Wednesday 22 November 2017

Our rising star has designs on red carpet

Merle Ginsberg and Phillip Bloch talk exclusively to Joyce Fegan about designer Laura-Jayne's coup

MILLION-DOLLAR PUBLICITY: Laura-Jayne Halton who has designed a dress for Irish producer Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly to wear at the Oscars in Los Angeles.
MILLION-DOLLAR PUBLICITY: Laura-Jayne Halton who has designed a dress for Irish producer Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly to wear at the Oscars in Los Angeles.

Six-figure sums of cash and all-expenses-paid trips to Europe are examples of some of the supposed deals that occur in Hollywood between established designers and actresses in the lead up to the Oscars.

With an unknown Irish designer (Laura-Jayne Halton) dressing our Academy Award nominee (Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly) this evening, senior writer from the Hollywood Reporter Merle Ginsberg and well-known stylist Phillip Bloch talk exclusively to the Sunday Independent about what goes on behind the scenes in LA and why this is such a "remarkable" fashion feat for Halton.

Ginsberg said it is not as straightforward as actresses just accepting cash for wearing a dress. "It's not that simplistic, but essentially, yes, some actresses are paid to wear gowns to the Oscars," explained the bestselling author and TV personality.

However, Ginsberg went on to say that "it could be as business-like or official as a designer wanting to dress an actress and negotiating with their film agent about the details".

Regarding the presence of Halton's creation on tonight's red carpet she says that it is "remarkable for an unknown designer to be on a nominee at the Oscars but Elie Saab was unknown when he dressed Halle Berry".

Stylist Phillip Bloch was the man responsible for dressing Halle Berry in 2002, when she wore the infamous burgundy gown, and said that he had seen Saab's dress months before and had kept it in his mind. He offered it to another client of his for the Emmy's but she turned it down saying it was a "winner's dress" and she wasn't going to win an award that night.

She was right on both counts says Bloch and Halle did win in it. The designer, Elie Saab, was unknown before that outing and it launched his career into the stratosphere, said Bloch.

Phillip said that the holy grail of the fashion industry, the Oscars red carpet, is essentially "million-dollar publicity." Of cash payments, he admitted that "yes, I have seen that but it wasn't going on in 1996 when I started but it has really increased in the last five years". The experienced stylist expanded by saying that "it could be as much as a six-figure sum".

Speaking of the 'negotiations' that go on, Bloch noted that it had become "a business" with a lot of "commotion" attached to it.

The week before Oscars night is "cut throat" and people behave like they're "guarding a state secret" with nobody leaking what nominees will be wearing. He too is impressed by Halton's achievement, describing it as "landmark" and "brilliant and supportive" of nominee O'Reilly.

Fodhla, who is nominated for Best Animated Short with Head Over Heels, turned down three top haute couture fashion houses to be dressed by Halton. The designer, who previously won over Sarah Jessica Parker when she illustrated for her fragrance range, decided to study fashion in Galway Technical Institute at the end of 2009 when she could not find work having returned from New York.

On hearing the nominee on the radio she sent her an email offering to dress her; half-an-hour later she received an email with a request for sketches; by that evening she had submitted her pitches and the next morning the final dress was confirmed. The rapid negotiation was followed by five sleepless days and sleepless nights as Laura-Jayne worked on the gown.

The designer-nominee duo are as tight-lipped as their counterparts in Hollywood but Halton did reveal some of the detail of the dress to the Sunday Independent. It's made from Italian fabric, it has a combination of textures and has a silhouette structure. Bloch's predictions for tonight's awards involve strapless gowns and deep forest green is the colour he's betting on.

Fodhla has been in the US for a number of weeks, but Halton only flew out last Thursday. She was not meant to travel but Irish businessman James Murphy, of Lifes2Good, picked up on the story and decided to sponsor her travel and accommodation. Murphy felt she had to be there to for what is "set to be a career defining occasion".

Fodhla and Laura have spent the last number of days meeting "industry executives" and both went to the Oscar Wilde party last Thursday, which was also attended by Colin Farrell, Steven Spielberg and Lost creator JJ Abrams.

Irish Independent

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