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Hollywood stylists reveal the secrets behind celebrity red carpet dressing

Who exactly decides what the stars wear on the red carpet? Celebrity stylists of Rachel Zoe's studio dishes the ins and outs of the business

Rachel Zoe, the world's most famous celebrity stylist, with 1.2 million followers on Instagram, her own TV program, clothing lines, book deals and advertising campaigns, has, unsurprisingly, little time to dress celebrities — a career that shot her to fame. As a result, Zoe chose to hand the mission over to two of her fabulous helpers, Jill Lincoln and Jordan Johnson who have now become the leading ladies in Zoe's studio. 

The stylists: Jill Lincoln & Jordan Johnson

Lincoln spent about nine years in New York assisting many renowned stylists dressing celebrities and working on editorials and in advertising. After she assisted on a job that Rachel Zoe was working on, Zoe suggested they meet. Two weeks later, Jill moved to L.A. to start work at Zoe's studio. The rest as they say is history.

Johnson was born in Dallas, Texas and moved to L.A. to pursue studies at fashion school. While still at school, Jordan began interning for Zoe. Upon graduating, she was hired to work full-time for Zoe's studio and has worked there ever since - dressing A-list clients such as Anne Hathaway, Michele Williams, Eva Mendez and Cameron Diaz - to name just a few.

On clients

Every client is different. Some are very involved in the fashion industry. These clients either attend fashion shows or follow them religiously on social media, and immediately send over pictures of what they like to their respective stylists. Others simply show up to the fitting and trust the stylists to do their job. Every client has different expectations: Some want to make a statement, while others rather keep a low profile.

On the rules

There's no magic formula but there are a few things that are worth remembering. Be sure to always have a back up look. Always be aware of the camera flash, and always be sure that the client has shoes they can walk and stand in for long periods of time. Even the most spectacular couture gown can loose its lustre if the client is hobbling down the red carpet.

On red carpet trends

Lately, there's been a more relaxed approach on the red carpet. Celebrities seem to be personalising their look and toning elements down such as hair and make up. During award season, I don't think the carpet trends change quite as much year-to-year as the catwalks would since there is less room for risk and theatrics. There are always the tried and true beautiful gowns and slinky sexy beaded pieces that are tweaked for a fresh look. Every award season we see special one off creations that make their world debut and it is really exciting to see designers re-invent the wheel. I think that more experimenting takes place during the year on the carpet at non-awards shows for premieres and such when the whole world isn't necessarily watching. 


On the 'fashion disaster' list

What happens when one of our clients ends up on that list? You shrug it off and move on. It happens to everyone... everyone. I dare you to find a stylist in this business that hasn't made a mistake. Moreover, there are so many other factors involved in this process that the public doesn't even realise. For example, broken zippers, bad alterations, opinionated cousins, weight fluctuations... the list can go on. You can't please everyone. Having a thick skin is essential in this job. 

On the fate of the dresses post-Oscars

Most dresses are returned to their designers, as they like to archive their pieces. Occasionally the couture houses give the dresses to our clients for free, especially if they were custom-made, or they might donate them to charity. But usually the couture pieces are sent back to where they came from.

On the business

A red carpet placement is in essence a free ad campaign for most designers. That is why the business has become so important and also political. There have been cases where representatives of the brands have called us to ask us to quickly arrange the return of the dress before the actress has even made it off the red carpet! When that happens it means that an overseas client has seen a dress on TV or Instagram and wishes to buy it immediately. 

On the behind-the-scenes

Preparing for the Oscars isn't as glitzy and glamorous as it might seem and it doesn't always involve a rented luxury suite. A few years ago, we arranged a fitting with Tom Ford for a celebrity client. It all took place in our old office — a half residential and half workspace. Due to the lack of storage space we had there, we put all the trunks and boxes into the shower behind the shower curtain and our client, together with Mr Ford, got changed right there and then in the cramped, little bathroom. And at one particular moment, with a huge clatter, our hastily arranged tower of boxes and trunks came crashing down on us all. I'd say that qualifies as rather unglamorous.


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