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Colour takes starring role at this year’s Oscars

Opinion is divided over the impact the red carpet gowns at this year’s Academy Awards will have on mainstream occasionwear sales, as there were clear colour trends but few other innovations with strong commercial appeal.

Berry shades such as red and plum and soft blush tones were prevalent, and white taffeta fabric, detailed bead embellishment and mermaid-shaped gowns were also clear themes. However, many brands thought the haute couture look of many of the dresses lacked commercial appeal.

Alex Bernstein, director of Bernshaw, the occasionwear brand that in past years has created interpretations of Oscar gowns to wholesale within days of the event, told Drapers: “I haven’t seen anything [inspirational] I feel would work commercially. It’s a real shame. For the last few years, Oscar dresses have all looked like couture pieces, rather than anything the average woman could wear. We are taking inspiration from the Oscars rather than recreating the look.”

He said Gwyneth Paltrow’s figure-hugging metallic dress by Calvin Klein would be unflattering for most figures, and that Helena Bonham Carter’s Colleen Atwood dress would be unlikely to drive sales because most shoppers already have black in their wardrobes. However, he said Natalie Portman’s chiffon gown by Rodarte - worn to conceal her pregnancy bump - could translate well because it would flatter larger sizes.

Pint He, head of design at mainstream womenswear brand Aftershock, agreed there was not much newness in terms of commercial trends, but said many of the gowns on offer supported existing trends.

“Softer tones of rose blush are continuing to come through, which looks great with Western skin. Lace is one trend, as seen on Scarlett Johannson, which also continues to be very strong. I’m designing for spring 12 and using lace, mixed with sequins and ruffles for texture,” she said.

George Hadji, founder of occasionwear brand Anoushka G, said bold colours such as the plum tones and reds worn by Natalie Portman, Anne Hathaway and Sandra Bullock would drive sales, but that blush and nude tones had long had commercial appeal. “Blush is one of our best colours. It is very vintagey and has become the new black for us,” he said.

To hear what the industry experts thought of the Oscars fashion, go to

Natalie Portman

Oscar winner Natalie Portman shone in a deep plum Rodarte dress, accessorised with Swarovski jewellery and Jimmy Choo shoes at the 2011 Academy Awards. The bold plum colour builds on the purple trend

seen at womenswear trade show Pure London for autumn 11, while the off-the-shoulder and front draping of Portman’s dress will be flattering and forgiving for larger-sized women.

Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow opted for a very modern take on an Oscars dress with a figure-hugging Calvin Klein Collection piece, a look not normally seen on the red carpet. Despite looking stunning on Paltrow, the look is unlikely to have widespread appeal due to the unforgiving nature of the slimline silhouette and shiny, metallic material. However, there is an opportunity for partywear brands to nod to it via metallic detailing and panels.

Anne Hathaway

Awards co-host Anne Hathaway made eight outfit changes during the evening, but hit on a particular crowd pleaser with her opening piece - a floor-length, scarlet, archive Valentino taffeta gown. The high-shine taffeta will play well with the prom dress market, while bold colours such as plums, maroons, purples and scarlets are the strongest thing to come out of this year’s Oscars. Hathaway’s look married both of these trends.

Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett wore a modern, almost futuristic-looking Givenchy Haute Couture dress by Riccardo Tisci. The intricate beadwork on the bodice, long-line pleats on the front of the dress and the open back detail provide new inspiration.

The embroidered statement shoulders were more risqué, but elements of this dress could be watered down for the contemporary womenswear market.

Halle Berry

Dressed in Marchesa, Halle Berry was one of a string of A-list stars to wear nude tones to this year’s Awards. Nude, blush and putty hues have enduring commercial appeal in occasionwear, but off the red carpet bridal associations mean they work better on mid-length rather than full-length gowns. Colin Firth’s wife Livia also wore a stunning blush gown, made by ethical designer Gary Harvey.

Order the Oscar looks


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