The Oscars reveal power of brand collaborations

25 February / 2013
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The fashion industry’s biggest night coincides with Hollywood’s biggest night – the Oscars. The evening is a showcase of the latest runway fashions, trends and attitudes coming to stores near you.

Oscar night and its honored celebrities have always had the ability to influence fashion. An A-list actress, with the right gown, can make an overnight sensation of themselves and their gown designers. Celebrity and designer collaborations have shaped fashion attitudes throughout the ages, the first notable collaboration was Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy. Ms. Hepburn wore a classically chic Givenchy gown when she won 1954’s Best Actress for Roman Holiday. The gown made little known designer Givenchy an instant sensation. Hepburn became his muse and the long-time collaboration is one of the most iconic in fashion history. The sleeveless “little black” dress from 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a timeless look on the waif-like actress. The brands of both solidified as the style women seek to embody and aspire to with their wardrobes, even today.

The house of Dior has enlisted the help of today’s most notable actresses, labeled brand ambassadors and the “faces of Dior.” The actresses who are part of the Dior team include: Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron, Jennifer Lawrence, Marion Cotillard and Mila Kunis. The 85th Academy Awards showcased two of the Dior faces: Charlize Theron, who presented in a white Dior Haute Couture creation, and Jennifer Lawrence, who accepted her Best Actress Oscar in a very pale pink Dior gown from the 2013 Spring/Summer collection.

The house of Dior was built on the vision of french designer Christian Dior, making sophisticated shapes and silhouettes of flowers his inspiration, post-World War II. The use of Hollywood stars as brand ambassadors is a strategy to capture the attention of consumers and gain (and retain) stature in a crowded luxury market. Leveraging the beauty and charm of today’s classiest actresses, helps to keep the brand relevant while transcending multiple generations of women.

In return, Dior helps to keep these actresses on the cusp of today’s beauty ideal, as well as reflecting each of their own brands: Charlize Theron as sophisticated, glamorous and serious about her craft; Natalie Portman and Jennifer Lawrence, especially as the faces of Miss Dior, allow their personal brands to project a youthful ingenue.

Other Actress-Designer notable collaborations

While some of the actress-designer pairings are short-lived and specific to an event, it’s important to note the collaboration is often planned and purposeful. Several examples of this are:

1. Julia Roberts 2001 Academy Award win kept vintage Valentino relevant. The simple black gown with the white piping, solidified both as fashion legends.

2. Kate Winslet shed her “stuffy, goodie-goodie” girl from Titanic image, when she wore a sexy and bright red gown from designer Ben de Lisi in 2002.

3. Unknown designer Elie Saab became the must-have designer of the moment, when she dressed 2002 Best Actress Oscar winner Halle Berry. The gown showcased Ms. Berry’s amazing physique and sense of style, that played to a more daring side of class, a juxtaposition of textures, with the red, floral embroidered sheer top of the gown.

4. Sharon Stone kept her icy blond image, yet with more fashion wit and ease in 1998, with a lilac Vera Wang skirt and white Gap button down shirt. Gap hasn’t been this fashion forward since Stone’s hip and effortless take on style.

5. Courtney Love momentarily cleaned up her image in 1997 with a white satin gown from Versace, for that year’s Oscars broadcast.

6. Love her or hate her, Cher’s fashion on the red carpet is to make a statement, that of pure guts and Vegas-style entertainment, still living the dream. Her long-time collaborator for barely-there, red-carpet attire is Bob Mackie.

Actress Renee Zellweger appeared on the red carpet once again in Carolina Herrera. The simplicity of Herrera’s lines, along with the expert tailoring that hugs the body, is a style Zellweger continues to evoke, with simple up-swept hair and make-up. The look continues to make Zellweger an approachable, sisterly, girl next door.

A collaboration on store shelves for you and me.

Films and their stars influence fashion, with the most recent collaboration between Banana Republic and the Keira Knightly film Anna Karenina. The film’s designer Jacqueline Durran won the Oscar for costume design. Inspiration from imperial Russian society, graced the holiday dresses, sweaters and accessories of this most recent holiday shopping season. I admit, I personally purchased a faux-fur hat from the collection, hoping to channel more of a Dr. Zhivago vibe. I’m a classic movie fan.

Helen Hunt surprised many Sunday night on the red-carpet, with a blue gown from H&M. Attainable style from a seemingly modest and private Hollywood star should send any number of women to consider H&M for evening and prom attire.

Sociologist Susan Kaiser wrote, “Fashion can be understood sociologically as representative of ongoing changes in social norms and what it means to be ‘in the moment.’ Fashion has more to do than the latest runway styles presented by [celebrity] designers; it has to do with collective ways of making connections with others, and at the same time, making a difference in how a consumer is accepted.”

Isn’t that the goal of every person and every brand?

What other celebrity-designer collaborations do you recall? Who was your best dressed at the 85th Academy Awards and who missed the mark? Let us know your thoughts by posting a comment.

– Julie Krebs, President + Principal Brand Advisor



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