FIVE DESIGNERS SHARE WHY THEY DECIDED TO TAKE ON TINSELTOWN FOR THEIR FIRST OSCAR WEEK.
Byline: Merle Ginsberg / Rose Apodaca Jones
Molto pushing, no?”
That’s how Alberta Ferretti described the frenzy of Los Angeles as it prepares for the Academy Awards. It’s her very first Oscar week appearance — though certainly not the L.A. debut of her airy chiffon dresses — and she’s catching some adrenaline from all the action at the L’Ermitage Hotel, where she and her staff are based.
That borrowed adrenaline is more than welcome, because Ferretti, whose company is based three hours outside of Milan, spent most of last Tuesday and Wednesday traveling to L.A. to spend a few days with her staff, showing her clothes to stylists and actresses and taking in the amazing array of parties and dinners that lead up to the big night.
“For me,” she said, “it’s a holiday. Normally, I take some time off after my show. And this year, I was designing dresses for dance and some films. But it’s so busy here I haven’t felt tired. I had two hours’ sleep before the WWD party on Wednesday, but it enlivened me. The next day I had a massage and now I am ready.”
Ferretti, whose English is fairly good but who still speaks through an interpreter, made the decision to come when she decided it would support the actresses she dresses and their stylists. Debra Messing, Sandra Bullock and Uma Thurman have all worn Ferretti in Hollywood.
“I knew Uma for a few years,” Ferretti said. “She’d come to Milan to see my show, but then I didn’t see her for a while. Then I got a letter by hand — which is so lovely, and not at all normal — saying, ‘I want to wear your dress to the Oscars.’ She wore the red dress to the 2000 Oscars and another one, a blue dress, to the Cannes Film Festival. She is always beautiful and loves soft clothes, not too decorated. She dresses in a very chic way, very New York.”
While Armani and Versace have long used the Oscars to brand and market their clothes, Ferretti discovered the power of Oscar exposure by surprise. “If you are pushing, there is something wrong — with the dress or the personality,” she said. “It’s wrong for a woman to wear something if she doesn’t feel it. Being aggressive is not our style at all. But yes, the right dress on the right person who loves it has a big effect. I visited the Ferretti boutique in Japan a while after Uma wore the red dress, and they were still asking me about it.”
For the past few years, Ferretti has watched the Oscar fashion parade from her home in Italy — in the middle of the night, of course — and she believes that the prevailing look has been mellowing steadily.
“Even two years ago, the clothes were more rich — baroque, even. They seem now more chic, more elegant. The younger actresses see with a fresher eye and they understand that the big, stiff ballgowns can make an actress look older. Now there is more lightness, which of course looks younger.” To a designer with so light a touch, that’s good news.
“This is all a new experience, and I love a new experience,” she said. “It feels like Fashion Week. But I think my clothes work very well in Los Angeles, and I’m crossing my fingers that we will open a boutique here in the near future.”
Ferretti’s so-called holiday has included stops at the Australian nominees party, artist Julian Schnabel’s opening at the Larry Gagosian gallery, a gathering at Universal and a lunch on the Fox lot. She’s also spent some time dressing model Carolyn Murphy, who’s in town for Harry Winston and whose wedding dress Ferretti designed a few years ago.
“Last night I decided parties in Los Angeles are very good,” the designer said. “Not boring. People seem happy. And I like meeting film costume designers — maybe I’ll change jobs! I just made a dress for Madonna’s new film that they shot in Malta. It was a caftan, and she had to keep falling off a yacht into the water. So of course that meant a lot of caftans.”
ANGELA AND MARGHERITA MISSONI
Nothing like revealing a secret or two to a mother during an interview with a reporter. Designer Angela Missoni had always known that her 19-year-old daughter Margherita loved the summer she spent in Los Angeles four years ago. But she didn’t know the full reason why until now.
“I was taking an acting course, which I loved, and I had a fake ID, so I could hang around at clubs,” Margherita volunteered. Angela looked dubious. “No, it’s true!” insisted the younger Missoni.
But there’s two sides to every story. “Margherita was saying, ‘But Mom, I want to come and study here. Mom, you don’t know, but here things are happening!”‘said Angela. “I would say, ‘But also here in our small town things are happening.”‘
Evidently, mom finally listened. Buoyed by rave reviews for her fall collection, Angela bumped the ad campaign up in order to accommodate a trip to Los Angeles — her first for Oscar week. She and her team of six arrived at the Chateau Marmont ready to do a little celebrating. They wasted no time, kicking things off March 17 with a Sunday brunch for several friends, including Mira Sorvino, Shiva Rose McDermott, China Chow, Rashida Jones, Vanessa Getty and Claire Forlani.
Certainly, it wasn’t all play during their stay. Angela and her tailors attended to customizing the evening looks they brought party-bound fans, including 15 specially made for the week. Oscar week, noted Angela, “is a very concise moment where you can have good exposure.”
Angela freely admits that her printed and patchwork knits, even the more glamorous numbers using Lurex, may be more suited for Oscar parties than the ceremony itself. “It’s not only for the 10 people on the red carpet,” she said. “It’s very important to be present, because there are so many parties and those photographs run for years.”