Strapless. Bedazzled. That ubiquitous mermaid silhouette. We’re not saying the prevalent red carpet style is wrong, exactly (bombshells in the Sophia Vergara vein can rock them with the best of ‘em)—it’s just that when it comes to evening dressing, there’s so much more out there.
Juan Carlos Obando knows this well, and even dares to use words like “comfortable,” “unassuming,” and “ease” when describing his drop-dead-gorgeous collections. They’re still show-stopping (just ask Cate Blanchett, Freida Pinto and Mandy Moore, all of who have sported his body-skimming designs), but they don’t try so hard. What could be sexier than that?
We at The Window decided that the thick of awards season was the perfect time to chat with Obando about his refreshing red carpet approach. Oscars attendees, take notes!
How do you approach designing evening wear?
I always, always try to find an unassuming approach to evening wear and red carpet. I think it’s the key differentiator between me and other dressers. They’re beautiful, extremely elegant, Hollywood starlet dresses, but there’s an ease to it. They clearly are more subtle but still iconic. I do love colors, though—big solid pops of color!
Did you have any specific inspirations for your most recent collection?
What I do for the red carpet and Barneys New York is a very specific capsule collection. This season, we were working with flowers—but rather than a floral print, I was inspired by the hue of certain petals. That pink—when you walk by the [sales] floor, all you see is that pink!
What’s a mistake women make when dressing for formal occasions?
They over think it! The perception is when you go to formal event, you have to dress formal. I don’t think it should be informal, but you don’t have to put everything on! Being comfortable to me is the number one factor you should keep in mind—if you’re uncomfortable, it will show, like when you go to a wedding and she’s constantly pulling up her strapless dress. The dresses I create show a certain sexiness, but in reality everything is tucked in and put together. It’s like an optical illusion!
I always say if you’re looking for a dress to go to an event, imagine as if you’re going to dance. If you can dance in this dress, you have the right dress! In the fitting room, sit down, cross your legs, move—then make a decision. It’s very important, this behavior. When I design, I focus on the women who will be wearing the dress, not just the dress.
Who consistently gets it right on the red carpet?
Someone that always looks amazing is Cate Blanchett. Even the odd decisions are great decisions for her—her experiments are always very beautiful. She’s classic and Hollywood, but she can be an experimental fashion lover.
What’s your favorite red carpet look of all time?
I always remember Julia Roberts in that vintage Valentino. Right woman, right dress, right moment—everything was just aligned. It was classic meets modern, the way she took something so old and made it look very fresh.
Who are you looking forward to seeing on the red carpet this season?
Jessica Chastain. This is her moment! I think it will be pretty fantastic to see what she’ll do.
Are you a big movie buff?
I go three times a week!
What are your favorites for this coming awards season?
I was a big fan of Argo. This has been an amazing season. Lincoln was also very beautiful to look at. And A Royal Affair. And for me, my favorite movie of the year was Rust and Bone. That was my favorite of the whole year. Marion Cotillard was amazing in that.
Anyone you’d you love to dress for this awards season?
I really love dressing the directors and producers. They’re not necessarily in front of the camera all the time, but they really love it. They’re really enjoying this moment they’ve worked so hard far!
So shall we look for Kathryn Bigelow in your dresses, then?
We will see!