This is a totally unexpected move from Mama Shai. Her styling has been spotty since she left Ilaria — I think Ilaria carved a niche for herself as a menswear expert that was so successful that she lives there almost exclusively now — but it has at least contained some big swings, and I wonder if she’s trying to figure out who she is stylistically right now as her career begins to morph. She’s 28, and Big Little Lies just transitioned her from The Fault In Our Stars and Divergent firmly into adult-targeted fare, but her upcoming projects really run the gamut: a romance with Jamie Dornan and Sebastian Stan, a story about a Guantanamo detainee with Jodie Foster and Benchseating Coucherator, a Jojo Moyes adaptation with Felicity Jones and Joe Alwyn, a DeNiro and Chloe Grace Moretz situation about a man who just got out of prison for involuntary murder. A range of projects is good, but when it comes to the marketing aspect of Hollywood — and make no mistake, the red carpet is often about self-marketing as much as it is about any particular movie — I can see where she might be testing the waters with fashion to figure out where she lands and what it does for her. This is a headline-grabber for reason that, I think, dovetail with her taste in projects. It says, “I have eclectic and unexpected taste, but I can command a room.” I mean, yeah, on the surface it’s hard to take these seriously because they’re like gigantic sleeping bags. But the colors are beautiful. The stripes are a nice splash. It’s got shape, and it looks arresting. I love my down vest. It’s so soft and comfortable and warm, but light, so in that sense, this looks like the easiest, nicest a person could ever put on their body.
I’m not sure she’s selling it AS well with the hood deployed, but this might just be an awkward photo. I also appreciate that she went with the full runway version and did give us both views. She went there and I applaud it. More than that, I enjoy it. Ultimately she’s never going to forget it, and if the hope is that positive attention puts her in front of the potential co-stars or project-packaging agents who might think, “Oh yeah, that’s RIGHT, I loved her in The Descendants, she’d be interesting to have on board,” then I think she’ll win at that as well.
Liya Kebede helped design this collection — she did the patterns, hiring Eithiopian artists who work for her ethical fashion label Lemlem — and picked out this version to wear to the Awards:
She, however, streamlined hers to just a skirt. (On the runway, it has a bodice and then a gigantic head-scarf.) I feel like attempting to make it more quietly chic detracts from the overall effect of what a gorgeous, dramatic piece this was — the whole puffy collection from this season, which only uses black models, is beautiful to behold — but I also still very much like it, and think there’s something smart to distilling this into something that feels almost achievable, assuming you are a person who would want one of these for your next gala. Either way, I’m pleased to see these making the rounds as more than just part of performance art.