FOR DESIGNERS FINE-TUNING THEIR CREATIONS, IT’S WORTH FLYING IN THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE FINAL TOUCHES

Byline: Romy de Courtay

While celebrities agonized over which gown to wear to what’s essentially the most important fashion show on earth, designers and jewelers went to considerable expense to ensure that each creation — at the very least — appeared to be custom made. To that end, they flew in a veritable army of tailors, seamstresses and artisans from Europe and New York for a full week prior to the Oscars, putting them up at the same hotels where they stayed themselves.
The suites of the Beverly Hills L’Ermitage, which housed many designers’ showrooms, teemed with craftspeople hard at work in their field of expertise. Swarovski flew in J. Maskrey, a designer of skin jewelry, from London. A former makeup artist, Maskrey fashions the company’s colored crystals into self-adhesive geometric and floral designs that could be applied to the star’s body in only 15 minutes.
In shoe guru Jimmy Choo’s garden suite, London-based artist Rosie Mennem wielded her slim paintbrush over delicate shoes and purses, which she custom-painted to match the print of a celebrity’s dress or her favorite design. “We always like to offer something exclusive to each celebrity and let her be involved in the creative side,” said Jimmy Choo chief executive officer Tamara Mellon, who put Mennem, along with the entire Choo staff, up at L’Ermitage. The cost, she said, was no object: “We get so much post-press that it’s worth it to us.”
But before they were even painted, Jimmy Choo shoes and bags were custom dyed and beaded by Jacques Zatikian of Progressive Shoe Repair in Beverly Hills, who made an average of 15 trips a day to L’Ermitage to pick up and drop off orders. During the week prior to the Oscars, Zatikian traditionally works a minimum of 11 hours a day, staying up until dawn in the last days as he hand-beads shoes using either glue or a needle and thread.
In the Roberto Cavalli showroom, a tailor, an embroiderer and a leather worker from Florence were fully prepared to work day and night to enhance Cavalli’s first attempts at making Oscar dresses. “The clothes we have brought are one of a kind,” said Christiano Mancini, Cavalli’s New York publicist. “They have to be customized down to the last detail.”
Meanwhile, in the Audemars Piguet showroom, also at L’Ermitage, Swiss watchmaker Nicolas Moret adjusted watch straps and explained the functioning and history of the pricy timepieces to celebrities such as Sharon Stone .
Tod’s, which just opened a palatial three-story boutique on Rodeo Drive, kept Arturo of Arturo’s Shoe Fix in Beverly Hills on call all week, and all of Saturday and Sunday, to dye its Oscar collection of evening bags and shoes. “We work right up until the last few hours,” said Tod’s vice president of public relations Stephanie Hamada. “But we need to give things a chance to dry.”