Appointment campaign), wore an ultimate teen queen look: a white long-sleeve sequin T-shirt dress paired with white cowboy boots.

  • Chanel

    Who wore it Kristen Stewart, Emma Stone, Pharrell Williams

    Big number $7.3 billion, the brand's value as of May, with a reported $5.1 billion in sales, according to Forbes. Mastermind Karl Lagerfeld, 84, continues to whip up frocks for Chanel VIPs like Stone and Lily-Rose Depp and contribute key costumes to films like Tilda Swinton's Okja. He also introduced Chanel's first new perfume in 15 years, Gabrielle, with Stewart.

    Red carpet moment Stewart, whose Personal Shopper film was co-financed by Chanel, hit the NYC premiere in a glittering halter gown that showcased her new buzz cut. And Stone dazzled in a "fantasy tweed" jacket and skirt at La La Land's Paris premiere.

  • Dior + Dior Homme

    Who wore it Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman, Celine Dion

    Big number In a $13 billion deal, LVMH brought the Dior Couture brand under its umbrella this year, sending shares climbing. Over the past five years, revenue at Christian Dior has doubled.

    Red carpet moments Jennifer Lawrence at the Venice Film Festival's mother! premiere in a sheer overlaid strapless gown helped translate artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri's earthy approach to glamour on the red carpet. In the year since Chiuri became the first female couturier of the house, she kicked off a wave of feminist fashion statements, sending out a T-shirt bearing the title of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's essay "We Should All Be Feminists" for her first show in September 2016. "Now fashion is a different moment for a new generation," says Chiuri, 53, who brought the Dior Resort 2018 runway show to an outdoor preserve in the Santa Monica Mountains in May. And Dior Homme (designed by Kris Van Assche since 2007) also has made a renewed impact on the red carpet thanks to campaign star Rami Malek, a trailblazer with his crimson tuxedo at the 2017 Met Gala.

  • Elie Saab

    Who wore it Meryl Streep, Emma Watson, Rita Ora

    Big number 58,019, the number of likes from Saab's 5.9 million IG followers when he revealed that Streep was wearing his sapphire satin gown with trousers at the Oscars, hot on the heels of the nominee's headline-making drama with Chanel (Karl Lagerfeld alleged she declined to wear a dress without payment, which Streep's team firmly shot down). After more than 20 years of dressing stars — 279 looks in the past year alone — Saab, 53, acknowledges the power of Hollywood's red carpet: "Real women can picture themselves more easily in a dress worn by a celebrity. Actresses are the new reference for customers."

    Red carpet moments The Lebanese designer says he loved Cannes and most notably put Ora in a sheer gold halter gown for this year's 70th anniversary celebration at the Grand Palais. Saab also supported Watson's eco-chic press tour, constructing a tulle, sequin and crystal caped gown out of couture scraps for her Beauty and the Beast Shanghai premiere.

  • Giambattista Valli

    Who wore it Rihanna, Taraji P. Henson, Julianne Moore

    Big deal In July, Artemis, the private investment arm of the fashion conglomerate Kering's Pinault family, took a minority stake to "support and contribute to Maison Valli's growth," said the 12-year-old company.

    Red carpet moment The Italian designer has dressed a constellation of stars since launching his fashion house in 2004, but none with as much impact as Rihanna, who wore frothy couture ball gowns for two premieres of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets in July, and left tongues wagging about how the dresses were the best thing about the sci-fi dud. The pop powerhouse posted the looks to her Instagram, giving the designer exposure to her 56.7 million followers.

  • Gucci + Gucci DIY

    Who wore it Dakota Johnson, Ryan Gosling, Donald Glover

    Big number The fashion house's first-quarter revenue increase was its biggest in 20 years, up 49 percent, with sales of $1.44 billion, according to WWD. Gucci drives 60 percent of parent Kering's profit.

    Red carpet moments Creative director since 2015, Alessandro Michele, 44, is inspired by Hollywood "because there are no rules," he says, and his eccentric design vision — born from social media and street style — has made an indelible mark with such stars as Johnson, who wore a dramatic black straps-and-ruffles look to the 2017 Met Gala. Michele also has ushered in a new dandyism for men, most visible with Jared Leto's over-the-top Technicolor coats and capes for his Thirty Seconds to Mars tour and Glover's Golden Globes look, a '70s-style wide-lapel tux in plush brown velvet.

  • Irene Neuwirth

    Who wore it Ruth Negga, Charlize Theron

    Big number It was a defining moment when Negga donned 146.16 carats of Mozambique rubies — a custom Irene Neuwirth x Gemfields tiara headpiece — to top off her crimson Valentino couture to the Oscars. "As an independent designer, I had never really experienced the power of the red carpet in that way until then," says Neuwirth, who also crafted earrings and a 14.89-carat ruby ring for the Loving nominee. "It was a complete game-changer for my business — that level of visibility was unprecedented." The L.A.-based designer, 41, who resides in Venice with her longtime partner, director-producer Phil Lord, focuses on steady brand growth, about another 40 percent in the past year.

    Red carpet moment While Neuwirth had several dazzling moments — including Zoe Saldana at the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opening in Hollywood — she says that Negga's look was tops: "She was daring, powerful and confident." Gushed Negga of her regal look, "I am in love!"

  • Jennifer Meyer

    Who wore it Jennifer Aniston, Mandy Moore

    Key number $7,500, the amount Meyer saved to launch her line in 2005. "It's a company that I started completely on my own, and every year there has been growth — I've never borrowed a penny or gotten an investment," says Meyer, daughter of NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer. "I've never paid anyone to wear my jewelry — Jen [Aniston], Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow have all been supportive. People want a little piece of what these women have to offer, so yes, it's 100 percent good for my sales." Meyer, 40, who launched her e-commerce site in June and immediately sold out of several styles, remains a top seller at Barneys and just announced plans for her first brick-and-mortar store at the Rick Caruso development in Pacific Palisades (opening summer 2018). She had more than 151 celebrity placements this year, including This Is Us' Moore, who rocked pink sapphires and diamonds at the Emmys ("the most fun collaboration I've done," says Meyer).

    Red carpet moment "Jen wore large circle earrings to the Leftovers premiere with a little black leather dress. Her hair was tucked back behind her ear, so the jewelry was fully on display," says Meyer, who also crafted Aniston's wedding band for her 2015 nuptials to Justin Theroux. Says Aniston, "It's the one piece I never take off."

    How it all began More than a decade ago, Meyer confessed to her then-beau Tobey Maguire (from whom she's now separated) that she wanted to try designing jewelry. "He used a Star Wars quote — 'There is no try, only do' — and that got me," says Meyer, who started with three pieces, including a gold leaf necklace. "I asked Jen's stylists Nina and Clare Hallworth if they wouldn't mind looking at my pieces, not even thinking anyone would wear them. Tobey and I were on vacation, and somebody brought a magazine, and there was Jen wearing my leaf." Though Meyer's industry connections may be influential, don't assume Daddy stepped in, she says: "My dad is my best friend, my mentor, but he's never made a call to help me with something that I should do on my own. He would rather quit his job. He is so respectful to people at Universal, and he would never want them to think they were doing him a favor."

  • Louis Vuitton

    Who wore it Michelle Williams, Alicia Vikander

    Big number $24 billion, the dollar brand value of Louis Vuitton, the world's most valuable luxury label — nearly twice that of runner-up, Hermes, according to consultancy Interbrand.

    Red carpet moment When it comes to the red carpet, creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere, 46, aims to be fashion-forward without sacrificing commercial appeal: "The big choice is between being radical and very strong but reach fewer people and making a choice that will be more popular. … I enjoy a mix of those two things," he has said. Williams' looks for Manchester by the Sea appearances ranged from lace to sequins to a pearl-encrusted velvet halter gown for Oscar night. Ghesquiere is inspired by the fearlessness exhibited by Williams, Vikander and Game of Thrones' Sophie Turner, as well as Lea Seydoux and Catherine Deneuve. "They don't want to wear a boring dress on every carpet," he has said.

  • Michael Kors

    Who wore it Viola Davis, Reese Witherspoon, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kerry Washington

    Big number $1.2 billion, how much Kors paid for Jimmy Choo in July, his first step toward building an international group.

    Red carpet moments In the past year, the American designer put Davis in a single-shoulder sunshine yellow sequin gown at the Golden Globes and at Cannes, Nicole Kidman in a silvery fringe confection "made for stealing the spotlight," says Kors, 58, adding that even lower-profile red carpet moments have an impact on his bottom line: "The red carpet shows women how to wear something that perhaps is a little outside of the box. Our customers see Scarlett Johansson in a chain-link suit or Kate Hudson in crystal-embroidered lace pants, and they start to realize a gown is not the only option."

  • Oscar de la Renta/Monse

    Who wore it Selena Gomez, Zoe Kravitz (ODLR); Thandie Newton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Yara Shahidi (Monse)

    Big number Sales for privately owned ODLR have been reported in recent years by The New York Times to be $150 million, which makes it "either the biggest of the small independent brands or the smallest of the big," CEO (and the late Oscar de la Renta's son-in-law) Alex Bolen has said.

    Red carpet moments Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim, successors to de la Renta — who dressed every first lady from Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama — have reinvigorated the U.S. house with evening­wear resonating with such edgy stars as Kravitz, who wore a pink and black duchess satin gown with real preserved black roses to the 2017 Met Gala. She calls the new Oscar "the perfect combination of modern and classic." The duo's own brand Monse — launched in spring 2016 with the concept of "glamour unhinged" — also has been worn by Westworld's Newton, who went with a white Monse with orange flame sequins for the 2017 Globes. Says Garcia, 30, "There's so much experimentation being spearheaded by names like Rihanna and Cate Blanchett," who wore a Monse pantsuit to Comic-Con. Adds Kim, 35: "The morning we saw that, we almost died!"

  • Prada

    Who wore it Lupita Nyong'o, Sarah Paulson, Elle Fanning

    Big number $2.9 billion, Miuccia Prada's estimated net worth. The Italian designer, 68, known for her intellectual, eclectic appeal, counts Hollywood directors Ava DuVernay, David O. Russell and Alejandro G. Inarritu as collaborators.

    Red carpet moments Prada devotees Nyong'o and Paulson attended May's Met Ball in the designer's tangerine hand-cut organza flowers and black and red ostrich and marabou feathers, respectively. Nyong'o captioned an Instagram snap, "orange is the new black," while Paulson went with a "dreamy frock." Says Prada, whose fall collection was inspired by the title of Federico Fellini's City of Women: "Fun … should always be present when you work. Until I am smiling, I am doing nothing good."

  • Ralph & Russo

    Who wore it Brie Larson, Angelina Jolie, Hailee Steinfeld

    Key deal As part of a rapid brand-expansion plan, five retail stores will open over the next year in the U.S., including in L.A. Ralph & Russo has been profitable since its inception in 2010.

    Red carpet moments At the 2017 Oscars, Priyanka Chopra wore one of the house's Spring couture gowns, showcasing a structured corset and metallic triangles hand-appliqued at the house's Sloane Street atelier, and Zendaya wore a ravishing pink gown for the Spider-Man: Homecoming premiere. Designer Tamara Ralph's hyper-feminine-with-an-edge Fall 2017 couture show was styled by THR power stylist Elizabeth Saltzman, with Zendaya in the front row and Bollywood beauty Sonam Kapoor on the runway as the bride. "Never underestimate the global reach of celebrities," says Ralph, 35, who launched the brand in London with Australian banker Michael Russo, 37.

  • Rodarte

    Who wore it Brie Larson, Michelle Obama, Katy Perry

    Big number 56,432, the number of Instagram likes Larson received for a picture of herself in a deconstructed gray and black lace gown on July 2.

    Red carpet moment Larson in a red sweetheart gown for the 2017 Globes.

    Moonlighting filmmakers This year, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, self-funded designing sisters from Pasadena, pulled off their directorial debut with Woodshock, which premieres Sept. 22 and stars Kirsten Dunst as a woman living at home with her dying mother. With darkly romantic runway collections that have taken cinematic cues from Japanese slasher films to the 1973 Spanish title Spirit of the Beehive, the Mulleavys say they've always wanted to make a movie. They wrote Woodshock from 2011 to 2013: "Any time we could break the designing cycle, we stole a day," often at Pasadena's Langham Hotel, says Laura, 37. It helped that they had a star in Dunst, the first to wear Rodarte's designs on the red carpet; she also chose the designers to make her wedding dress (she will marry her Fargo co-star Jesse Plemons this year in Austin). "There is such a story behind each collection," says Dunst. "I knew it would be a seamless transition into film."

    After the Mulleavys finished the Woodshock script, their agent at the time, Dave Wirtschafter, introduced them to producer Michael Costigan (Ghost in the Shell). "I knew I had to get on board to help them realize this film," says Costigan, noting that the Mulleavys' point of view felt "wholly original and at times even dangerous." In 2015, the film began shooting in Humboldt, California, with a $5 million budget; A24 was secured early on as the distributor. Although reviews have been mixed, the Mulleavys, repped by WME-IMG, are eyeing future film projects.

  • Rosie Assoulin

    Who wore it Olivia Wilde, Oprah Winfrey, Naomie Harris

    Big number 103 and counting, the number of times thus far that stars, including friend and muse Wilde, have been featured on the designer's Instagram as stepping out in the New York-based designer's draped, colorful styles since the line's debut in 2013. "Our first season, there were several stylists who reached out to us asking for pieces, and we were like, 'Wait, is this how all of this actually works?' " recalls Rosie Assoulin, who since then has landed her clothing in major retailers (Bergdorf Goodman, Selfridges, Le Bon Marche) in 25 countries and created a vivid canary shirtdress gown for Winfrey during her The Life You Want tour this year.

    Red carpet moment Assoulin, 32, who worked under Oscar de la Renta and Lanvin's Alber Elbaz before going out on her own, appreciates fun in fashion — some of her most recent styles have names like the "beach umbrella top and skirt" (worn by Danai Gurira) and the "whoopie cushion gown." Her bold blooms were a huge hit this year, seen on Rose Byrne, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Ruth Negga and, perhaps most memorably, Harris in a strapless floral print at NYC's Collateral Beauty premiere. Wilde, who wore a cutout hunter green gown while several months pregnant to accompany the designer to the 2016 CFDA Awards, still recalls their first meeting: "My first impression of Rosie was, how can someone who works in fashion be so nice?"

  • Schiaparelli

    Who wore it Tracee Ellis Ross, Brie Larson, Tilda Swinton

    Key year 2015: The year in which design director Bertrand Guyon, 52 — to whom credit goes for the storied fashion house's reinvigoration — started at the 91-year-old label.

    Red carpet moment Bold hues, such as Kirsten Dunst's cornflower blue at the Cannes Beguiled premiere, and whimsical details, including Swinton's embroidered heart at the New York Okja premiere, have redefined for the 21st century the design house (founded by Elsa Schiaparelli, associated with 1930s-era style icons such as the Duchess of Windsor and Marlene Dietrich). Rebranding master Guyon's Paris show in July was attended by Ross in the house's famous shocking pink. Schiaparelli "remains a young brand, almost mysterious in a way," says Guyon, noting that the red carpet has "largely contributed to its increasing success by allowing wider access" to the Tod's Group-owned label.

  • Valentino

    Who wore it Emma Stone, Jennifer Lopez, Claire Foy

    Big number Topped $1 billion in sales in 2016, up 48 percent from 2015, according to WWD.

    Red carpet moment Designer Pierpaolo Piccioli, 50, lists Stone's pale rose Valentino gown scattered with silver stars at the Golden Globes as one of his highlights: "She was breathtaking!" Ruth Negga's long sleeve, high-neck red Oscar gown has been a major influence, epitomizing a new, more modest romanticism by Piccioli, who is rounding out his first year solo (former design partner Maria Grazia Chiuri is now at Dior). His fall 2017 couture show, attended by Brie Larson and Sofia Coppola, included the plunge-front gold gown with feathered skirt Julianne Moore wore to the Suburbicon premiere at Venice. "To hear how one of my dresses has made someone feel beautiful," he says, "that is the best compliment I can receive."