“Picking which designer to go with is an exciting challenge. Some clients are the face of a brand, with a commitment to wear that label for a certain amount of appearances. Sometimes you’re dressing a newcomer, and you need to convince designers to work with them – they can be particular. But when everyone suddenly wants to dress your client, it’s so fun. Even with Sandra [Oh], it took a minute for designers who were saying, ‘She’s so smart, we love her’ to actually give me the dresses. It’s fascinating to work with unique talents. Saoirse’s style has grown up since we last did awards season [for Brooklyn in 2018].
“Gwyneth and I have worked together since 2002 and have one of the greatest relationships. She’ll still look at me like, ‘Are you crazy?’ sometimes, but then loves the outfit. Then there’s Jodie, who loves clothes, but I don’t want her to ever be Villanelle [Comer’s character in Killing Eve]. It’s important to not make someone a caricature; their own personality needs to shine through.
“I watch people panic about what to wear all the time. My tip is not to put on too much stuff. You don’t need a slit up the leg, backless, V-neck, a bow at the front and at the back… unless the bows are Valentino, of course.”
Clients include Olivia Colman and Elizabeth McGovern
“I prefer to commission bespoke dresses for my clients; it’s strategic and you have to find a balance between the ideas you have for your talent and the designer’s aesthetic. I send mood boards and they send five design sketches with fabric suggestions. Then you negotiate: that cut would suit a woman who is tall and flat-chested; maybe my talent has a 32DD chest and a short torso and doesn’t like to show off her upper arms.
“It’s like sculpting a block of clay. The process shouldn’t be arduous.
“When I went to Prada last season to work on a dress for Olivia to wear to the Oscars, it came together beautifully. I worked on that dress with about eight weeks’ notice. You have to take the conversations as far as they can go, even if it doesn’t end up coming off, or your client doesn’t get nominated.
You need to have three fittings; a brand will either send its VIP tailor, or its head designer. Emilia Wickstead came to all of Olivia’s [2019 Bafta dress] fittings herself. We did the fittings at either Olivia’s house or my studio. I’ve had tears of joy in those moments, when we know we’ve got it right.”
Clients include Margot Robbie, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams
“Every awards show has its own unspoken dress code; I have ideas about each that are probably lost on everyone else in the world. You have to do so many gowns in a row, so you want to pace dresses depending on how fancy they are, or casual, or edgy, building up to the finale at the Oscars.
“It’s been a little different for me this season, because my two clients nominated for Golden Globes both have contracts with brands [Margot Robbie is a face of Chanel, Michelle Williams of Louis Vuitton] and they both were on prediction lists to be nominated, so I was talking about what they would wear for a long time. Neither of my actresses will wear a dress that was in the [catwalk] show six months ago, we have special pieces made for them.
“It’s a luxury, because of the status of my clients, that I get to work with top-tier couture brands. But for appearances where they’re not committed, I look for more affordable fashion. The most stylish women are those who mix menswear, vintage, old and new, and I hope to give someone that authenticity even though they are wearing samples.
“I tell all clients that you have to have good undergarments … It’s that and tailoring; you could have the cheapest dress but if it’s perfectly tailored, it’s great. If it’s not fitted, even if it’s beaded and handmade, it’s a fail.”
Clients include Meryl Streep, Lupita Nyong’o and Shailene Woodley
“As little as seven years ago, celebrities didn’t acknowledge that they had help getting dressed. Stylists were behind the curtain, but now we are celebrated as part of a star’s publicity team.
“I started prepping awards season outfits back in October. I tell a story across several appearances: you need to think about everything from what channel the event will be aired on, to what the weather might be.
“I work with a really diverse range of women, with different body shapes and at different ages, and everyone has their own tastes. There is no formula to it. That said, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t push the envelope. I present each person with ideas that might take them one step from their comfort zone.
“I often see people surprised with themselves and it’s wonderful when an experiment works and someone has fun. A highlight for me last year was when Meryl wore Givenchy in Venice [for the premiere of The Laundromat at the Venice Film Festival]. It was the perfect dress for her: she floated on to that red carpet and looked amazing.
“What you really want is for the client to feel like the best version of themselves. I encourage people to wear something that makes them feel happy and stand tall. Spend time on alterations, definitely, but if all else fails then a smile will always look better in pictures.”
This year’s BAFTAs ceremony is on February 2; the Academy Awards are on February 9.
The Telegraph, London