Celebrity sells fashion and what gets shown on the red carpet is now every bit as influential as that which walks down any catwalk. It’s red carpet high season for celebrities right now but for the rest of us the desire to copy what walks down it never goes out of style.
The relationship between the entertainment and fashion industries has always been one of symbiosis although fashion remained somewhat wary and aloof. Over the past decade, however, that relationship has turned into a love affair as the power of celebrity has grown along with the money it generates.
For designers their red carpet activity has become an essential part of their marketing strategy. On the high street whole new businesses have been created (ASOS = As Seen On Screen). A dress can now be the making of a designer (Ben de Lisi worn by Kate Winslet) or an actress (Elizabeth Hurley at the Four Weddings premiere) and it can cement or revive a career.
The ingredients of red carpet fashion combine to create a singular and magic media recipe: take lots of beautiful women and add very expensive gowns, the artful work of the world’s finest beauty artistes and a large pinch of large diamonds; bake for just 3 minutes (the time it takes to download a digital image), et voila! An entire page cheaply bought yet one that will radiate aspirational luxury. It also satisfies our need to remain as close to the moment as possible. Miss the latest red carpet moment and you’re out of touch in this modern world.
Rather than simply enjoying the spectacle, as they did in previous decades, women want to take part. Therefore Kate Moss or Keira Knightley can create a new fashion, hair or beauty trend overnight simply by getting dressed and walking across a red carpet. Every school leavers disco has turned into a mini Oscars with the gowns, the limousines, the photographers and a red carpet.
A £700 handbag will sell out in an instant now internet shoppers can spot it on the arm of Alexa Chung on Vogue.com and own it five minutes later. Long, formal dresses were only for old ladies before ‘That Dress’ and now Debenhams has racks of them for babies and beyond and whole high street collections are geared to dressing your own personal red carpet moments.
A red carpet raises the women on it from the realities and challenges of life on the pavement beneath it. But women now routinely judge themselves and their outfits by a standard achieved with the immense combined efforts of professional designer and stylists and studio or record company funds. Add to this the fact that women in the entertainment fields are usually preselected for their natural attractiveness to the camera, or at least their ability to artificially manufacture it.
They are already thinner (10lbs lighter to allow for the flattening effect of the camera) and better looking than the rest of us before they begin. Yet, with the odds stacked so heavily against them, women impose on themselves the degree of perfection that is nearly impossible to achieve outside the system designed to create it.