The Hunt For A Fashion Star

41 STY Fashion Stars Amber Heard Keira Knightley Rooney Mara P IPAD
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images; Venturelli/WireImage/Getty Images; Ryan McCune/McMullen Co/Sipa/Newscom

From left: Amber Heard and Keira Knightley wear young Brit designers Roksanda Ilincic and Mary Katrantzou, respectively; Mara in Rodarte at Rodarte's New York Spring 2012 Front Row.

Big-name designers are swooping into L.A. earlier than ever to nab the most likely -- and desirable -- stars who'll walk awards-season red carpets.

In a three-week period starting in mid-October, Balenciaga designer Nicolas Ghesquiere was seen around town, New York designer Yigal Azrouel showed his new spring 2012 collection and Burberry's Christopher Bailey hosted a party. Gilles Mendel of J. Mendel presented evening wear, Nina Ricci's Peter Copping popped in, and Vionnet showed at Mr. Chow.

Are we talking about New York? Likely. Paris? Bien sur. Los Angeles? No way. Wait a minute. Way. This fashion frenzy went down right in L.A.

Don't confuse this with Awards Fashion Season, which runs January through the Oscars. Now is what we're calling Fashion Fishing Season. Just as Oscars and Globes have to be campaigned for, so do getting designer names on the red carpet. What's new this year is that no one's ever seen the wooing of the most desirable stars happening this early. "The Europeans are finally getting it about L.A.," says stylist Petra Flannery, who dresses Emma Stone and Zoe Saldana. "Instead of calling, they're coming in droves, setting up lunches and dinners with stylists early on." Adds George Kotsiopoulos: "They're chasing us stylists. Usually, it's after Christmas."

As the 2011 Oscars proved, early designers get the catch. Fashion companies stampeded after Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Scarlett Johansson, Halle Berry and their stylists, with the top prize being Natalie Portman. In the end, she wore her old friends, the Rodarte sisters. You think the movie business is all about relationships? Fashion's the business that invented the air kiss.

For the Oscars, THR looked into its style crystal ball, and we're putting the smart money on these red-carpet It Girls: Stone, Keira Knightley, Tilda Swinton, Jessica Chastain, Carey Mulligan, Charlize Theron and Rooney Mara. Not every star is equally coveted by designers -- even Mandy Moore got a gown from Monique Lhuillier last year. But A-list nominees Helena Bonham Carter and Melissa Leo didn't fare well.

Why? Hollywood's pecking order isn't the same as fashion's. Every designer has a similar wish list: "under 40" and "will get good photo placement." If you recall, youngsters Hailee Steinfeld and Elle Fanning snagged couture. Where does this leave odds-on nominees Meryl Streep, 62, Glenn Close, 64, and Viola Davis, 46? The acting A-list could be the Fashion C-list.

Here's how you snag a Fashion A-lister. From Oct. 17 to 19, fashion branding company Starworks held an initiative called London Show Rooms. The event showed young British designers, many of whom hadn't made those all important face-to-face stylist connections. Cut to the Oct. 24 Hollywood Awards, when the get of the night, Stone, walked the carpet in Jonathan Saunders, part of London Show Rooms.

And the influx of designers to L.A. has just begun. France's Vanessa Bruno is scheduled to host a Nov. 9 dinner in her Melrose store; Brit Alice Temperley's dinner with Emma Roberts is Nov. 11 at Soho House. Vera Wang even bought a house in Beverly Hills' Trousdale Estates area and learned to drive.

On Nov. 3, THR caught up with Christian Louboutin celebrating his new coffee-table book at Barneys with the likes of Lea Michele, Blake Lively and stylist Estee Stanley. "As awards season approaches," he confided, "I stock L.A. stores with lower heels that women can wear to walk to podiums. Falling means failing. So, yes even I think about Hollywood awards season. Everyone, even Europe, has to these days."