We’re hired to create fashion history

January 28th 2014.

Hollywood stylist Cher Coulter is busy ahead of award season (Picture: JewelMint)
If anyone knows how to make a star shine on the red carpet, it’s Cher Coulter.
It’s the reason Rosie Huntington-Whiteley called on her to work her magic in 2011 for the promotional tour of Transformers. Whatever was said about Huntington-Whiteley’s acting ability, there’s no doubt Coulter’s outfits put her in the spotlight.
Almost overnight she went from being a relatively unknown model into a style icon.
She is also long-time personal stylist to actress Kate Bosworth; has worked with the likes of reality star Nicole Richie and actress Sienna Miller and was the woman Elizabeth Olsen turned to when she made her big-screen debut in Martha Marcy May Marlene. It earned her a spot on The Hollywood Reporter’s most powerful stylists list.

Cher Coulter: ‘We added sleeves to Elizabeth Olsen’s Christian Dior dress at the 2012 Vanity Fair Oscars after-party to make it feel younger. It’s so fresh for a black dress.’ (Picture: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
‘We’re hired to create fashion moments; looks that will elevate the reputation and recognition of our clients and appeal to a wide audience,’ says Coulter, her British accent intact despite living in LA for the past decade. ‘We’re hired to create fashion history.’
As hyperbolic as that sounds, she has a point. The awards season shows she is preparing for are where emerging stars hope to blossom. ‘For promotional tours you have more time to tell a fashion story but with an award show you only have one chance to produce that wow factor,’ she says. ‘All the bells and whistles have to be present in that one look.’
It’s now as much about the fashion as it is about the films. Some may say the balance is currently tilted in favour of the former.
Take Jennifer Lawrence: that red Calvin Klein dress she wore to the 2011 Oscars got her noticed like never before. J-Law has gone on to bag a lucrative contract as the face of Dior and countless big roles.

Cher Coulter: ‘I loved working with Sienna Miller at the 70th Golden Globes last January. The Erdem dress fit her perfectly.’ (Picture: Jeff Vespa/WireImage)
Then there’s Lupita Nyong’o. Before she has even won an award for her multiple-nominated turn in 12 Years A Slave, hers is the name on everyone’s lips.
Since stepping out at the film’s LA premiere in that Miu Miu cockatoo print dress, she’s followed in Lawrence’s footsteps by bagging a major fashion campaign and graces the cover of the latest Dazed & Confused.
‘An endorsement from a well-known and respected designer or fashion house can translate into a long, lucrative career for an upcoming actress,’ Coulter says. ‘You put an unknown in Chanel and send her down the red carpet and people will take notice.’

Cher Coulter: ‘Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s Saint Laurent at the 70th Golden Globes was so cool yet also classic. I was so into black for this event because I knew how many yellow mermaids we would see.’ (Picture: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
Awards season is a big deal for fashion brands too, she says. With pictures guaranteed to be broadcast to hundreds of millions worldwide, there’s no better stage for a designer hoping to infiltrate the consciousness of the masses.
And it’s partly why Coulter dressed Huntington-Whiteley in Antonio Berardi, long loved by the fashion world but who, at the time, was relatively unknown, at the premiere of Transformers.
‘I believe that, in many ways, fashion and Hollywood have developed a uniquely mutualistic relationship,’ she says. ‘A certain piece on the right girl at the right time can create a new “It” item, colour or silhouette and even put unknown designers on the map.
‘A stylist is hired to act as the bridge between the two worlds: to liaise between Hollywood and fashion.’

Cher Coulter: ‘I was Kate Bosworth’s guest at the 2009 Vanity Fair Oscars after-party, so I got to see this Alexander McQueen dress illuminate the room. The hair and accessories brought it all together.’ (Picture: Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic)

Competition for dresses is fierce. ‘It’s definitely a competitive time for stylists,’ she says. ‘There are only so many amazing gowns to go round.’
Even though designers present top stylists with unseen options, staying ahead of the rest can prove tough unless a celebrity has a great relationship with the brand. Many of the spring pieces have often already been worn, leaving a fight over couture gowns in time for the Oscars.
‘There used to be stories of stylists hoarding dresses but that really isn’t the case now,’ says Coulter.
Stresses aside, it’s always worth it in the end. ‘I still get excited,’ she enthuses. ‘Last year, I had some people over to my house to watch the Globes and we all started cheering when Sienna Miller was 
on screen.’

– Naomi Mdudu