The Blackout Is Over. What's Next for the Red Carpet?

InStyle and Warner Bros. Golden Globes After Party - Getty - H 2018
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Instead of “What designer are you wearing?,” some also suggest asking "Why?"

The Golden Globes red carpet has been rolled up, and the all-black dresses returned. Hollywood women made a powerful fashion statement about gender equality on Sunday night, and they did so without dropping the name of a single designer on preshow broadcasts, despite the fact that many of those designers had to work overtime to remake custom gowns in black and ship out new options after word spread of the last-minute red-carpet blackout.

But what's next for the symbiotic relationship between female celebrities and the fashion industry, and what's next for red-carpet coverage now that the culture has been awakened to the #MeToo movement?

Tonight's Critics' Choice Awards, broadcast on The CW network, will have a female host (Olivia Munn) and a new #SeeHer award for Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot. Actresses are expected to go back to flying their fashion colors, because "for one thing, all the good black options have already been worn," quips one fashion publicist.

"The point was made beautifully for the Golden Globes," says stylist Jessica Paster. She is working with Munn on several looks for the show, confirming that the actress, who is involved with Time's Up and has accused producer Brett Ratner of sexual misconduct, will be wearing color. "Everything is back to normal," adds a Los Angeles-based rep for a French fashion house.

But will the red carpet ever really be the same? Some stylists report that actresses want to make a statement of substance as well as style with what they are choosing to wear, suggesting the red carpet could evolve into a platform for doing good as well as looking good.

"The mood is different," says stylist Tara Swennen, who works with Allison Janney (I, Tonya) and Caitriona Balfe (Outlander). "My clients [Golden Globes ambassador Simone Garcia Johnson and Fifty Shades Freed's Arielle Kebbell] wore Brazilian designer Fabiana Milazzo to the Golden Globes, because she has a strong women's initiative as part of her business plan and helps impoverished women get off the street. They gravitated toward those pieces because they loved the story. Whether it's making a statement about gender equality or eco-consciousness, it's becoming something men and women are thinking about on the carpet."

Social consciousness is in style in the fashion industry, too. Vogue magazine editor-in-chief Anna Wintour has gathered 40 gowns worn by actresses at the Golden Globes for an auction, with the proceeds to be donated to Time's Up. Milazzo donated to the group’s legal defense fund, as did several other fashion brands that dressed Golden Globes attendees, including Calvin Klein, Tiffany & Co., Forevermark, Genny and Prabal Gurung.

But it's not clear whether the amounts donated were instead of, or in addition to, the decades-old practice of actresses getting fees from luxury brands to wear designer dresses and fine jewelry on the red carpet. According to one source, Tiffany & Co., which adorned eight actors and actresses in its jewels, including Greta Gerwig, Margot Robbie and Gadot, siphoned off half of the fees it would have paid out to talent to donate to Time's Up instead, but representatives from the brand would not comment. 

Whether there is a charity component or not, what fashion brands are paying for on the red carpet is millions of dollars' worth of exposure, which has traditionally included having a designer's name dropped on TV. But at the Golden Globes, instead of asking, "What are you wearing," red-carpet pundits on E! and NBC asked, "Why are you wearing black?" leaving fashion fans to rely on their social media feeds for designer IDs and fashion scoops.

E!'s next red-carpet preshow will air before the SAG Awards on Jan. 21, and network representatives say the hosts and format have not yet been set. But many believe that fashion should be fair game again, even as the #MeToo movement continues.  

"The reason the brands are lending these clothes is for the advertising. That's how this business runs," says stylist Ilaria Urbinati, who works with Big Little Lies' Shailene Woodley and Call Me by Your Name's Armie Hammer. "If everyone wants to start buying clothes, they don't have to talk about what they’re wearing," she says, adding that women also should be asked about their work. "There needs to be a balance."

Author, photographer and Girlgaze Project founder Amanda de Cadenet, who appeared as a guest on E!'s Golden Globes preshow, where she discussed the Time's Up initiative, has this advice for reporters: "If you're not asking about current events, you're missing out on news coverage."

Fashion designer Prabal Gurung, who is known for his feminist stance (Gloria Steinem attended his last runway show at New York Fashion Week, and he memorably showed a finale of feminist tees last February), thinks the questioning should be both, "Who are you wearing?" as well as "Why?"

"So many of us designers are vocal and staunch supporters of the Time's Up movement and have been active proponents of women in power from day one," says the designer, who dressed Issa Rae and Kerry Washington for the Globes. "The question will not only challenge actresses to wear brands that align with their ideals, but will challenge us designers to have more transparency in what we stand for, in our values and principles, and how we create and produce to be ethical and sustainable."

But now, how to make it work for a sound bite?