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What Awards Season Is Really Like For Celebrity Stylists

8th January 2015

Awards season is officially here and we’re on the final countdown to the Golden Globes, which is taking place this Sunday. How do Hollywood stars chose what to wear for one of the biggest nights on the calendar? We caught up with British power stylist Cher Coulter, whose client list includes Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Elizabeth Olsen, Nicole Richie, Orlando Bloom and Kate Bosworth, to find out what awards season is really like for celebrity stylists…

1. When do you start preparing for awards season?

Cher: “I have had three offers for the Globes since Monday, and I have said no because it’s not enough time and I hate feeling stressed out. You can’t just meet someone new and go and get them a dress – it’s not my approach. You can tell when these girls have just had something thrown on them. For some people, it doesn’t matter – it’s just a dress. But I like the girls that care. I would like two or three weeks out to start talking to them about it and get an idea of the mood we’re going for, because it’s a long season and you have to create a look and identity which all come from the person. If you keep chopping and changing around, people lose interest in you and don’t trust your judgement. If you’re asked to do a couple of people on the Monday before the Globes, it’s too much of a rush.”

2. So when would you have your first fitting?

Cher: “Normally I’d know about it ideally three weeks before – so you can have a chat, try some things on, see what their body type is like and see what they like. The first thing you’d do is chat to them. Go back and forth with some mood boards and ideas of dresses they might like. The most important thing is to allow time for that first fitting. Of course these girls are frantically busy doing one thing or another, but it is very important to allow time for the tailor to fit it properly. You also have to really consider the shoes and the bag. At most fittings you can probably get away with just doing the dress and taking a good picture and knowing from experience what shoes are going to look good with it. In my studio I’ll have fake diamonds, so I might hold up an earring to get an idea.”

3. How many fittings do you have for one awards show and how many dresses would you try?

Cher: “I like to just have one or two. For a big event, like the Golden Globes, you’d probably have two fittings just for that. You don’t want to keep going back – you want to maximise the time you have with them in the first fitting and then go back with a selection of jewellery and shoes and make sure it fits properly. I always allow a day or two out from the event to zoom in on more alterations. If I know the person well, I might only have five dresses – but that’s a long-time client that you have gone back and forth with ideas with. If it’s someone new, I’d have about twenty options – the most important thing is to find that dress in that fitting. Calling in more things is really stressful and that for me is a really bad fitting.”

4. It is often said no one takes any risks on the red carpet. What do you think about this?

Cher: “I don’t think anyone takes risks. Everyone wants to look ‘chic’ all the time, and most of the time they just look old all the time! I crave individuality on the red carpet, and I think people get very caught up with getting on a best dressed list and then adhering to that formula. They’ll look ‘polished’ and ‘sharp’, but I don’t know if that makes them different to the person standing next to them that also has their hair scraped back. Yes, that’s better than looking disheveled and wrong, but fashion is a vast place to play in. You see a lot of block colour dresses at the Golden Globes – I like texture and print, otherwise, I think they look a bit TV-ish.

I get it – these women have worked really hard to get their figures looking great and you want to wear the most flattering dress, and prints don’t always work for that. But I think that would be a really great conquest to see someone looking great in a print. But it depends – if it’s a black Balenciaga dress and the cut is phenomenal, then that stands in it’s own right. A Rooney Mara look is amazing, but she looks amazing – I don’t want to see other people looking like that. That’s the thing is – it’s very difficult for people to find their own voice.”

5. As a stylist would you encourage a client to take more risks?

Cher: “It’s definitely 50/50 – you are there to guide and support them and give them new ideas. They may say, ‘I really want to wear that Gucci dress I saw’ and then I’ll say, ‘OK great, we’ll try and get it, but if we can’t get it let’s try this designer or there’s a new great designer.’ It’s up to you to give them more options – sometimes they’re right, sometimes you’re right – but that’s the fun of it. They’ve got to feel comfortable. The worst thing is to recommend someone to wear something, they get bad reviews and then you’re fired.”

6. How do you think Instagram has changed red carpet styling? Is there now less room for error?

Cher: “People like to see them getting ready and feel like part of the journey, but that doesn’t equal an amazing picture of the dress – it’s more of hair and makeup. The magic is seeing them in that dress on the red carpet or in front of the Vanity Fair logo. That’s when it all comes together – I think Instagram teasers can dumb the dress down a bit. It might be nice on Instagram to see a picture of the dress on a hanger or something, but I personally say to my clients, ‘Don’t post pictures of the dress until you get there.’ That’s more exciting for the viewers too – I want to see them get out of the car and walk on the red carpet if I’m watching it on television.”

7. Do you liaise with co-stars stylists to check there is no cross-over?

Cher: “No, everyone is trying to do their own thing and get their own stuff together. I don’t think it’s a bad thing if people all turn up in red or whatever-that just makes a trend. If people spoke too much, the more people you dress, the more chances you’ve got of driving yourself nuts. They ask, ‘What is so and so wearing?’, and you’re like, ‘Who cares, you look amazing, GO!’ Those pictures might stand together in a magazine for one week of that girl’s entire lifetime, but the look is going to stand alone on the internet forever. In ten years time, they won’t remember who else was in the red dress – they will remember THEM in the red dress. Getting caught in the ‘who wore it best’ is crazy, crazy.”

8. Which is your favourite awards show to style for?

Cher: “I like the parties – I like the Vanity Fair party – it gives you more freedom and isn’t so constricting. It’s more a marriage of fashion and Hollywood. The Met Ball is a really good place to dress people for, because it’s not awards but more fashion led – it’s less stressful. The Oscars are their big night, so there are way more boxes you’ve got to tick – it’s got to be classic – that image has to be memorable and stand the test of time.”

9. You work with Orlando Bloom. How is it different styling men for the red carpet?

Cher: “He is an exception. He is a good friend and we both love clothes. There is no huge difference, really, other than it’s a suit and it’s less fashion led. At this stage, you’re like, ‘How many times have I done a navy three piece? What can we do next? What’s a new reinvention?’ It’s just a different head. I enjoy it equally as much because it’s so subtle. It’s not ‘Can I get dress number thirty-seven from Gucci? Oh no it’s been taken!’ Its more about their figure and what suits them and the details. Obviously you still want the best designers to be working with them, but you can get a custom suit made from a less known designer and make it impeccable if you have more control over it.”

10. What has been your favourite red carpet moment so far?

Cher: “I loved it when Rosie wore the mustard Gucci gown with a giant flower on the shoulder and a black sheer bottom. It was a knock out. I dressed Kate Bosworth years ago to go to the Vanity Fair party in an Alexander McQueen dress with tiny iridescent pearls. The dress weighed a ton, but it was MAGIC. I dressed Elizabeth Olsen one year for the Vanity Fair party in a black Dior dress, and it just really suited her personality and she looked happy and comfortable. There is a lot you can do with black – treating it like a muslin you create the perfect dress.”

11. What is it like working with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley?

Cher: “It’s a collaboration. She knows what she likes and I actually fall second fiddle sometimes because she gets it, and that’s what makes it more challenging for me to come up with new things. She’ll often see things before me. She could be a stylist in two seconds and blow people out of the window. She does all her day to day stuff herself – I only help her with the red carpet. She loves fashion; she spends money on clothes and invests wisely.”

12. What do most people not know about what it takes to be a celebrity stylist?

Cher: “It’s much more hard work than anybody knows – people have no idea. It’s a massive responsibility. Take the jewellery – you’ve signed for a million dollars worth of diamonds so you’d better not lose them. You’re the one responsible for the dress.”

– Emma Spedding