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The Glossy: Who Are You Wearing? Ukraine
Oscar's politics of ribbons and messaging; men's tux trend
I’m Vincent Boucher, fashion journalist and former celebrity stylist.
The Glossy is my take in the ramp-up to the Oscars on the nexus of fashion and entertainment, who’s making money now and how, and the most inventive looks in film and TV. We hope to come back and join you for Emmy season as well. Last week we talked about the man shacket, and, I received a really lovely note from Meryl Streep’s Oscar-winning makeup artist J. Roy Helland thanking me for the mention and also ruefully noting that the BAFTA awards last week had twice as many prerecorded “lesser” awards.
Today is about the politics of ribbons and messaging we should expect at the Oscars, the move to wear Ukrainian designers, the new tux luxe for men, and a Chanel showdown.
Please let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org and thanks for reading.
1. The New Red Carpet Ribbon
The juxtaposition of glitzy Hollywood award shows and times of war (plus countless other humanitarian catastrophes), has always been tricky. And, this year, as Tinseltown emerges from the detritus of the pandemic, the biggest awards show of them all (yes, even with depressed ratings) and its attendant global red-carpet coverage, makes it the peak fashion event for the public at large. And it’s about to take place in the face of Russia’s all-out assault on Ukraine.
As I write this, the news out of Ukraine couldn’t be worse, with Putin’s missile strike on the outskirts of Lviv, a western city full of refugees, and this week’s bombing of a theater in the besieged city of Mariupol.
And yet, underneath the pomposity and pageantry, the Oscars are still about honoring artists for their achievements in a medium that both entertains and, sometimes, enlightens the world.
In 1941, before America’s formal entry into World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed Oscar attendees in a radio hookup from the White House, commending them on their efforts to promote unity in the country. Later during the war years of 1942-1945, the event was turned into a dinner, with actors donning street clothes and received Oscars made of gold-painted wood due to wartime metal shortages. (They were later replaced with the real thing.) As Variety put it at the time, “Will Hold Academy Dinner After All, But Nix Finery, Hoofing and Glitter.”
Of course, back then, the Academy Awards were not broadcast on national radio, let alone TV, and the world was a much-smaller, Twitter-less place. In the years since, the Oscars survived the Vietnam and numerous Middle East conflicts (including fiery dueling speeches between pro-Palestine Vanessa Redgrave and Israel advocate Paddy Chayefsky in 1978); the attempted assassination of a president (Ronald Reagan, also an actor, who was supposed to help open the show), which led to a one-night postponement of the 1981 ceremony, and then the heartbreaking years of the AIDS epidemic, which decimated the industry and brought the red ribbons worn by attendees during those late-‘80s ceremonies.
Which leads us to this year, in the run-up to the big night, where the SAGs, and last weekend’s awardsapalooza of BAFTAs, Critics Choice and other events tended more toward speeches than symbolism. Both Super Bowl-winning Rams coach Sean McVay’s fiancee, Veronika Khomyn, and Oscar-nominated actress Maria Bakalova made heartfelt remarks and Billy Crystal spoke to his grandparents’ roots in the region.
I’m told that the blue and yellow pins seen on winners Murray Bartlett and Kieran Culkin and his castmate Jeremy Strong at Critics Choice were informally offered to the talent by someone at the event. The pins were also sported at the BAFTAs by the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, who, noting London was only a few hours away from the conflict, said, “We all need to do more than wear a badge, we need to donate and we need to pressure our politicians to continue creating some kind of safety, a refugee haven here for people who are suffering,”
At SAGs, stylist Ilaria Urbinati had ribbons in Ukraine’s national colors made for some of her clients and they were worn by Tyler Perry, Douglas Hodge, John Berenthal and Shari Belafonte while Abbott Elementary’s Lisa Ann Walter pinned blue and yellow flowers to her gown and Michael Douglas sported a pocket square in the same colors that night. But as far as the Oscars go, everyone seems to be holding their breath and figuring out what, if anything, might be the appropriate thing to do, knowing that political sentiments often cause public groans — but Ukraine is an almost entirely non-partisan issue, which makes it a “safe” and important statement all at once.
2. Last-Minute Designer Changes
In the meantime, another Angeleno is taking a hands-on approach by helping a group of Ukrainian designers get greater visibility in this country, especially during awards season. Jen Sidary, a longtime fashion executive whose resume includes positions at Zappos and Vivienne Westwood, had taken a career sabbatical to Ukraine when she found herself laid-off during the pandemic and learned of the vibrant fashion scene there.
“I'd been traveling to and from Europe for my whole 30-year fashion career and had no idea,” she says. “The brands are quite well developed in Ukraine, and some of them have pretty decent businesses in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, but they haven't penetrated the U.S. market.”
She had the “crazy idea” to take the brands to New York for Fashion Week and, through connections, wrangled a grant from the USAID Competitive Economy Program in mid-2021 to fund a September showcase and then another one in February 2022.
“We start selling on the 21st, and I was on the phone with these brands asking, ‘What is your plan if Putin invades the country this week?’ and they said, “Oh, Jennifer, you’re so crazy’ and then he did it on Wednesday evening (two days later),” she told me on the phone from her home in West Hollywood.
“This is all so sad, but we are really trying to take a negative and turn it into a positive. This is a country that no one could find on the map three weeks ago, and now it's on the global stage. So, to me, this is the opportunity for people to see the country, its people’s passion and its creative industry and start to finally pay attention. My phone's been ringing off the hook with people who want to wear Ukrainian designers. I was literally just texting and emailing with J. Lo’s stylist.”
Sidary has also partnered up with vintage couture doyenne Irene Albright and her eponymous Fashion Library showroom in Beverly Hills to spotlight selections from three Ukrainian designers for the Oscars, the Grammys on April 3, and all the attendant parties and events of the next few weeks.
Lessja Verlingieri of Lever Couture, is an artist and we represent her solely,” Albright told me when I reached out. “Her pieces are one of a kind, couture, sculptural — pieces that every musicain and major actress wants to wear.” Born in Ukraine, the designer now lives in L.A. but Irene said she’s still heavily involved in support efforts in her home country. Her gowns have been seen on the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry for TV appearances, editorials and red-carpet appearances.
The other two designers are part of the Sidary’s Ukrainian Fashion group, Valery Kovalska and Ivan Frolov. “I met Ivan in September and was wowed by the creative use and workmanship of his feathers, chiffon, crystals, and embroidery to embellish his corsets and sexy silhouettes. He was inspired by the beauty, energy and creative spirit of Los Angeles and I am excited to represent his magic,” Irene continued. “He, too, has a huge following in L.A. Dua Lipa, Mila Jovanich and Gwen Stefani are some of his fan club.”
Frolov is still hunkered down in Ukraine, but fellow designer Kovalska has taken refuge in Los Angeles on Sidary’s sofa for now. Her architectural gowns and beautifully draped, signature tuxedo suits are also a standout. “They are all amazing, incredible talents,” Irene says of the designers.
Wouldn’t it be an amazing show of international support to see their work on the Oscar stage?
3. The New Tux Luxe
Hue Boy! One thing I’ve been noticing on the red carpet this season is the penchant for colored tuxedoes is wearing thin. Many of the guys are wearing elegant black or midnight evening clothes and if they stray it’s to browns and wine-y tones. Oscar Isaac mixed it up at SAG in a Prada burnt-sienna jacket and a pale pink shirt and bow tie (stylist: Michael Fisher) while Critics Choice winner Will Smith chose a mix of browns for his Dolce & Gabbana evening suit. Andrew Garfield had people guessing at Critics Choice whether his velvet Saint Laurent tuxedo was really black or a deeper shade of purple (stylist: Warren Alfie Baker) and several other guys suited up in black velvet to good effect, including host Taye Diggs in Armani and Tony Goldwyn in Brunello Cucinelli’s double-breasted number. Even Daniel Kaluuya at BAFTA, peacocking in Prada with dusty-blue faux fur trim — just off the Fall ’22 runway — stuck to a dark navy.
Chanel Showdown? Who doesn’t love a good red-carpet throwdown? For the first time that I can remember, two of the Oscar contenders for Best Actress are both brand ambassadors for (meaning they have high-priced contracts with) the same Parisian fashion house. Both Kristen Stewart and Penélope Cruz, nominated as Best Actress for Spencer and Parallel Mothers, respectively, will be presumably gowned in the best haute couture from Chanel. Now under the design direction of Virginie Viard since the death of King Karl in 2019, also dressed Margaret Qualley and Kaci Walfall at the Critics gala last Sunday. At Paris Fashion Week recently, the catwalk was an ode to Coco’s signature boucle that even included beaded tweed slip dresses but I’m feeling as sure as Chanel pearls that neither Stewart nor Cruz will be wearing tweed at the Dolby Theater.
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