The red car­pet would be a bor­ing place with­out risk-tak­ing stars

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FASHION - By BETHAN HOLT

Over the years, the Amer­i­can Mu­sic Awards have given us Jen­nifer Lopez in a tat­too print cat­suit, Christina Aguil­era in full Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe cos­tume and — lest we for­get — Brit­ney Spears and Justin Tim­ber­lake in full, match­ing denim, a look which will no doubt go down as the most cel­e­brated cou­ple dress­ing mo­ment of all time. What’s the com­mon thread? An unashamed cel­e­bra­tion of bold in­di­vid­u­al­ity which has helped to ce­ment mu­sic’s sta­tus as the in­dus­try bring­ing us style mo­ments which are not just mem­o­rable, but of­ten glo­ri­ously non­con­formist.

The AMAs, which took place on Nov 20, are an an­nual op­por­tu­nity to re­mind our­selves that while pared-back so­phis­ti­ca­tion might be the sta­tus quo of glam­our, there should still be room for a lit­tle ex­per­i­men­tal styling and ex­pres­sion of per­son­al­ity.

“Grip­ing about unimag­i­na­tive Os­car dresses has be­come an an­nual rit­ual among fash­ion watch­ers,” wrote The Tele­graph’s Fash­ion Direc­tor Lisa Arm­strong last year of the per­fect po­lite­ness which now rules the red car­pets of The Academy Awards, the BAFTAS, the Golden Globes etc.

But the an­ti­dote to that safe el­e­gance, a re­sult of the high stakes cast­ing de­ci­sions which red car­pet pop­u­lar­ity now prompts in the act­ing in­dus­try, can be found in the mu­sic world where fash­ion is not about look­ing as un­of­fen­sively pretty as pos­si­ble, but mak­ing a per­sonal brand­ing state­ment. While ac­tors must present them­selves as a pos­si­bil­ity for all man­ner of roles, mu­si­cians have only one part to play — them­selves.

Take Halsey, the singer with 3.4 mil­lion In­sta­gram fol­low­ers who has made her ever-chang­ing style a trade­mark. On Sun­day night, she worked with stylist Maeve Reilly for the first time, mas­ter­mind­ing a leather jump­suit look by Er­manno Scervino which was cho­sen, after much de­lib­er­a­tion and angst, to align the singer more closely with the spirit of her mu­sic. “We had a lot of op­tions which were all very dif­fer­ent, I felt like this jump­suit re­ally sep­a­rated from what she do­ing be­fore and felt more au­then­tic to her as an artist, more punk, a lit­tle edgier, more of a risk,” ex­plains Reilly.

She em­pha­sises that the most suc­cess­ful stars’ looks are rooted in the im­age they’re cre­at­ing via the mu­sic they are cur­rently pro­mot­ing, but that in it­self is an ex­ten­sion of them­selves. “Hear­ing the mu­sic helps us fig­ure out the di­rec­tion we want to go in mov­ing for­ward. I think the mu­sic re­ally dic­tates what some­body wants to look like, what you’re singing about is rep­re­sented in what peo­ple see when they look at you.”

Choos­ing a style which is both dif­fer­ent to how others usu­ally dress for an event, as well as some­thing new yet ap­pro­pri­ate for the star her­self isn’t an easy de­ci­sion when the stakes are so high. Get­ting onto best-dressed lists and mak­ing head­lines in the right places is still the end game here.

“I don’t want to do what’s ex­pected. For the AMAs, peo­ple tend to go glitzy, se­quins- a kind of cliché look. I didn’t want her to fit in last night, I didn’t want her look like every­body else,” says Reilly. “We def­i­nitely went back and forth about it and thank­fully de­cided to go with it and it went well. Amer­i­can Vogue im­me­di­ately wrote an ar­ti­cle about how it was a risk which worked out and it was re­ally well re­ceived.”

For Ari­ana Grande, one of the most fol­lowed stars in the world with an In­sta­gram au­di­ence of 89.4 mil­lion, the lat­est styling fo­cus is all about cre­at­ing a ‘pro­fes­sional’, grown-up im­age says her friend and stylist, Ti­mothy Ch­ernyaev.

“She wears a lot of menswear in her day to day life. She shops as much in the men’s depart­ment as she does in the women’s and she is al­ways wear­ing her male friend’s clothes or her boyfriend’s clothes. When­ever we do a red car­pet, we try to trans­late who she is in her daily life and make it special to the red car­pet,” he says, re­fer­ring to the 23 year-old’s AMAs look, which con­sisted of pair of tai­lored Alexan­der McQueen trousers (”I found them at the McQueeen shop so they‘re a real com­mer­cial piece which any woman could go into the store and buy and wear all the time”) and a cus- tom-made lace crop top by French lin­gerie la­bel I.D Sar­ri­eri.

Ch­ernyaev ex­plains that this menswear/wom­enswear mash-up en­hances Grande’s iden­tity as an artist: “I think it’s prac­ti­cal and func­tional. It’s weird in your day-to­day life if you have all these pro­mo­tional things you have to do, it’s a busi­ness. And then to be like ‘Now I’m on the red car­pet, I’m go­ing to put on a sheer dress, even though I would never wear that on any other oc­cas­sion.’ I think the thing about us­ing menswear is that she’s there to pro­mote her sin­gle and her al­bum, pro­mote her­self and show her fans who she is as a per­son and it’s a smart way to dress. It’s how most women dress from the age of 16. It’s not like it’s un­usual for women to wear pants any­more so I love that that’s what she grav­i­tates to­wards.”

Bring­ing au­then­tic­ity to the red car­pet is vi­tal to the likes of Grande and Halsey for an­other rea­son, too. Loyal le­gions of fans mon­i­tor­ing their ev­ery out­ing adds a com­pli­cated ex­tra el­e­ment to the task of red car­pet dress­ing — be­cause it’s as much about the pub­lic re­ac­tion as the pro­fes­sional one.

Halsey’s change of di­rec­tion up­set some of her fol­low­ers. “We walked down the car­pet last night and there were some fans who didn’t like it and some were sh*t talk­ing on Twit­ter,” says Reilly, breezily adding “but I looked at her and said ‘give Vogue an hour, don’t worry we’re fine’ and within 1 hour 20 min­utes there was an ar­ti­cle writ­ten about how she took a risk and pulled it off so I’m not out here to ap­pease ev­ery­one’s fans. You can’t make ev­ery­one happy. The peo­ple who mat­ter get it.”

Where tak­ing a risk is worth the short term up­set when chameleonic styling is the name of your game, Ch­ernyaev and Grande know that her fol­low­ers will im­me­di­ately spot a look which isn’t right for her. “She’s the most hon­est, trans­par­ent, au­then­tic self with her fans — she di­rect mes­sages them, she tweets them, she gets her in­put from them on her tour, her look. She re­ally val­ues their opin­ion. I try a lot of things with her and we think ‘let’s try this or this’ but we al­ways end up com­ing back to who she re­ally is,” says Ch­ernyaev.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Tay­lor Swift at­tends a press event for break­ing The Sta­ples Center’s record of most sold-out shows for a solo artist; Halsey in Er­manno Scervino and Ari­ana Grande at the Amer­i­can Mu­sic Awards.

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