Oscars 2021: What this year's red carpet means for fashion designers

When Oscar producers promised there would be a red carpet at this year's Oscars show, fashion designers breathed a sigh of relief after a year when awards shows went virtual.

Oscar's red carpet has been called fashion's most important runway: a place at the intersection of art and commerce where the success of a dress can make or break a designer's reputation. That's especially true this year at LA's historic Union Station, home to a scaled-down ceremony, with what Oscar Producer Stacy Sher calls, a "teeny, tiny red carpet.

"What is really important here is that we're gonna be paying attention to those few dresses," says Alex Badia, Style Director for WWD, "and those few dresses are definitely going to be way more powerful than they were before." However, that increases the pressure on designers like Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia from Oscar de la Renta, There's less celebrities going to carpets. It's a lot more competitive to be able to get a moment."

The details of their work have changed due to the pandemic. "We have virtual fittings which is how we've been conducting a lot of our fittings in the last year." It's become routine for stars and their stylists. Says Garcia, "We send a gown to them. They fit it. We have a conversation about it online and we decide what to do next."

Fitting a dress virtually does have its limitations. "We don't have as many person-to-person conversations so perhaps don't connect with the celebrity as much as you did the year prior, but the process is still the same." But, that hasn't cramped their style, which was so evident when Scarlett Johannson wore their dress to last year's Oscars. Kim says with a smile, "when she walked out we had champagne ready to go. We didn't know is she was gonna wear it or not, but I was just so happy for my team that worked on it."

A return to some semblance of normal is what we need right now, says WWD's Badia "I mean the fashion world cannot wait for a red carpet: a real red carpet. I cannot wait to see an Oscar night that really takes us away from all of this that really is about that moment in time that is basically a dream sequence."

A dream that offers hope our nightmare may soon be ending. "Things are going to be safe, but in person," says Oscar nominee Amanda Seyfried ("Mank") "but in person! And, we can celebrate as a collective again."

Mark your calendars: April 25 is Oscar Sunday. Live coverage begins Sunday morning and continues all day with special "On The Red Carpet" coverage leading up to the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony. After the last award is handed out, stay with "On The Red Carpet" for continuing coverage. Be sure to follow @OnTheRedCarpet on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok for all your Oscar news and information.
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