We may be living in a new golden age of American television, but for one of the industry’s most stylish players inspiration begins in Europe.
Tara Swennen, red carpet stylist to a pack of female Emmy nominees, starts dreaming up bold and glamorous looks at the Paris Couture shows.
“I started thinking about Emmys when I was at couture this year, so the beginning of July…that’s usually when I start getting my brain wrapped around it, because I’m looking at beautiful gowns,” Swennen said.
Assistants orbit with smartphones, rattling off brand names that line luxury shopping districts the world over — Vuitton, Versace, McQueen, Dior.
Also read: Emmy Nominees 2014: The Complete List
Across the country, her client Odeya Rush is about to walk the red carpet for the New York premiere of “The Giver.”
Emily Ratajkowski, the buxom brunette of “Blurred Lines” music video fame, is counting on Swennen to help her promote one of the fall’s most anticipated thrillers. And Tara’s Emmy beauties — Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting and twice winner Julie Bowen — have a matter of days before Emmy weekend has them hitting the pavement in stilettos.
“I tend to be one of the earlier people that fit, it’s just been my tactic to get great dresses before they all get stolen,” Swennen laughs, “although, now the jig is up and everyone’s on to me. Everyone is fitting really, really early. ”
If she’s overwhelmed, there’s no evidence. Her bangs are combed into place, a flowy Andrew Gn top and Dolce & Gabbana skirt come on and, while her face is swatted with a brush, she’s laser-focused on her to-do list. Which is pretty well-sorted considering what is on her plate.
All three Emmy dresses have been chosen, and Bowen has even been fitted for January’s Golden Globes.
“With any award show, I always think of it as Hollywood’s prom. It’s when the girls get to dress up the most. You can wear a gown to a premiere, but there’s more cache with award shows. More press, the whole bit,” Swennen said.
Also read: Emmy Nominations by the Numbers
In her work, she considers each woman’s personal style and gauges their willingness to collaborate.
“It depends on the client. Some girls are really involved, some girls hate doing fittings. I have clients that are literally out of here in 20 minutes and they just trust that what I’ve chosen will represent their style,” she said.
“Some of them send me images and really love getting involved. I just started working with Odeya and she loves looking on Style.com. She’s young, she’s fascinated by the industry… it’s nice to have their involvement and be a team thing, it’s also nice to just captain the ship, too.”
In the coming months, said ship will set course for the Toronto Film Festival, where client Connie Britton will premiere “This Is Where I Leave You,” costarring Tina Fey, Jason Bateman and Jane Fonda. She’ll also juggle New York Fashion Week and dressing Ratajkowski for an international spree in promoting David Fincher‘s “Gone Girl,” an increasingly visible tradition for fashion fans and the media that feed them.
Voracious style watchers are looking to promotional appearances to see how their favorite actresses and icons interpret a story arc through their clothes and accessories — even if it’s a hit-and-quit photo op in Berlin before jetting to London for a Trafalgar Square premiere.
“You try to make it a thematic story, again, incorporating the personal taste of each client. What they want to represent,” Swennen said.
“I remember with Kristen Stewart‘s first ‘Twilight’ tour we loved the idea of matching the colors on the book cover –the red, white and black vampire theme. I don’t go that literal for the most part but she was young, we were having fun.”
Fun feels a big part of the process, which is a relief. Her workspace is devoid of cliches like trite catchphrases and oversized travel coffees. Massive frames contain polaroids of fittings throughout Tara’s career — faces like Kim Kardashian, Sarah Michelle Gellar and a very animated Stewart make it easy to see clients have a ball with Swennen.
For Tara’s part, she brings them a skilled eye nourished out in the world, not the jaded enclaves of show business.
“I’m a big traveler, different cultures inspire me. Places I go, things I see. I’m still old school, though — I’m of the generation where I love reading the glossy magazines, tearing out my tear sheets and using those. Putting them on the wall, making a mood board.”
Things you will and won’t currently find on that mood board: “We were just laughing, after the Teen Choice Awards I think the crop top is over. My new go-to color is orange at the moment, as far as pop of color for fall,and I think fur is huge on the runways so that will translate to faux fur for fall.”
Swennen isn’t that interested in being an arbiter of trends. For her, it’s making sure her girls are having a good time.
“The most important thing for me, is when I pick up the clothes the following day and hearing their stories. ‘Oh my god, we had the best time! My shoes were comfortable all night! I felt amazing!”
Original photography for TheWrap by Michael Kovac captured with LYTRO ILLUM.