Oscars Ramp-up Goes Full Steam

With the end of the three-month-old writers' strike in sight, designers and stylists are revving up for the red carpet at the Oscars.

LOS ANGELES — With the end of the three-month-old writers’ strike in sight, designers and stylists are revving up for the red carpet at the Oscars.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had insisted the big show would go on Feb. 24 despite the walkout. But after cancellation of the Golden Globes gala last month when stars refused to cross picket lines, Hollywood is breathing a lot easier.

The Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. has estimated that the Oscars generate $130 million for the local economy, and put the loss of the Golden Globes to the economy at $80 million. And, of course, the biggest night in show business means priceless exposure for fashion companies when images of their gowns, jewels, bags and shoes are transmitted around the world.

Everyone seems to have been pressing on in the face of the walkout and hoping for the best.

“You have to pretend like it’s going ahead, otherwise you will get left out in the cold,” said stylist Annabel Tollman, who is dressing best supporting actress nominee Amy Ryan. Like many other actresses, Ryan wore her Donna Karan Golden Globes gown to the Screen Actors Guild Awards last month — the show got a waiver from the writers — and has an Oscar dress in the works.

The tentative agreement between the Writers’ Guild of America and Hollywood studios means that the writers are expected to be back at work as soon as Wednesday, pending a vote today on whether to lift the strike, which was triggered by a dispute over payment for work that appears on digital media.

“We haven’t really held back in our dressing efforts,” said Versace’s Hilary Lindahl, who is based in Beverly Hills. Donatella Versace may have canceled her trip to Los Angeles when Graydon Carter canceled his Vanity Fair party, but Lindahl has had her hands full with last weekend’s Grammy Awards and now the Oscars. “It seems everyone is back on track,” she said.

Samantha McMillen, who is dressing best actress nominee Ellen Page, also has been moving forward throughout the strike. “I didn’t take the approach of putting anything on hold,” she said.

This story first appeared in the February 12, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

But McMillen said her job always gets more intense as the big day draws closer.

“It gets very hyper,” she said. “Everyone is on the highest alert to get their clothes and jewelry on bodies, and there are a lot of people in town to see,” she added, referring to the fashion companies that set up shop in Hollywood to show their wares to stylists.

“Out of respect for these people’s jobs, I do try and meet with everyone,” McMillen said. “You never know, you could find a perfect earring or something….There is stress because you want everyone to be happy, especially your client. That is my number-one priority, and everyone else comes second.”

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