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Jennifer Lawrence at the New York premiere of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. Photo: Getty Images
When the latest Hunger Games installment hit theaters in November of 2015, fashion-minded fans of the franchise had more than just a satisfying finale to look forward to: the movie’s hotly-anticipated premiere guaranteed a sensational fashion parade, led, of course, by Jennifer Lawrence. Just a few years ago, we expected our movie stars to show off their best selves on one red carpet, thanks to one big premiere per project; in today’s global, celebrity-obsessed culture, there’s easily ten times that amount, often scattered across the world, plus press conferences, after parties, and late night shows, all endlessly documented by both the press and social media.
This was the year of Blake Lively’s 18 different outfits in just 24 hours, of Selena Gomez’s 28 looks in less than two weeks. Lawrence made 10 appearances to promote this particular film, from Beijing (in Dior) to Madrid (in Ralph Lauren) to New York City (in Schiaparelli), each time wearing a different gown, generating an entire headline. Fashion fans (like us) have never had so much to obsess over, but for the stylists toiling long hours behind the scenes, the media machine presents a new set of challenges.
Blake Lively during her whirlwind tour for The Age of Adaline. Photo: Getty Images
“The entire industry has changed immensely in the past decade that we’ve been working,” Jill Lincoln and Jordan Johnson, who style Lawrence, Kiernan Shipka and Sofia Vergara, wrote to me in an email. (Johnson and Lincoln know what they’re talking about; the two started their careers as assistants to Rachel Zoe and worked under the celebrity stylist until recently.)
Not only are there more premieres to deal with, the dissemination of paparazzi photos has changed how we think about “red carpet style”—namely, that it need not only appear on a red carpet. “There are so many more events - even the airport look matters now,” noted superstar stylist Kate Young, who works with Dakota Johnson and Sienna Miller. To prep her clients for a long haul press tour—which might entail several red carpet looks as well as off-duty ensembles—requires a lot of moving parts. Young will first put together a comprehensive moodboard with multiple points of inspiration. “I like creating an overarching feel for a press tour,” she explained; it’s easier to select options for each appearance within an established frame. Once that “theme” is sorted out, Young will call in several looks and arrange for a “monster fitting” with her client. “We try on everything and photograph each one,” said Young. After reviewing the photos, Young and her client will select the best looks and then repeat the process—to a lesser degree—with the accessories. “Then we pack up the bag for the tour.”
Sienna Miller in a Marc Jacobs dress styled by Kate Young. Photo: Getty Images
For Johnson and Lincoln, the process can vary significantly between jobs. “The objective depends on the client,” the duo wrote in an email. “One likes a formula and another wants to reinvent the wheel for each appearance.” Each presents its own set of challenges, but at the end of the day Johnson and Lincoln said it’s important to them that it never feel like grunt work. “Dressing should be fun and not appear to require so much effort,” the pair explained. “If that’s a theme, that’s what we aim for.”
But the increased workload has also brought new opportunity. “There are so many more chances for all parties involved to showcase their work…the designers, the glam teams and the talent,” explained Johnson and Lincoln. The fact that a red carpet appearance can now lead to an entire social media or blog post rehashing the outfit, means stylists have more power than ever to launch brands and shape the industry. “It’s really rewarding to make our clients happy and at the same time give designers a platform to showcase their work,” the duo said.
It’s also made stylists more visible than ever. “[Being a stylist is] definitely more of a public job than it was 10 years ago,” said Young, who, in addition to styling, has written two books and launched successful collaborations with the likes of Target.
The new landscape hasn’t so much made it harder for stylists to thrive—quite the contrary, it’s allowed those best-suited for the gig to achieve more influence, fame and power than ever. But it has changed the archetype. Young, Johnson and Lincoln are examples of the new type of stylist that will thrive: talented, hardworking, media-savvy—and as photogenic as their clients.