The red carpet at Sunday night's Golden Globes was a parade of black, as attendees banded together to prove that fashion can be a powerful tool in making a political statement. All guests were encouraged to dress in solidarity with the Time's Up movement — a call for change started by 300 women in film, television and theater against systemic sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace across all industries. While the dress code was a suggestion rather than a requirement, the majority of Hollywood's key players showed their support, and despite the lack of color — black gowns at an awards show are usually seen as "boring" or "safe" by critics — there were plenty of show-stopping moments for fans of capital-F Fashion.
However, if viewers were particularly fond of a certain look this time around, chances are they had to do some digging to find out which designer was behind it. Throughout the E! red carpet pre-show, seasoned host Giuliana Rancic repeatedly noted that the evening's correspondents would not be asking celebrities who they were wearing, but rather why were they wearing black. In theory, it's an admirable and welcome update on the typical red carpet interview fodder; the celebrities on hand had a giant platform on which to use their voice for good and speak out against injustice. (Interestingly, most men interviewed on the carpet were not asked why they were wearing all black.) But the subtext here was troubling, as it essentially wrote fashion off as frivolous — and on one of the biggest business nights of the year for the industry as a whole.
"This was the red carpet on which fashion is not supposed to matter. Or perhaps fashion was to matter more than ever," writes Robin Givhan in the Washington Post, in regard to the activism and respect for the Time's Up message at the Globes. But on the flip side, she continues: "It was filled with custom-made dresses crafted by design houses just for the occasion. And mostly, they received no on-air credit." Asking celebrities who they're wearing is not an inherently shallow question, and the refusal to acknowledge the work luxury labels and stylists put into creating these red carpet moments not only does their businesses a major disservice, it also feeds into the false belief that fashion is not something to be taken seriously.
What casual red carpet viewers might not realize is that designers and their ateliers likely spent hundreds of cumulative hours creating these custom all-black pieces on a very tight timeline — the plans for the red carpet blackout in support of #MeToo were formed just under one month ago — and did so free of charge. In return for their labor, labels are generally given several valuable shout-outs from the celebrities they dress, helping to spread the brand's message and build awareness. Debra Messing, for example, wore a custom Christian Siriano gown on the Globes red carpet, but instead of showing gratitude for his efforts, she mostly seemed thankful that she didn't have to talk about her clothes. "Messing responded [to Rancic] with an audible sigh of relief and a 'thank you,' because being asked to acknowledge the designer who collaborated with you on the evening is such a terrible burden," Givhan notes.
If anything, the Golden Globes's red carpet blackout made designers' and stylists' jobs more difficult than in seasons past. Runway looks had to be remade in black in an effort to support the cause and stylists had to rethink their clients' cohesive awards season narratives — especially those who are nominated in major categories through the Oscars and gradually build up their wardrobes leading up to the main event. To say they do not deserve credit for their hard work, and an outright refusal to give it to them on principle, missed the point of the evening's protests completely.
Many of the events' A-list guests are locked in longstanding (and very lucrative) contracts with legacy fashion brands: Dakota Johnson is a current face of Gucci, as is Alicia Vikander of Louis Vuitton, Zoë Kravitz of Saint Laurent and Natalie Portman of Dior. A frequent requirement of said contracts is that celebrities must wear pieces by the respective house for red carpet appearances, and without the opportunity to tell the audience who they're wearing, brands' ROI certainly takes a hit. Despite the lack of publicity they received, several brands and stylists reportedly made monetary donations to support Time's Up, including Calvin Klein, Prabal Gurung, Tiffany and Co. and Forevermark.
Of course, the rise of social media helps to soften the blow, as top stylists, designers and the celebs themselves post their full looks — complete with tags and credits — within hours. But what about the aforementioned casual viewers who won't do additional research? Tracee Ellis Ross, with the assist of politically outspoken mega-stylist Karla Welch, was a hit on the red carpet in a black halter gown over jogger pants with a matching turban, which was later revealed to be a look from Jacobs's Spring 2018 collection remade in black. Jacobs has dealt with some very public business struggles over the last few years, and a single shout-out from Ross could have done wonders for his bottom line. Though Ross's 4.1 million Instagram followers and Welch's 122K put a lot of eyeballs on the New York-based brand, the impact likely pales in comparison to the effect of Jacobs's name being a live part of the red carpet conversation.
Fashion is not a trivial business, and even in the most tumultuous cultural or political times, it shouldn't be treated as such. Though as an industry it's struggled with making cohesive, sincere statements in the past (see: Dior's "We Should All Be Feminists" T-shirts that retailed for $710 a pop), the increased activism and political engagement we saw throughout 2017 proved it's on the right path. But if we want to continue on this trajectory, banning fashion from the discussion — especially in the most literal sense — is absolutely not the way to do it.
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