NEW YORK—As Hollywood’s A-listers glide onto the red carpet before the Oscars, it’s the fashion-designing elite who are being scrutinized, hoping to top the best-dressed list.
Dior and Armani Privé struck gold with Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain, respectively, Sunday night. Naeem Khan, a New York-based designer, also hit the spot with classy art deco style metallic gowns on both the first Lady Michelle Obama and Stacy Keibler.
“The power of celebrity backing has been crucial,” Khan told the New York Times. “I would say that 90 percent of our brand recognition comes from celebrities wearing my pieces.”
Khan became a household name after Michelle Obama wore his design for a state dinner in 2009.
New York City designer Alexandra Vidal, only an eyelash away from the Oscar red carpet, agrees with Khan.
“It is a big deal when a celebrity wears something of yours,” she said. Getting to the Oscars is one of “every designer’s top accomplishments.”
Getting a Break
Vidal, 28, is known in the fashion industry for her meticulous attention to detail and hand work in her designs, something that has drawn Hollywood celebrities and New York socialites to her.
Women’s Wear Daily featured Vidal’s design on the cover of its Nov. 28, 2008, issue. The stylists for Zooey Deschanel saw it and the next minute the actress was wearing it to the premier of “500 Days of Summer” at the Sundance Film Festival.
Vidal’s phone started ringing off the hook.
Not only celebrity stylists were calling, but also stores that wanted to carry the trending designs.
With the fashion world taking notice, Vidal built on the celebrity endorsement. For the last two seasons, she has designed the clothes for the character of Blair Waldorf on “Gossip Girls.” In December 2012, she got a coveted window display at Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue, with a cobalt blue silk georgette ostrich feather, hand-embroidered peplum corset gown.
“It is all about creating a buzz,” Vidal said. “Everything and anything you can do to promote the brand in a good way is a good thing.”
Vidal said it is difficult to catch the eye of stylists, who are often bombarded with designers’ look books—all vying for a handful of coveted red carpet events.
“It is so tricky. If they are very busy they don’t read it, but maybe you catch it at the perfect time,” Vidal said.
Celebrity stylists choose multiple gowns for their clients especially at big events like the Oscars, but being picked does not guarantee a celebrity will wear it.
Like many women, celebrities change their minds, and just because they loved a design before the big day does not mean they will on Oscar night—apparently Anne Hathaway had a last-minute change of mind Sunday.
“[As a designer] you can’t get too excited because you never know,” Vidal said. “Maybe that day she [the celebrity] just isn’t feeling it, or wants to wear a certain piece of jewelry that doesn’t go with the dress.”
Sometimes it isn’t even the fashion-savvy stylist or the celebrity themselves making the decision. Reese Witherspoon, who looked stunning in a Louis Vuitton dress and jewelry, had her dress chosen by her 13-year-old daughter, Ava.
When asked who she would most like to dress for the Oscars, Vidal chose Naomi Watts, who wore Vidal’s hand woven fringe gown for Plum Hamptons Magazine in 2011. Vidal said Watts looked amazing.
While Vidal’s recognition is growing in the fashion world, she is philosophical about the Oscars.
“I have a lot of faith,” she said. “If it doesn’t happen this time, it is because something better is meant for me.”
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