The Emmys Red Carpet: Making American Fashion Great Again

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Nicole Kidman and Claire Foy

It's never been a better time for American designers on the red carpet thanks to a crop of new talents reinvigorating older fashion houses or starting their own.

News about the American fashion industry has been grim of late (lagging retail sales, store closings, management changes at big brands, masthead shake-ups). But the 2017 Emmys showed us that it's never been a better time for American designers on the red carpet thanks to a crop of new talents reinvigorating older fashion houses like Calvin Klein and Oscar de la Renta, or starting their own (Prabal Gurung, Rosie Assoulin), and turning to Hollywood to tell their stories.

Many of the evening’s best-dressed stars wore American, and their more casual, shorter-length cocktail styles with sporty touches (like the plucky bandana belt on Millie Bobby Brown’s Calvin Klein dress, for example) spoke to the singularly American vision of modern glamour.

Whether it was a coincidence, or a concerted effort to support the U.S.A., which hasn't made the best global political headlines in recent months, Hollywood talent took up the charge.

"American designers are having a strong moment," said stylist Cristina Ehrlich, who dressed 8 women for the Emmys red carpet, including Laura Dern and Uzo Aduba. "I have a lot of clients who had European options on the table and American designers were chosen," she added. "There was never a dialogue, it just fell that way. But it was impactful and it speaks to the element of unity in fashion."

And to how diverse the community of American fashion designers is, too, coming from all corners of the globe.

Calvin Klein, the classic American house that has gotten a shot in the arm from Belgian designer Raf Simons, dressed Stranger Things star Brown as a modern-day princess in white tulle, and the queen of the Emmys, Big Little Lies' Nicole Kidman, in a shorter-length grenadine-red halter dress with crystal rope tie front detail.

Speaking of crystal rope, The Crown’s Claire Foy proved that a gown is not the only way to rule the red carpet, showing up in an incredibly sophisticated black jumpsuit with crystal rope shoulder detail by the new designers at stately American fashion house Oscar de la Renta, Dominican Republic-born Fernando Garcia and Canadian-Korean Laura Kim. "Claire's style to us is that of a modern woman," said Garcia. "A sleek jumpsuit with a touch of a diamond-encrusted knot was the perfect balance of strong but elegant."

And Westworld's Evan Rachel Wood, who made headlines last award show season for wearing pantsuits exclusively on the red carpet, chose white tie and tails by the L.A.-based Moschino designer and pop provocateur Jeremy Scott, who is celebrating 20 years of his avant-garde designs. "I wanted to play with the elements of masculinity and femininity, but steeped in old Hollywood glamour," the designer said.

Handmaid's Tale's Elisabeth Moss embraced a new, more feminine vision of feminism, wearing a custom ice pink strapless just-below-the-knee-length dress by the politically-minded Nepalese-American designer Prabal Gurung.

"The Handmaid's Tale tells the story of a woman's strength in a dark world through resistance," said Gurung. "Tonight, we wanted Elisabeth's strength as a woman and an actress to shine through embracing her femininity."

Big Little Lies' Dern went with a stunning dress in black and silver floral embroidery with clever cutouts by Proenza Schouler, the New York-based design house headed by Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez. And Tessa Thompson was a rainbow delight in a kaleidoscopic Lurex gown by budding New York designer Rosie Assoulin.

"The dress started with this incredible fabric that we then pleated within an inch of its life," said Assoulin. "Wonder Woman had just come out and my studio was having fun drawing comparisons to that.... but it was really about the best way to showcase the incredible colors." 

The payoff for the American fashion talent getting exposure on stars tonight is huge. Now that television is streaming everywhere, and international movie stars such as Kidman and Reese Witherspoon are lending their talents to the small screen, the Emmys red carpet has also become must-see TV.