Virtual red carpets, prerecorded award shows and celebrities taking photos of their couture wear from their homes is something the world would have never thought possible pre-January 2020. But c’est la vie, and styling red carpet looks for the 2021 award season in a time of Corona is carrying on. From gowns and full on make-up to tuxedos and hoodies, celebrities are still making a statement as they win their awards. Top celebrity A-list stylists Micaela Erlanger, Madison Guest, and Jessica Paster open up on how life has been navigating styling in a time of Corona.
Styles from some of the film and music industry’s top celebrities from Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger, and Meryl Streep. Erlanger has had to adjust to styling in a different way, “it has been much different than what we were accustomed to pre-Covid.” she notes, but she has still been able to work with designers and their PR teams. For this year’s Golden Globes, she styled Susan Kelechi Watson in a Lebanese designed gown from Georges Hobeika.
The Golden Globes was Erlanger’s first major red-carpet event since the pandemic, so for her, “it felt good to be back at it—and with Erlanger and Watson having the same vision the two had a good working relationship.
“Of course, the process was much different this season. We pulled the look together within 4 days of the Globes with most of the work done virtually and working from two different cities (I was in Miami, Susan was in LA) with all fittings handled via facetime. Luckily, I have an amazing team who helped assist in the process, making it as seamless as possible. And, I loved working with Georges Hobeika. As I had to make a tighter edit, one thing that was really important was that I really pull all the right pieces for the fitting. With that in mind, after the PR team at Georges Hobeika sent me a video of the look in motion, I knew right away it would be perfect for Susan for her Globes look. And finally, with safety being the priority, their team was amazing enough to create a couture face mask to match the dress. (a first for me!)”
While she’s still receiving samples from designers, shipping and working with messengers has changed with less availability and sample options. “I think all parties involved are really doing their best to make it work within the current parameters and I am just really grateful for the support they can provide me, all the effort from all the teams involved and to be able to continue to support them, and the clients I work with,” Micaela notes.
One of the biggest differences that Erlanger has felt and seen compared to now and before Corona is how the lead up time before major events has changed. “Typically, I would be having conversations with designers’ months before the event about multiple clients, often working on custom pieces for each client,” she notes. “Fashion is a visual and tangible experience for me, and not getting to connect with my clients as I could before has been a low, but on the bright side as the world opens up getting to work again has been such a joy and really energized me.”
Madison Guest has styled looks for her clientele Dominique Fishback, Victoria Justice, Sarah Cooper, Molly Bernard, Kira Kosarin, Haskiri Velazquez, Megan Stott, and Antoinette Robertson. She too has been receiving designer samples for awards season but the shipping process has been slow in receiving orders from Europe, “and just flat out impossible,” Guest notes. “There was a gown I wanted for someone and we just couldn’t get it here. As far as working with designers locally, it’s definitely easier but doesn’t come without challenges. Some offices are still not open every day, so working out logistics has been an adjustment.”
Navigating last year and this year has had its challenge for Guest. “The first low, the biggest low, was in March and April of 2020 of having no work. The industry literally stopped, and I cried in the shower every day, worried about what was going to happen to us all. Luckily, we’ve learned to adapt and figure out protocols to keep everyone safe, while allowing us to get back to work. The other low is really just experiencing these great moments but not really getting to experience them.”
Seeing the noticeable changes from styling in 2020 to now isn’t lost on Guest. “There’s something so magical about watching a wall of photographers and flashbulbs go crazy over your client stepping on the red carpet, and it’s an experience that’s been lost doing virtual premieres and shows.” She notes how men are taking advantage of the more casual environment this award season, “like actor Jason Sudeikis wearing a hoodie at the Golden Globes and a t-shirt at this year’s SAG Awards.”
Guest isn’t finding styling in a time of Corona too different or difficult from pre-Covid times. “Actually, the process of working with Dominique Fishback for this carpet wasn’t really that different. She had back to back movies release since last summer, so I’ve seen her and her glam team more than I’ve seen anyone else (other than my fiancé whom I live with) this last year. We have basically become a bubble since we were working together so closely and so often.”
Guest styled Fishback’s 2021 Critics Choice Awards look, wanting the actress to have a special look for the night. “I wanted her look to have a true Hollywood star feel, but also feel very authentic to who she is, since this was her first awards show like that. Up to the day before the show, we had three very different options we were picking from, and it was really hard to choose. But the morning of, I woke up and just knew it had to be the Reem Acra gown.” The Lebanese renowned Lebanese- American designer is known international for her bridal and ready-to-wear collection.
“I went to her hotel and told her we needed to try them all on again but that I wanted it to be that dress. I knew in my gut it was the one. We have a very collaborative process, but she also really trusts me. So, when I came in feeling so strongly about it, she went with it. And her glam team was really able to have fun with it too, so the whole look just came together perfectly.”
Styling Emily Blunt, Nicole Scherzinger and Maria Bakalova, who’s nominated for an Oscar has been a highlight in Jessica Paster’s styling career. Styling in a time of Corona isn’t as complicated, as communication and prepping are key. “If this was 2 years ago the conversation would have started the same way as it has always started- you talk to the client, you see what their style is, and you order. Whether it’s 2 years ago or 20 years ago the conversation starts with prepping, prepping. prepping!” But, she has had to adjust to styling and virtual communication. “I’m a very hands-on stylist, so it’s been a little tricky for me to adjust to this new normal, but I have to say it’s been nice because I don’t have to do as much hard work as I usually do. I do like flying to New York, Paris and London to meet with showrooms and designers, and Covid has largely made that disappear this year.”
Styling for Maria Bakalova’s princess cut Giorgio Armani red gown was a “new normal” for Paster. Usually each actor that I am styling, even if they’re on a location shooting, I usually prep all my dresses and I go wherever my client is: if they’re in LA we do a fitting in LA or I’ll fly to NY or internationally. But because of the pandemic I was unable to do my fittings in person. The amazing thing about Armani is that they are a global house so I was able to prep out of LA and they have a PR office in Milan that they sent things from to London. So, we found our pieces with Maria and Armani and then we had our fitting.”
“The trickiest part was trying to get the dress back the weekend before the Golden Globes. They put the dress on a plane and it got stuck in customs but Armani was absolutely wonderful and had a second dress prepped and sent with someone to hand carry. But luckily our first and favorite dress made it to us just in time and she looked like a dream.”
Some lows that Paster has felt in styling in a time of Corona is missing the feeling of being free, of being able to be around her clients and her team, and grabbing more clothes from showrooms in a day. “A lot of the people in London, Paris or New York are still closed or work with a skeleton crew. Another low is that for every job we do on set we have to take a Covid test. I’ve had days where I take 4 different tests and that’s a lot of time. And then the biggest low of all is seeing my friends and peers not working.”
In looking forward to how these stylists think their industry will look going forward Erlinger notes: “I think the process of dressing for major events, award shows, press tours, and premiers will hopefully become more sustainable. I think this past year has pushed stylists to be extremely creative and use what is available to them, meaning looking through current collections and even past collections to pull pieces from instead of creating custom looks. Additionally, working virtually has been so successful for me, which has saved both time and money.”
For Guest it’s about the process. “The main change that I’ve experienced is not so much in the act of our styling, but more so in how we are going about the process. Everyone has been forced to become a little more flexible, a little more understanding, and I think for all of us it was a needed change.”
Paster understands the value of working smarter and not harder and she wants things to go differently within styling. She was constantly on the go for the past twenty years with no vacation due to constant styling.“ I take my 10 days at Christmas time but to take 2 weeks off for a personal vacation, I’ve never done that and what this pandemic has done is give me time for myself, and helped me realize that I do need that time for myself and to be mindful off that time and to use it wisely.”