Black versus  red carpet shows

Saturday January 13 2018

Oprah Winfrey at Golden Globe Awards

Actress and TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey during the 75th Golden Globe Awards on January 7, 2018, in Beverly Hills, California.  PHOTO | AFP

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They called it the Black Carpet. Which is why many lessons can be gleaned from the 2018 Golden Globes. The red carpet has a formal dress code with tuxedos and gowns.

This was no different really. Save for an appointed theme: Time’s Up. Solidarity in dress code for something bigger than flashing lights and personal brands.

What started out as a protest on sexual harassment that turned into a conversation about the gender pay gap in Hollywood. Gaps as big as owning House No.12 versus renting a middle class apartment.

The Black Carpet brought together two things that have always been trivialised as impossible to meld  - confrontational fashion and female solidarity. For a start all black can be a photographic nightmare, but in anticipation and because there was a declaration made in advance, photographers were prepared.

Fashion also proved all black is not the same and that there is a black for every woman. With enough notice that everyone found their personal black. This could also be said to be a positive kind of peer pressure so to speak. Of course with the flood of black it was impossible to trivialise the red carpet interviews.

Traditionally rendered around who wore whom and what, this time round it became less about designers, though they did naturally claim their pound of flesh, and turned into an assessment of who does not believe in the cause.

Red carpets are complicated. On the one feminist hand, is it merely the parade, in itself demeaning for woman who participate? Or is it a template for earning your place and proving that you most certainly deserve the accolades and celebration? It is by now recognised and acknowledged as something that is the core of any industry from fashion, entertainment to sports. And presence matters for both men and women.

Men, for instance, wore badges of honour proclaiming Time’s Up, and turned out in black in, that word again, solidarity.

So, what is your black as a woman? From pale blondes like Michelle Williams, cofounder of the Time’s Up movement, to the dark chocolate of Viola Davis, to pink blush underneath, to sequins, gold and silver to minimal accessories and straight up bling. But what is the end game?

How does the black carpet change things? Well, we are talking about it. At least I’m trying to get us to talk about it ….! There is a great deal of star power when celebrities unite for a cause. Ideas around something that at a glance seems superficial does not mean it cannot in turn grow into something bigger.

The big test is always the Oscars, but this year’s Globes were heightened. The ones who did not wear black got trolled, an interesting turnaround considering the point of black was empowerment. Conversations were a range of issues.

Red carpets have not exactly stood for anything profound. They have mostly been fun and entertaining. Not since Reese Witherspoon and Amy Poehler started a campaign on #AskHerMore.

Could we pull off a movement like this on our own red carpets? No. Neither should we try. We would first have to have an actual red carpet culture, nay, industry.

There are debates around whether we should even follow these footsteps when it comes to fashion. Well, it’s too late for that. It’s already a thing. Either we modify it, work with it or replace it with something more potent.

For now, we can’t skip the process of not building it since we are already standing on it. We can’t overlook the absurdity and excess of it and leap straight into making it mean something else. It is what it is. There is no learning from other people’s mistakes.

We have to go through this and make our own mistakes. At it’s most basic level the red carpet is more than fashion. It first has to be supremely powerful. So powerful that it makes careers. Only then can we be confident enough the women stepping on it can speak in one voice. For now, not yet.