How Award Shows - like the Oscars - Illustrate How Influential Fashion Can Be

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - Globe Theatre


Oh what a whirlwind the Hollywood award season has been. The final flourish in the awards show calendar, as always, are the Academy Awards. This special night is reserved for the voter-deemed best of the year. Each nominee is wriggling in his/ her/their seats hoping to take home that golden Oscar. Lucky for us, fashion friends, a big part of the evening is what the stars rock on the red carpet.

2018 kicked off with the definitive MO that enough was enough. Some of Hollywood’s most powerful women rallied behind the tireless work of others and used their platform to amplify. As many movements before, there was a visual way to rally: wear black. Hey girl hey, fashion amplified a social cause.

Fast forward a couple months later and those interested in the red carpet were still curious about what would be worn come Oscars night. Although politics and human rights are heating our current climate, fashion has always captivated the audience at the awards. Prepare to enter a rabbit hole of nostalgia by clicking through galleries for a memory refresh of Academy Awards past. Fashion, politics, and social awareness all exist at the same time.

Though fashion has been a key staple of modern life, its importance is often questioned or minimized. This baffles me but I’ve already guzzled the Kool-Aid. A fashion devotee I have been my entire life. I don’t understand the argument that fashion is vapid or doesn’t matter. It matters. Further, why are we fed a lie that one cannot have a serious life and have fun with fashion? Why choose? Can we not each contain multitudes?

Many are considering what role fashion plays in your life. Keep in mind, unless you are a nudist, you are using clothing to communicate. Regardless of where you fall on the “give a F” spectrum, one should not belittle the importance.

The next time someone questions the role of fashion, treasured friends, be at the ready. I give you three different angles that you can retort to the sartorially clueless bore: money, influence, and royalty.

First up, the money argument. It should be no surprise that western cultures true G.O.D. is money. We serve nothing else as deeply or give it as much importance. If you want to find out what is really going on – in a company, family, or politics – follow the money. Fashion fuels our economics and plays a huge role in what we click and consume online. In a recent article, the money generated from a brand’s garment to celebrity to sales driven to bottom-line is no joke. Stacy Jones, CEO of entertainment and fashion marketing firm Hollywood Branded Inc., breaks it down.

“We’re seeing the fashion discussion moving more to the digital space, where the designers, publicists or stars themselves are pushing out information about styles,” says Jones. British house Ralph & Russo may have gone unnamed during preshows (as did Nicole Kidman's Armani at the SAG Awards), but it still stacks up as a big winner, dressing such "woke" A-listers as Lupita Nyong'o. Her gray gown at the SAG Awards reached 713.5 million online readers, at a PR value of $13,084,612, says Jones. Notes CEO Michael Russo, "Time's Up has added a new dimension to the red carpet for brands.”

Here’s another tidbit from that same piece that illustrates just how connected and influenced we are to fashion and celebrity.

"Gurung, whose social media manager held an iPhone up to the TV screen to record an Instagram Story of Issa Rae onstage at the Golden Globes, received multiple inquiries from potential customers about the dramatic black gown he made for her. And indeed, according to data from retail analytics company EDITED, sales of black dresses increased by 225% from Jan. 1 to 18 compared to the same period last year."

For those who are fans of influencers, look no further than this second argument. A few years’ back, in the Hollywood Report Stylist issue, actor Zoe Saldana explained how her and her stylist’s choices in fashion amplifies her career when she is promoting a project:

"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.”

If money and influence are not enough, throw in a dash of the Royals to hammer the point home. Her Royal Majesty sat snug-as-a-bug next to Anna Wintour at a recent London Fashion Week show. The Queen was there to give an award to a British Designer. This is what the Royal Family Twitter account had to say about the appearance:

“The Award, initiated in recognition of the role the fashion industry plays in society & diplomacy, will be awarded annually to an emerging British fashion designer who shows talent and originality, whilst demonstrating value to the community and/or sustainable policies.”

Money, check.

Influence, check.

And important enough for the Queen to drop by, check.

I am firm believer that fashion is a tool. It can enhance you. It can also diminish you if you don't use it. The advice I give over and over (that nobody asked for) is that one should not take this tool lightly. Use it.