I am huge lover of red carpet style, I love gorgeous gowns, the glam, the glitz and the flash bulbs, but this award season I have decided to find out a little bit about how these red carpet looks come together – from designer to the PR to the stylist and even a critic.
First up is the very experienced Sahar Sanjar, one half of PR agency laChambre in Los Angeles, which she runs with her partner Brooke Pace. When you think about red carpet worthy publicists it has to be Sahar as she looks after the likes of Elie Saab, the red carpet god, Reem Acra and Charlotte Olympia, basically some of my favourite red carpet labels.
I chatted with Sahar a couple of weeks ago just after the SAG Awards and found out a little bit more about what it takes to be a fashion publicist in Hollywood, the pressure of the award season, and I even asked her about stylist Jessica Paster’s comment that fashion PRs are only ‘dress traffickers’.
Can you tell me a little about your fashion background, and the red carpet clients that you look after?
Sahar: “I’ve been working in the fascinating world of PR for a smidge over 8 years now. I started in talent and then made the move to fashion PR. Then, after getting my feet wet a bit – I started laChambre in August of 09 – and I started with brands such a Elie Saab, Paule Ka and a few more.
“Now, in 2013 our brands consist of – Elie Saab, Alberta Ferretti, Reem Acra, Moschino, Lisa Ho, Marina B Jewellery, Charlotte Olympia, Ermenegildo Zegna, Alice+Olivia, Joe’s Jeans, Philosophy Di Alberta Ferretti, Osman, Bibhu Mohapatra, RafWl Cennamo, Pavoni, Katharine Kidd and Kathy Hilton.
“Almost a year into the agency, I brought on Brooke Pace as partner. She was at Dolce & Gabbana for a couple years before coming over.”
What is that your role entails in the run-up to and during award season? Basically what’s a typical day for you?
“My day consists of waking up to a slew of e-mails. We have international clients so the e-mails never stop (not complaining). We get e-mails at all hours of the day. Responding to questions about the strategy behind a new launch, a celebrity target list or just follow ups about meetings, placements, follow up or just keeping someone in the loop. My office works on coordinating looks and getting them to those who have requested them, etc. Stylists appointments in our showroom. I mean our days are usually a blur during award season so I feel like I can¹t properly give you a play by play either. Ha!
“My friends are like your days must be so exciting and fun. Sometimes I don’t know if I should break their hearts and tell them the truth – or let the fantasy live on.”
Stylist Jessica Paster has called fashion PRs ‘dress traffickers’ – is there a fine line between protecting your brands and getting it coverage on the red carpet?
“I love Paster! She is too funny truth is – we are, in some sense, the gatekeepers. Often times, people don’t love the middle man cause we can’t always tell them what they want to hear. There is a fine line and it is our job utilise our relationships to advance our brands and generate awareness of what our designer is doing, who they are working with, etc.
“I don’t blame Jessica or any other stylist saying that we are ‘just’ dress traffickers or that we are too particular with a brand. I understand where they are coming from. But, my answer remains the same, we are just doing our job.”
What can coverage on the ‘best dressed’ red carpet lists mean for your clients?
“The end goal is that a placement on any red carpet and any list translates into increased awareness of the brand, what the brand stands for, a designer’s message – and most importantly – sales, sales, sales!!!”
And can it make a huge impact on reputation and future placements if on the ‘worst dressed’?
“Everybody has a different opinion on who should make the best and worst dressed list. So, it really only impacts you if you share the same sentiment as the creator of that list. Do I always think the weekly magazines get it right when they name their best and worst nope – and that’s ok. It’s opinion that makes this game fun.”
Elie Saab is one of my favourite red carpet designers – do you have an red carpet rules when placing the brand?
“So lovely to hear that! It’s a really romantic and beautiful brand and the man behind it all is just so so so kind. If you met him – you would love the brand even more.
“The brand provided me with one directive when I was lucky enough to be hired over three years ago – just do what is best for the brand. I think that collectively to this point we have.”
Do you have a celebrity hit list for your designers? If yes, which celebrities would you love to see on the red carpet?
“Every brand has a list of their ideal celebrity – definitely. Ultimately it’s about gathering the right type of press- – so that’s what we are here for.
“The truth is every brand wants to dress the same group of celebrities. That is what heightens the stress we endure through out award season. We want all our brands to get a fair shot with each and every celebrity our designer has an interest in. So, like I tell clients our job is to make sure you are represented on all the fittings that are in line with your wishes. From that point – may the best dress win.”
There are always rumours circulating that some designers especially during award season pay for celebrities to wear their designs – do any of your clients do that?
“Yes, I have definitely heard those rumours as well. I can tell you that our brands do not participate in such thing.”
How stressful is it waiting to see/hear that a celebrity is wearing one of your designers?
“Oh! I don’t even think I can actually describe the feeling. There is definitely a lot of pacing involved! A lot of it. Tears. Most times you don¹t know till the last-minute. I mean – it’s truly torture because you want it to work. Ultimately, you have to remind yourself that it¹s no longer in your control at that point. That¹s what I have to repeat over and over and over again. Not that I listen to that advice but at least I try?!”
Do you find more requests from celebrities and their stylists for custom-made gowns during the award season? Are your clients open to creating something for a specific event?
“Yes, lately the request for custom has been through the roof. Clients are open to it if there is enough time to properly execute things.
“Problem is – there is no assurance that a custom option will be the ‘winner’ so at that point you guide your designer through weighing the options. In the end – it¹s up to them.”
To finish up the interview I couldn’t resist adding in a few personal questions about Sahar’s style, what she is loving at the moment, as well as who’s style she would love to steal!!!
What three items in your wardrobe can’t you live without?
“My Joe’s Jeans dark wash, straight cut they fit right and know my body. Chanel flats simple and they go with everything. My Helmut Lang blazer or any blazer for that matter, it pulls any look together.”
What are you currently addicted to?
“Oh boy! I am currently loving what TV has to offer and always listening to music. But, I am addicted to my nieces. Sapphire Suri who is 18 months & Mila Sofia who is 3 months old. Addicted!!”
Who are your favourite designers?
“All of my clients and, thanks to my mother, Escada.”
If you could steal the style of one person who would it be?
“Miroslava Duma or Taylor Tomasi Hill. Oh.. or Lauren Santo Domingo. Wait – can I pick three?”
Also, one last random question – do you think we might ever see a Barbie x Elie Saab collaboration? I would really love to see that.
“I’d love to see that too! Mr. Saab did a Disney Princess collaboration – did you see that? Princess Aurora, it was delightful!”
**Huge thanks to Sahar for taking part, if you don’t already follow her on Twitter – do – @SaharSanjar – especially if you love red carpet fashion**