Fashion, in so many ways, is a form of storytelling – and for Welsh fashion icon and undisputed king of glamour Julien Macdonald OBE, stories are part of the very fabric of his head-turning outfits. His pieces are inspired by his own travels, global fashion trends throughout the ages, and the rich repository of world history. But they are also tailored to the people who wear them, drawing on their own personal histories and the stories they want to share with the world.
Julien’s prominence on the international fashion circuit has transformed him into the go-to designer for some of the world’s most famous celebrities. Here, as we count down to the 2021 Oscars ceremony on Sunday 25 April, Julien gives us a glimpse into the stories behind a selection of his most showstopping red-carpet creations.
Bella Hadid, 2018
This is one of my favourite red carpet looks. I knew no one other than Bella could pull something like this off! We threw convention to the wind and created a two-piece crop top and maxi skirt for a gala outing. Bella wore this dress at Cannes, so I of course had to give it the extra ‘Julien Macdonald’ touch by showering both the top and bottom with black lacquered sequins and adding the beautifully elegant fishtail to the skirt. Bella is an absolute style icon and wore it gorgeously.
Catherine Zeta-Jones, 2020
Catherine Zeta-Jones holds such a special place in my heart. Just like me, she comes from a small village in Wales. She then catapulted to superstardom as one of the most successful actresses in Hollywood. So I was honoured when she chose to wear one of my designs from my JulienXGabriela Collection to the SAG Awards. This dress is a metallic silk and lurex stretch lame fabric that meets in the centre for a sunburst of crystals and sequins. We loved the strong shoulder here which gives a sense of power, like beautiful silver armour.
Eva Longoria, 2016
I love the dress Eva Longoria wore to the 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, because it’s designed ins a truly classic Julien Macdonald style. Eva wanted to be comfortable on the night, with wear a dress that wouldn’t crease. It is braided with metallic lurex threads, giving it the most beautiful all-over shimmer topped with Swarovski crystals and embroidered sequins. I carried my love for this technique during my time at Chanel, developing knitwear dresses there. And of course it remains a signature part of my collections now.
Taylor Swift, 2019
Taylor Swift stunned in this incredible sequin gown at the American Music Awards. She loves to be playful on the red carpet, and the thigh-high slit on this Grecian-inspired column dress added the perfect amount of drama to her poise. I am deeply inspired by my far-away travels when designing a collection, but the colour for this gown recalled the hues of home in a nod to the Welsh flag and the Breacon Beacons.
Britney Spears, 2016
VOGUE voted Britney Spears ‘Best Dressed’ after this elegant appearance at the VMA Awards. The length here was quite interesting for a red carpet, as the trend moved away from floor length gowns to a more of-the-moment cocktail length of the time. This dress landed as one of the chicest looks of the night!
Liv Tyler, 2004
The most famous fashion muse for the house of Givenchy was Audrey Hepburn. One of her most famous films, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, features an iconic scene where she is standing outside the most exclusive diamond jewellery boutique in the world, wearing a very elegant and chic black dress with an open back, finished with an amazing pearl necklace with statement diamonds.
Designers were intrigued, and for the first time ever, they began to focus on the back of their garments and its decoration as opposed to the front. This dress has become quite iconic for the house of Givenchy. So when Liv Tyler became the new face and muse of the label, I as Creative Director had the privilege of helping her pay homage to Audrey Hepburn’s iconic little black dress. I designed a timeless and elegant piece for Liv to wear on the red carpet, as well as while presenting an award at the Oscars.
The focus of this haute couture gown is the ruffles and layers on the back, with the front kept plain so that it could be worn with a piece of jewellery back to front.
One thing I love to do is take inspiration from the past and propel it into the future. These fully bespoke looks were inspired by the amazing brocade on the guardsman’s jackets at the Trooping the Colour ceremony, a tradition that goes back to the 17th century, marking the Queen’s official birthday. This look was made totally contemporary by Migos on the Grammys red carpet. Suddenly, something as traditionally British as military uniforms became a real modern fashion moment.
You can find out more about Julien Macdonald and his upcoming collections by visiting his website. And if you’re feeling inspired, check out this article from Caroline Rush, Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council, on London as a hub of creative fashion talent.
All views expressed in this blog are the views of the guest blogger and do not represent the views of the GREAT campaign.