Friday, March 15, 2013 7:37 am
Stylists' star-making, brand-building power feted
By SANDY COHENAP Entertainment Writer
"Not outside her house like a creepy person," the "Glee" star said of her pursuit of stylist Samantha McMillen, "but I knew some of the people that she was dressing and I said I want her."
McMillen was among those honored on the Hollywood Reporter's list of the industry's top 25 stylists. The trade paper doesn't rank the most powerful directors or producers in the industry, but it does recognize the top stylists, whose ability to effect image may be on par with those other big shots.
Stylists aren't just indispensable to stars, they're integral to the whole Hollywood marketing machine. They're curators of living, breathing, world-famous billboards; the key link between fashion brands and actresses and a critical component in how both are seen. In an industry that trades on image, stylists are the most powerful image makers.
This year's style-makers were celebrated at a luncheon Wednesday with Zoe Saldana, Naomi Watts and Reese Witherspoon on the rooftop patio of the private Soho House. Most of those on the list don't have famous names (except maybe for Rachel Zoe, who's third), but their work is seen worldwide in the form of glamorous looks on the most admired stars.
Saldana started working with Petra Flannery while filming "Avatar." The actress said having a stylist is "paramount to a person's image, especially when they work in this business."
"Not only are you respected by what you say, you're also respected and admired and reviewed on how you look, so that said, this is my office," Saldana said, pointing at herself. "You have to kind of see it that way and have fun with it."
Not only do stylists keep celebrities perfectly put together, they know the fashion world's top designers and can get them to custom-make clothes for their big-name clients, as list-topper Leslie Fremar did with Witherspoon's Louis Vuitton gown at last month's Academy Awards. Stylists are catalysts for lucrative partnerships between celebrities and luxury brands, which can elevate the profile of each.
"A dress they put on an actress that becomes talked about will set a fashion trend for the next year, or it'll drive what buyers are buying for major department stores," said Janice Min, editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter. "The decisions made by this small group of women and men in this room amount to millions if not billions of dollars' worth of business in the next year."
Jimmy Choo chief executive Pierre Denis said Hollywood's influence continues to grow globally. No ad campaign or editorial layout can match the impact of the right piece on the right person, and "the stylists, in the end, are the ones actually making style of the actresses," he said.
Though these stylists broker million-dollar looks - and deals - they still mostly operate behind the scenes, and on their own. The Hollywood Reporter luncheon, held for the first time last year, is a rare gathering.
For stylist Tara Swennen, who counts "The Big Bang Theory" star Kaley Cuoco among her clients, it was a chance to celebrate her work with her colleagues.
"We don't have a union or anything like that yet," she said, "so it's sort of nice to have something cohesive."
AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen is on Twitter: www.twitter.com/APSandy.