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One month on from London Fashion Week and the creative spotlight is back on the British capital as the London Film Festival rolls into town. While cinema is clearly the focus of the 12-day event, this is also a serious fashion occasion, where what’s worn on the red carpet can often eclipse what’s shown on screen.
Unlike Cannes, which is all about a va-va-voom style of dressing, or Sundance, where dress-down skiwear is the order of the day, the London Film Festival is a more catwalk-influenced affair, where actresses can demonstrate their fashion nous and designers can secure invaluable media coverage for their label.
“The red carpet is an important tool for building social exposure and helping people to connect with the identity of the brand,” explains Marios Schwab, whose designs have been worn to events by Rosamund Pike, Jessica Chastain and Naomie Harris. “It can grant a new life beyond what you see on the catwalk, and, if you put the right woman in the right dress, you can create a really strong impact.”
Gemma Ebelis, head of press for the British Fashion Council, agrees. “The red carpet is increasingly important for our designers. You can secure a profile in a major fashion magazine but if you can get your dress on the red carpet on the right girl, you can get picked up by hundreds of magazines all over the globe. The column inches and awareness you create for your brand are very important.”
While brands such as Stella McCartney and Temperley have long enjoyed a red-carpet association, it is the newer, more conceptual designers such as Erdem, Marios Schwab, Peter Pilotto and Christopher Kane who are now reaping the benefits of such a relationship. Cate Blanchett was recently photographed wearing a dress from Kane’s Resort 2014 collection to the Paris premiere of Blue Jasmine, while Erdem designed the one-shouldered Amina dress Rosamund Pike wore to the Tokyo premiere of Jack Reacher earlier this year.
By wearing a more fashion-forward design, an actress not only stands out in a crowd of classic floor-length dresses, she also showcases her – or her stylist’s – fashion credibility. And thus the actress instantly gains a more interesting public profile, and the designer reaches an audience who may never read catwalk reports. It’s a relationship that’s particularly valuable to emerging designers who lack the budget for large-scale advertising campaigns.
It was for this reason that in February 2010 the British Fashion Council launched a partnership with the British Academy of Film and Television arts ( Bafta) aimed at developing the relationship between the British film and fashion industries. Its first London Showrooms event in Los Angeles was held in October the following year. Although previous “London Showrooms” had been staged around the world, the LA event was established specifically to introduce the work of British designers to influential Hollywood stylists. In the past two years the BFC has taken designers such as Erdem, Marios Schwab, Peter Pilotto and Mary Katrantzou out to the US. “We’ve had a great reaction and it’s really starting to pay off,” says Ebelis. “We’ve seen a lot more pick-up on the red carpet of those designers and many of them now have representation on the west coast.”
With the benefits of event dressing so great, it’s unsurprising that designers such as Erdem, Schwab and Kane now design with the red carpet in mind. “It began when stylists would request looks for their clients but now red-carpet dressing has become a core element of the label,” says Schwab, who features red-carpet dresses in his shows. Antonio Berardi adds: “It is something I am proud of and keen to pursue. It sells clothes, it enhances brand awareness, and is the greatest form of flattery when a celebrity chooses to wear you.”
Berardi knows more than most just how successful a red-carpet partnership can be, having seen Gwyneth Paltrow wear a dress from his autumn/winter 2013 collection to the premiere of Iron Man 3 this year. “We sold more of that dress after [the premiere] than were ordered in the showroom. Even with a very similar version in the show, it largely went unnoticed by the buyers,” says Berardi. “I think it got 287 newspaper covers worldwide and became an internet sensation overnight.”
Antonia Quirke reports from the London Film Festival