I suspect Olivia Colman is secretly quite relieved that awards season is over. Not because she doesn’t want to keep adding prizes to her mantlepiece, of course she wants to do that. But more because it will mean that, for a few months at least, she might not have to do another publicity appearance.
Colman has never been a star who pretends that she loves red carpets. She has until now, with all this global attention for her role as Queen Anne in The Favourite, been a rooted British television star, a national, not international, treasure. She had never partaken in the glossy, pompous American red carpet circuit before, and if ever she did pick up a gong at, say, the BAFTAs for Broadchurch, she usually wore black. The first time she won a Golden Globe, back in 2017 for The Night Manager, she famously skipped the ceremony, and only found out that she had won the next day, when she switched on her phone after going to bed at a sensible 10pm.
It is perhaps self-deprecation, rather than irreverence, that has prevented Colman from finding her inner ‘red carpet star’ in the past. Following that Golden Globes miss, she told the BBC, “I looked at the list and thought ‘I won’t win in that group’”, and later regretted missing out.
Before promotional duties for The Favourite began, she hired the former Vogue stylist Mary Fellowes- and a visible confidence has appeared. Fellowes has dressed Colman in well-cut, subtly glamorous pieces by Stella McCartney, Emilia Wickstead and Roksanda on the tour so far, yet Colman keeps her feet on the ground, having the fittings at home in her lounge with her tea and her dogs, rather than in some fancy atelier.
She’s taught her to make subliminal points about her personal values via her clothing. All of those brands are helmed by working mothers or are family-owned. Sometimes the duo choose to highlight labels with strong sustainability principles, other times it’s about giving a platform to a new affordable brand, like London start-up The Fold. If her dress is classic, she’s wearing an eye-catching accessory.
“Olivia is a strong woman, a working mother and an independent thinker,” Fellowes said recently. “All I’ve ever sought to do with her clothing is to make her feel empowered and like herself.”
A publicist recently told me that her client, a male designer helming a British label, wasn’t interested in dressing Colman because he couldn’t be bothered to make a custom dress for her that wasn’t sample size. His loss. Colman, I think, is one of the most relatable-looking women on the red carpet this year, and in a world where fashion ‘influencers’ (real women blogging about how they dress their real bodies on Instagram) have become one of the most powerful advertisers for clothing, I’d say that Colman’s look is more relevant and desirable than any other celebrity in attendance at the Oscars.
Getting dressed up, in most circumstances, is a bit of fun, but when you’re a nominee navigating a promotional tour it becomes a chess game. Looking good is currency in Hollywood and the parade becomes an exercise in personal brand positioning.
Are you considered ‘stylish’? If the answer to that question is yes, then all sorts of lucrative opportunities, namely big fashion and beauty contracts, can come your way. After a successful run of glamorous appearances in dresses by Calvin Klein, Givenchy and Gucci during last year’s awards season, Margot Robbie was awarded a Chanel ambassadorship, meaning that she will star in advertising campaigns for the Parisian house. The trajectory for the former Neighboursactress was entirely strategised by her stylist, Kate Young, and announcing the ambassadorship whilst wearing Chanel to the 2018 Oscars was almost as big of a prize as if she’d actually won the gold statue.
Colman, I suspect, doesn’t care about all of that. But now she is in a position where she could pursue these deals if she fancies it. Her sleek, considered style has been honed by her stylist, sure, but the personality and relatability that she brings is all her own and it’s what rare. She is, by all accounts, the new Fashion Favourite. Whether she actually wanted to be, or not.