This story first appeared in the March 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
At this year’s Oscars, a couple of darts stole the little gold man’s thunder. Anne Hathaway’s last-minute wardrobe swap to a pink satin Prada dress that accentuated certain points of her anatomy made her arrival the most-tweeted moment on the red carpet (#LesNipplerables) and got more attention in the days to follow than her supporting actress win. Despite this misstep, stylist Rachel Zoe (No. 3 on THR’s Power Stylist List) landed a win with her other Oscar client, best actress winner Jennifer Lawrence, whose intricate Dior Haute Couture gown wowed viewers (and caused a near face-plant as Lawrence walked up to the stage, though she recovered charmingly)
There’s no bigger or more ruthless meritocracy than a red carpet. Looks are instantly tweeted, Instagrammed, Pinterested, Facebooked and blogged as fashion cops and critics millions strong render their verdict on a star’s — and by extension, her stylist’s — choices. Having insinuated themselves into the national conversation, stylists also have become increasingly valued for their impact on a movie’s bottom line. Says Zoe Saldana, whose stylist, Petra Flannery, is No. 2 on THR’s list, “We’ve managed to convince a lot of directors who now have respect for what we put together and for Petra’s essential place in a huge press tour like Star Trek or Avatar.” When Saldana takes a memorable turn on the carpet, “Those directors are like, ‘Oh my God, Petra really knocked it out of the ball park,’ and you’re like, ‘Yeah, she did.’ She killed it, which is very important for me and for her and for selling a movie.”
These fashion forces work hard for the recognition, with a perfectionism and preparedness that isn’t always visible on the red carpet (and that’s the point). This year’s No. 1, Leslie Fremar, travels twice a month from her home in New York to Los Angeles for her clients. “I’m a little controlling,” she confesses. Newcomer Joseph Cassell (No. 13) notably landed his gig styling Taylor Swift by showing up for a steam-and-press job at a shoot with fully loaded clothing racks and accessory options for the singer. “I’m an organized hoarder,” he admits. “That’s the quote they’ll use for you,” Swift dryly follows up.
In a town where careers rise and fall on the backs of celebrities, the pros who clothe (or bare) those well-toned backs hold more power than ever. As they hone clients’ fashion images, stylists are becoming big brands themselves, with designing gigs (No. 4 Kate Young debuts a Target evening collection in April), lucrative merchandising deals (No. 7 Cristina Ehrlich’s casual basics line is a hot seller for QVC) and reality TV platforms (for Zoe, No. 21 Johnny Wujek, No. 22 Brad Goreski, with more inevitably to come). Nearly half of the stylists on THR’s list have their own clothing or jewelry lines. “Stylists sell the idea that if a consumer buys the product, they become their client,” says Kent Belden, CEO of styling agency MMA. “Although we think it’s the celeb who makes the best-dressed list, it is really the stylist — and without almost any hesitation, their next big deal is being proposed.”
Edited by Carol McColgin and Merle Ginsberg; additional reporting and writing by Jane Carlson and Stacey Wilson.