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The Oscars: How the Best Fashion Designers Behind the Dresses Began a Career in Couture

best fashion designers oscars 2017 blog

If you’re anything like us, the most anticipated highlight of the 89th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday 26th February was the red carpet arrival. An event in its own right, this spectacle of haute couture fashion and extravagant designs can often steal the show, with many a frock still being referenced days, weeks and years later. It’s the chance for the best fashion designers to showcase their most elaborate or daring designs on world famous celebrities, simultaneously allowing these celebrities to glean the flashes of the paparazzi.

We saw the Oscars 2017 dresses range from a stunning, Twenties inspired gold fringed Givenchy haute couture gown worn by Best Actress winner Emma Stone, to Blanca Blanco in a scandalous sky high thigh slit dress with puffy sleeves and a loud print. This eclectic mix of colours, textures, shapes and drapes that adorned the red carpet last night are the works of acclaimed designers, beguiling us all with their experimental nuances, texture combinations and print work. But how did they become pioneers of couture, shaping the industry whilst also disrupting it?

Everybody starts somewhere, and what’s refreshing is that despite some starting off in a more favourable financial or societal position, studying and honing their craft is a fundamental component to the best fashion designers’ success.

Paul Vasileff of Paolo Sebastian

Paolo Sebastian dress oscars 2017
Cynthia Erivo wears Paolo Sebastian floral dress. Image credit Getty Images

Paul Vasileff is the fashion mogul at couture label Paolo Sebastian. At just 26 years old, there’s no denying his passion, experience and success far outweigh his young years. Having demonstrated an artistic flair as early as 3 years old, Vasileff was given private tuition for both art and pattern-making, whilst his sewing skills were kept in the family, guided by his grandma. In 2010 he won a scholarship to Milan’s Instituto Europe di Design, where in the year he was there, one of his designs was featured at London Fashion Week.

The Paolo Sebastian label was actually launched in 2007 for the last year of high school where he organised his first runway show, but it wasn’t until 2015 when the first Paolo Sebastian atelier was set up in Adelaide CBD. His accolades include being the first South Australian to show in Paris, and first Australian to have a gown adorn the red carpet. Vasileff’s collections emit a whimsical, fairytale sentiment, telling a story through his captivating designs.

Tamara Ralph & Michael Russo of Ralph & Russo

ralph & russo oscars 2017
Hailee Steinfeld in a silver Ralph & Russo gown. Image credit Getty Images

Australian born Tamara Ralph comes from a family of fashion designers, but rather than fast-track her way to success, she graduated from the Whitehouse Institute of Design in Melbourne before eloping to London with ambitions to break into the industry. She met her partner Michael Russo, an Australian banker also living in London, and they set up Ralph & Russo, which has since gone on to be one of the most successful fashion houses of our generation. Starting out with just one sewing machine to their name, Ralph & Russo have since made it into the Fortune Magazine’s list of the top 40 most successful people under 40, appearing alongside the likes of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. It’s also the first British couture house in a century to receive the ultimate accolade of appearing at the Paris Haute Couture Week. But it hasn’t been handed to them on a plate. Hailing from the other side of the world and with one half of the fashion house coming from the finance industry, they admit they didn’t even know where to buy the fabrics, let alone begin selling to high profile individuals. But now, with a client roster that includes princesses, celebrities and London’s most wealthy, Ralph & Russo is a household name on runways and red carpets alike.

Azzedine Alaia

azzedine ailia dress oscars 2017
Scarlett Johansson wearing a pink Azzedine Ailia number. Image credit Getty Images

Born in Tunis, Tunisia, Alaia’s introduction to the world of couture is an unlikely one; his twin sister. From an early age he was reading copies of French Vogue, fed to him by a family friend that noticed his natural creativity. He then lied about his age to get into the historical École des Beaux-Arts, where the alumni includes the likes of Monet, Renoir and John James Burnet. Azzedine has been a prominent figure in the fashion industry, notably for the bodycon dress in 1980s, earning him the informal title of ‘The King of Cling’. He defies the norms of the fashion industry in that he only creates when he feels like it, which is certainly true as he hasn’t presented at a Fashion Week since 1992. A true artist.

Elizabeth Kennedy

Elizabeth Kennedy dress oscars 2017
Busy Philipps wearing an Elizabeth Kennedy dress. Image credit Getty Images

Drew Barrymore, Laverne Cox & Leslie Mann have all adorned themselves in an Elizabeth Kennedy frock. After graduating from Parsons School of Design with a BFA in Fashion Design, she went on to intern at various big name fashion houses, including Isaac Mizrahi Couture where she was the senior designer aged just 22. Her collection was launched in 2012 and focuses on modern, progressive eveningwear having spotted a gap in the market. Combining graphical silhouettes with classic, beautiful tailoring, Elizabeth Kennedy has used her extensive experience working under household names to create a brand that has made waves in the industry.

Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig of Marchesa

Marchesa gown oscars 2017
Olivia Culpo in a stunning Marchesa gown. Image credit Getty Images

Chapman and Craig are both British born and raised, and met at a life drawing class at the Chelsea College of Art of Design. Whilst Chapman graduated from Wimbledon School of Art and Craig went on to achieve a BA hons in Fashion Textiles with Business from Brighton Art College, they remained close, experimenting by making party dresses for each other. Whilst Georgina Chapman concentrated on costume design, Keren Craig focused her efforts on print and embroidery, finding a love for mixing patterns and prints together. These contrasting but perfectly complementary skills and interests came together to create the empire that is Marchesa, named after the notorious 1920’s socialite Marchesa Luisa Casati. Their designs embody her charisma, eccentricity and distinctive self-expression.

Uel Camilo

Uel Camilo dress oscars 2017
E! correspondent Zuri Hall in a flamboyant Uel Camilo gown. Image credit Getty Images

With 2 seamstress grandmothers, Uel Camilo was destined to enter the world of fashion. Born in Brazil, he studied arts in San Paolo before working for a renowned haute couture house in the city at the age of 18. When he moved to Italy in 2007, his collection personified the beautiful Italian craftsmanship, choosing factories and materials with great due diligence. He combines geometric shapes with fabrics such as lace, chiffon and tulle to exemplify his idea of classic femininity – sensual but sophisticated. Influenced by art, his haute couture designs draw inspiration from Art Nouveau and Art Déco periods, as well as contemporary artists such as Damian Hurst.

These couture fashion designers who have made it to the top prove that hard work, education, listening and learning off others pays off in the fashion industry. It’s not always ‘who you know’, it’s about your passion, desire to achieve and staying true to what you believe. We offer students a 40% discount on all fabric printing, helping you cultivate your own label. With over 100 fabrics in our repertoire, we can turn design dreams into reality.

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