Back to Black? Designers React to the Red Carpet in the Season of Time's Up

As the Hollywood awards season carries on — next up, the SAG Awards on Sunday — WWD asked designers for their thoughts on the black dress movement: Specifically, reaction to the Time’s Up statement made at the Golden Globes, how wearing black should proceed and be perceived throughout the season and if fashion brands, as suppliers (usually gratis) of the fashion statement are getting their due.

Donatella Versace: “I do not think this moment will pass so easily. And I am not referring only to what is happen today, but to what, during the years, during the centuries, women had to endure in order to survive in this society and to find their right space in society. It’s useless to deny that men and women are not treated equally and I can finally see both men — some smart and illuminated ones — and women supporting the fight for equality. I think and I hope that people are choosing to wear black because they believe in this issue that caused so much pain to so many women.

We should not forget that actresses are women. I dress them not because I treat them like walking advertising, but because I have a relationship with them as human beings. Besides, each designer should be confident to have such a recognizable style that it’s not necessary for them to say it out loud if they wear this or that designer.

I think what happened at the Golden Globes and the auction that is being organized made the world see how united we all are and now it doesn’t matter if they wear black or red or yellow. The world knows that we are all supporting this cause and we are not stopping until this is over. “

Prabal Gurung: “I don’t necessarily think we need to see a blackout on the red carpet again (…I am a designer whose most recent collection was themed “Stronger in Color,” after all), however I absolutely cannot wait to see the momentum of setting a powerful and substantive agenda, through fashion choices, continue. Fashion was previously considered an isolated visual medium, devoid of cultural substance. Now, more than ever, our medium has proved it can be an important vehicle in communicating powerful values and ideals for both us the designers, and for people around the world…

As award season continues, I hope to see talented actresses, producers, directors, writers and singers choose to wear any outfit that makes them feel empowered enough to utilize the platform they have to speak out and to address issues that demand conversation in order to provoke change…Whether it be black again, pink, feathers, tulle, embellishment…I look forward to seeing and hearing these women put their best selves forward, to see the red carpet as an opportunity, as a responsibility and as a means for activism and change.

I do wish the actresses on the carpet were asked why they chose to wear the particular designer they wore. It is not so much about us creating or loaning them a dress without making a sale, and more about the idea that as designers, we too want to use our voices and platforms to take part in the conversation. So many of us are staunch supporters of activist causes, whether it be the Time’s Up Movement at the Golden Globes, or supporting the ACLU, or Planned Parenthood, or simply speaking out against injustices in our society.

The red carpet is such a beautiful platform to speak about issues that need to be addressed, that do deserve screen time, that set an agenda that needs to be put at the forefront. By asking actresses who they are wearing, it not only challenges them to align with brands that support their ideals, but it also challenges us as designers to have more transparency in what we stand for, in our values and principles, for and how we create and produce to be ethical and sustainable.

Asking this question will hold everyone — actresses, stylists, designers and brands — accountable and will challenge us to continue to create in a way that is best for this world and it’s modern demands.”

Vera Wang: “I think [everyone wearing black] made such a statement at the Golden Globes. There was so much synergy with women expressing one voice; it’s one of those moments in time that was very strong, and with many men also respecting the dress code. It was powerful. That doesn’t mean that going forward, women have to only wear black, and this is coming from someone who does mostly all-black collections. I think the solidarity that women feel is going to have to come through action as well, in the kinds of roles women play in films, the kind of projects they produce. [Fashion-wise] I think the statement has been made.

 I didn’t really know about [avoiding designer/brand mentions on the red carpet] until I was watching, and it became very apparent. Part of how important fashion has become in our society has had a lot to do with people seeing dresses from designers on the red carpet. That has made fashion more — I don’t know if democratic is the right word — but it has made it more accessible to people, at least from a viewership and entertainment point of view. And that can’t hurt any industry. 

I think people are fascinated by who dressed whom. I would hate to see that go away permanently. We make these clothes custom usually; they’re not off the rack unless an actress buys what she’s wearing. Usually it’s very studied and very deliberate. It gives designers — not only designers who are established, but new designers — a chance to have a global audience. That is important to help our industry.

We do work very hard to do this. It’s a part of how important fashion has become to our culture; it’s not just for the very few. This is not the days of Truman Capote. [Women on the red carpet provide] inspiration from all different ages, from young girls who aspire, to young women starting to find themselves, all the way up to women who are very mature and great artists — Meryl Streep, obviously [Streep wore Wang to the Globes], but also Judi Dench and Helen Mirren — women with no need to prove anything to anyone. If they are beautifully dressed, it is really a democratic way of looking at women of all ages. Fashion enables that. It’s our industry that enables that. I think it would be a pity if it stopped.”

Zac Posen: “My initial thought is that women should be able to wear whatever they want. I think wearing black at the first awards show of the season was an effective and empowering celebration of sisterhood, womanhood and solidarity. It’s a symbol of the work being done to create parity, equity and inclusion across all industries. It was made very clear that Time’s Up on discrimination, sexual violence, harassment and abuse.

It was a call to action that many answered and I completely support any individual who wishes to continue to dress in black throughout the season but I think the one unified moment had incredible impact that I’m not certain could be replicated.

If for any reason an actress doesn’t wish to mention who designed her dress, that is her individual choice, which I completely respect. I design in celebration of a woman for her moment.”

Giambattista Valli: “I thought it was a very nice gesture, a nice moment. This visual protest was quite powerful and I loved it, because you realize that even a piece of fabric, a color, can be extremely powerful — almost like a flag. Having said that, I would underline two things. Firstly, that regardless of this, women should be free to wear any color without being bothered by anyone. And secondly, I think there is nothing more glamorous than a black dress. It’s always been a very powerful image in film.

The dresses have their value, and they can speak for themselves. There is no need for an actress to talk about her dress, and I think it’s much more powerful for an actress in a gorgeous dress to deliver an extraordinary message.

Nowadays, there is so much information available that even before she starts talking about her dress on the red carpet, someone on Instagram has already published a montage of her wearing the dress alongside the runway look.”

Anna Sui: “I think the impact of the Golden Globes was very powerful. I’m not sure that will be duplicated. Being a designer, you always hope that people will know it’s your dress. But even when it’s not mentioned the news media seems to identify the designer immediately.”

Joseph Altuzarra: “Whenever we dress women on the red carpet, I always want them to feel strong, beautiful and powerful and closest to themselves. That’s always been the driving force for what we do. That being said, I also feel very strongly about the movement and that these conversations and actions must grow and continue well beyond the Globes and Awards season. If wearing black helps promote that conversation and dialogue for the different women who believe in it and choose it as part of their vehicle to further this message, I support it.”

Roland Mouret: “I understand the reasons behind the decision to dress in black, and how it fits the moment, but I hope color won’t disappear. We need to move on — we don’t want the world to become ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ Black was fine — once, as a statement — but please, let’s not create a whole new set of rules just to break old ones. Let’s not make things worse, and please let’s not let color define people.”

Alberta Ferretti: “The solidarity shown by all women (and plenty of men) wearing black was a special moment. We must hope it made a strong enough point for it not to have to be repeated. We must keep these principles in our hearts every day and support each other’s empowerment with strength, compassion and humility. I don’t think women should feel the need to avoid black in the future, we should be proud to express ourselves in any way we choose.

This occasion was about so much more than [name-checking a designer] and it was important to see the bigger picture. Talk of dresses may have seemed a little crass or frivolous alongside some of the wonderful words and sentiments we heard. There will still be plenty of occasions to celebrate the joys life can bring.

The parade of black was seen and talked about across the world. Amazing. Yes, I do believe it had an incredible impact. These women and men represented not only themselves, but all of us, in striving toward gender and racial equality. It is just one small yet tangible step in a long journey. I welcome anyone who has the courage to help us take the next step, in whichever positive manner they choose, let us not worry how large or small that step is.”

Goga Ashkenazi: “I think the fact that women stand up together as a single strong voice is fantastic. Their look is definitely a great tool to reach those people who sometimes are not really focused on reading newspapers but are more impressed by images. With their black dresses, these women, who are able to capture the public attention, definitely made a statement, which I absolutely support.

I believe that saying the name of the brand they wear is a way to express gratitude toward all those people who work in the fashion houses and have to work so hard to make the perfect dress to let them shine on the red carpet. It’s definitely a gratification for designers to see their dresses on TV worn by amazing personalities, who should keep these people in mind. At the same time, I definitely criticize the decision of certain companies to pay actresses to wear their creations on the red carpet. I think it’s not fair and honest.”

Pierpaolo Piccioli on actresses declining to name the label she’s wearing: “I respect all people that fight for something. I don‘t want to judge, because I think it’s right to fight for something you believe in. That’s the thing, so everything is fine by me.”

Maria Grazia Chiuri: “This year’s Golden Globes ceremony was the setting of a very important initiative: realizing, recognizing that it is time to change course and even take a risk. I was moved to see all of these extraordinary actresses dressed and united for a common cause, and I was honored to be a part of the group of designers that supported them. Being part of such a close-knit community and communicating with the world about its desire for change made me happy, because it matches with my philosophy not only as a designer but also as a woman. The world is moving in a new direction — toward a new horizon, as Oprah said in her speech — and those of us who have the tools and the ability to reach huge audiences should realize that it is our duty to work towards this direction, because things are finally changing, here and now.”

Stella McCartney: “I think it’s a conversation that’s been long overdue and I’m a big fan of equality so I think in the fashion industry, it’s a big way for us to really say how we feel through what we are designing.”

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