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High fashion and advocacy at the Oscars

By Ricky Toledo and Chito Vijandre, The Philippine STAR Published Apr 03, 2022 5:00 am

With the return of the first full-scale Oscars since the beginning of the pandemic, high drama was guaranteed with stars, designers, stylists, fashion and jewelry houses bringing out their best for the red carpet.

They unwittingly prepared for even higher drama at the main event — an Oscar night to go down in history, with everyone still talking about Will Smith’s going onstage to slap Chris Rock in response to the comedian’s joke about Smith’s wife.

How one presents oneself, to the world, after all, can make or break a star. One has the chance to show political and social awareness, environmental consciousness, social media savviness, fashion forwardness, or just simple good taste and basic manners.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Best Actor Nominee for The Power of the Dog, and Jamie Lee Curtis both showed support for the people of Ukraine by wearing the besieged country’s flag colors —he on the lapel of his Giorgio Armani suit, and she on her ring.

Mila Kunis, who grew up in Ukraine before relocating with her family to LA, and who met President Zelensky when she visited her home country with husband Ashton Kutcher, included an appeal for help when she presented onstage, aside from launching a campaign to help refugees.

Kirsten Dunst, nominated Best Supporting Actress for the same film as Cumberbatch, made a pitch for sustainability by choosing a vintage 2002 Christian Lacroix gown of red ruffles. Sienna Miller and Emily Ratajkowski both mined the Armani Privé archives, the former in a silver gown from SS2007 and the latter in a provocative orange bustier from FW2011.

Kirsten Dunst in vintage 2002 Christian Lacroix

Nicole Kidman, Best Actress nominee for Being the Ricardos, was also in Armani, albeit a new strapless piece with a statement puffed peplum – a classic look that will surely be worn for years to come.

Billie Eilish, who won for Best Original Song for No Time to Die, matched her black tiered Gucci ruffled gown with rings and earrings repurposed from a Fred Leighton diamond star tiara.

Nicole Kidman in Armani Privé and Harry Winston

Gucci’s Love Parade show, in fact, presented in the heart of LA’s Walk of Fame, was so quintessentially Hollywood that many stars opted for its glamorous looks. Dakota Johnson wore a breathtaking pink tulle number accented with feathers and paillettes. Serena Williams chose a darker pink pleated piece with black floral beaded details matched with delicate lace gloves.

Dakota Johnson in Gucci

Serena Williams in Gucci

Although black tuxes are Hollywood staples for men, count on fashion adventurer Timothée Chalamet to do his own take that blurs the lines of fashion’s traditional gender divide — wearing a sequined one from the ladies SS22 collection of Louis Vuitton.

Wearing the jacket shirtless, he adorned his bare chest with a Panthère necklace of emeralds, diamonds and onyx, one of nine jewelry pieces from Cartier that he wore for the evening.

Timothée Chalamet in Louis Vuitton and Cartier

Kodi Smit-McPhee, Best Supporting Actor nominee for The Power of the Dog, chose a powder blue Bottega Veneta and was just as extravagant with his Cartier jewels which included diamond earrings and necklace, Étincelle de Cartier and Juste un Clou rings, as well as a Revelation d’Une Panthère watch.

Kodi Smit-McPhee in Bottega Veneta and Cartier

Ultimately, it was the messages imparted by the winners that left a lasting impression. Ariana De Bose of West Side Story, resplendent in a caped red Valentino ensemble and double-stacked De Beers diamonds, was the first openly queer woman of color to win an award.

She ended her acceptance speech with “To anybody who has questioned your identity ever, ever, ever, or you find yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us.”

Ariana De Bose in Valentino and DeBeers

Jessica Chastain, Best Actress winner for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, in a Gucci gold and lavender gown, rallied for LGBTQ+ rights and spoke against discrimination as well, citing bigoted legislation that is sweeping the country, “with the only goal of further dividing us” and mentioning “the violence and hate crimes being perpetrated on innocent civilians all over the world.”

Inspired by the passion of the character she portrayed in the film, she marveled at how it can “lead us forward, connect us all in the desire that we want to be accepted for who we are, accepted for who we love, and to live a life without the fear of violence or terror.”

Jessica Chastain in Gucci

Love also figured in Will Smith’s speech for winning Best Actor as the tennis dad Richard Williams in King Richard. With tears rolling down his cheeks, he compared himself to the character he played — “a fierce defender of his family.”

Attempting to justify his slapping of presenter Rock, he said, “I look like the crazy father. But love will make you do crazy things.” He professed that he wants to be “a vessel for love” and apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees.

Jada Pinkett Smith in Jean Paul Gaultier

Although there is no excuse for physical violence, and definitely not as a response to a joke, Smith appeared contrite enough and showed that, just like in the story of the character he played, it was one of many bad decisions made in his life. And if he can learn from it, then there is a chance for redemption.