Margot Robbie’s Chanel problem speaks to a wider red carpet crisis

Fashion Crimes: Margot Robbie's 2021 Chanel Red Carpet Looks (Getty/Shutterstock)

Fashion Crimes: Margot Robbie’s 2021 Chanel Red Carpet Looks (Getty/Shutterstock)

A woman needs our help. Fans called her for “emancipation”. They are worried that she is being “held hostage”. Emphasizing that she must be “released” as soon as possible. But what he has to get rid of is a bit unconventional. It’s not a person. This is not some kind of corrupt conservatorship or a dirty cell. The captor in question is, namely, a luxury fashion brand. His victim? Margot Robbie.

For months now, fashionistas and fans of Robbie have been using the aforementioned captive language—a little too seriously, actually—to describe her enduring partnership with Chanel. The general consensus among them is that Robbie has been chained to the French label since she became one of the brand’s ambassadors in 2018. Namely, that she is forced into a series of designs that she doesn’t really like.

It is impossible to say whether there is any truth to this theory. However, in recent months, Robbie’s fans have been furiously pointing out the difference between the actor’s expression when he wears Chanel and other luxury brands. “Margot Robbie in Bottega vs. Chanel,” one person wrote on Twitter alongside a series of photos of the 32-year-old in designs by the respective brands. “Her face says it all…”, they added.

Another viral tweet simply stated “Margot Robbie when she’s not in Chanel”, alongside four recent photos of the actor smiling in various outfits including Bottega Veneta and Versace – generating more than 21,700 likes and thousands of comments from people calling for an end to Robbie’s deal with Chanel.

The theory went so far that some even began to suggest that Chanel deliberately dressed the actor badly, with celebrity stylist Elliot Garnaut labeling her the “worst dressed” celebrity, teasing that someone at Chanel “obviously hates her”. Even Vogue announced Robbie’s “new style era” when she stepped out in an emerald green Bottega Veneta dress at the Governors Awards in LA last November.

Comments have been circulating online for several months, but picked up speed earlier this year ahead of awards season – a time when the red carpet becomes the most important stage for any fashion designer teaming up with a celebrity to show off their latest designs. Given that Robbie hadn’t been seen at Chanel for a while, fans were hoping the partnership was over.

Much to their dismay, the actor appeared at last week’s Golden Globes in a custom haute couture dress from the label that involved more than 750 hours of work. The rose pink crystal-encrusted halter dress embodies a delicate, girly aesthetic that’s a stark contrast to some of Robbie’s recent non-Chanel choices – check out the loose leather cut-outs she wore to promote her latest film, Babylonor the oversized striped shirt she paired with thigh-high boots on a recent date out in London.

The main complaint, then, seems to be that by sticking to Chanel, Robbie is forcing herself to wear clothes that simply don’t reflect her personal taste. With a whole slew of award ceremonies still to come, it’s hard to say how many more Chanel looks the actor’s fans will have to endure. But she’s not the first celebrity to get involved in a partnership with a brand that many believe is out of sync with their natural style.

At the 2011 Oscars, Jennifer Lawrence famously wore a tight crimson Calvin Klein dress, a dress that evoked an old Hollywood silhouette. Its casual sensibility also reflected Lawrence’s own low-key approach to fashion at the time. However, that all changed when Lawrence landed a $15 million deal with Dior and quickly began wearing grander, more opulent designs on red carpets—remember the Cinderella-esque strapless ball gown she famously rocked at the 2013 Oscars?

Before she got Dior-d, Jennifer Lawrence was known for her understated girl-next-door red carpet looks like her 2011 Calvin Klein Oscar gown (Getty)

Before she got Dior-d, Jennifer Lawrence was known for her understated girl-next-door red carpet looks like her 2011 Calvin Klein Oscar gown (Getty)

From a financial perspective, it makes sense for big brands to team up with big stars, which is why such arrangements have been an integral part of Hollywood culture for years. But it seems that the years of people wearing the same designer over and over again may soon be behind us. Even if the brand’s aesthetic matches yours, style is nothing more than an evolutionary process, something that changes over time along with life experiences, personal politics, and the relationships we have with our bodies. All of these things have a huge impact on how we want to dress; one brand could not possibly explain so many transitions.

Moreover, the one-brand-fits-all model is largely out of touch with the tailoring zeitgeist, which is based on iconic vintage items. Gone are the days when bespoke designer gowns made the biggest impact on the red carpet. Oh no. If you want to make headlines because of your looks, that’s just archive, honey.

Celebrities have long preferred vintage, of course. In recent years, however, capturing a familiar look from the past has become fashion’s biggest aspiration, reflecting a degree of status that simply cannot be achieved in anything new. The most obvious example is Kim Kardashian at last year’s Met Gala – she wore the iconic beaded dress that Marilyn Monroe wore to serenade John F Kennedy on his 45th birthday in 1962. Worth $4.8 million, the dress was loaned to Kardashian by historical memorabilia organization Ripley’s Believe or not!, and the reality TV star underwent an extreme weight loss regimen to fit into it.

Robbie's vintage Versace dress at this week's 'Babylon' Sydney premiere drew mixed (though better than usual) reviews (Getty)

Robbie’s vintage Versace dress at this week’s ‘Babylon’ Sydney premiere drew mixed (though better than usual) reviews (Getty)

This might be an isolated example, but seeking out vintage vintage items to wear on the red carpet has become a common practice for celebrities. It’s something we’ve seen from all the major fashion players in the past year, including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Zendaya and Rihanna. Robbie recently tried it herself, wearing a vintage Versace dress from the 1990s on Babylon Australian premiere on Monday. The look was almost a huge hit with Robbie’s increasingly eagle-eyed fans if it weren’t for the red lace that was attached to the slit of the dress. Still, at least she could express some individuality.

With all this in mind, perhaps the death knell for long-standing celebrity brand partnerships is on its way. No matter what the salary, there’s only so many times someone can keep wearing clothes they don’t feel comfortable in. And while wearing Chanel all the time isn’t a prison sentence, limiting yourself in this way defies the very thing fashion is supposed to be about: taking risks, pushing boundaries, finding new ways to express yourself.

Robbie will manage, I’m sure. In the meantime, her fans could benefit from toning down their voices a bit. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before #FreeMargot takes over the internet. As uninspiring as some of her recent red carpet looks have been, I’m not convinced that a global liberation movement is the best approach.

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