Wearing H&M to the Oscars, and What We Can Learn From Helen Hunt

Photo proved by H&M

The red carpet might have lost some of old Hollywood’s glamorous romanticism, but it’s still a celebration of high fashion. Fashion fans and professionals live for the Oscar red carpet. Who wore what? Who looked the best? Who was a fashion fail? Personally, I rarely write about red carpet looks (mostly because there are some great national sites that have it covered). There is only so much to say about the looks on the carpet… But then I heard Helen Hunt answer the obligatory red carpet query “Who are you wearing?” with H&M! Excuse me, what?

Yes, the Best Supporting Actress nominee was wearing H&M. This isn’t the first time the red carpet has seen a fast-fashion retailer grace it’s runway. Remember when Sharon Stone wore that Gap turtleneck? Yeah, erasing that from memory is probably for the best. Resisting the urge to get on a soapbox, there is a lesson for Indy’s fashion professionals: Elaborate “couture” inspired designs don’t always win.

I have been to my share of fashion presentations (often disguised as fashion shows) highlighting Indy’s talent. And before you start typing that hate mail, I have seen some very talented designers and stylists around Indianapolis. I, personally, have designed, and I fully respect the process and value the creative expression. But too often there’s that one design or collection that “elaborated” a little too much (aka over-designed). Too much bedazzling. Too many layers. Trying too hard to add more just for the sake of adding more. We’ve all seen it. There will be a dress coming down the runway that you look at and say, “That dress would be amazing if it didn’t have all those feathers and tulle on the shoulder”. Be honest.

Hunt’s dress was a well-designed, simple satin dress. It fit her well. The color was great. That’s the important part of design. I get asked my opinion on collections and lookbooks, and I always look at design and level of execution first. I find that the more elaborate and distracting the design, the more the design is hiding something. Don’t get me wrong: the red carpet had some amazingly glamorous looks. I have noticed that sometimes emerging designers take a little too much inspiration from those looks, instead of presenting a professionally constructed garment.

The H&M designed dress will fade away but the lesson won’t. A top actress could have selected one of the amazing standard red carpet designers. Instead, she showed up proudly wearing the eco-friendly satin dress made just for her. It has been reported by the LA Times that she spiced up her cost-conscious dress with $700,000 worth of diamonds. But hey, that’s another lesson: Spend your money on the right fabric, accents, or detail to spice up your budget-friendly design. 

To be honest, it’s a challenge to write about an emerging designer selling pieces for a big designer price. Sure, it can be done (and has been done in the past). Let’s be honest, though: today’s shoppers are holding onto their money a little tighter, and designers need to sell their designs. So take note that a dress worn on the red carpet was chosen because it was well-made and designed with a purpose.

I am excited to see what Indy’s talented designers come up with next.


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