Writers’ strike is impacting fashion industry as well

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In this file photo, celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch mugs with Keisha Whitaker, wife of actor Forest Whitaker, at a product launch. Bloch was to style Keisha for this year’s Oscars, but with the writers’ strike disrupting awards season, he and other stylists are far less busy than they normally would be.

Katherine Heigl’s stylist went on vacation last week to Mexico. Makeup artist Pati Dubroff’s cellphone and BlackBerry have gone extraordinarily quiet.

A change in format for Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards from a jovial awards dinner and ceremony to a news conference doesn’t just mean disappointed award winners — it means a rolled-up red carpet.

Just think of all the glorious gowns that will go unworn.

It was unclear if celebrities — even the nominees — would attend the untelevised ceremony because they still might have to cross a picket line of the Writers Guild Of America, and the actors’ own union encouraged its members to skip the event in a show of solidarity.

That means no wardrobe analysis Monday morning, no best dressed-worst dressed lists, no new designer name on the lips of every fashion fan. Stylists, makeup artists, hairdressers and all those that run the marketing machines in Los Angeles find themselves with unexpected time on their hands.

Stylist Nicole Chavez says a beautiful dress was picked out weeks ago for Heigl, a supporting actress nominee for Grey’s Anatomy, but they always knew Heigl might not get to wear it. Chavez also didn’t make any special requests for a custom-made gown, something she has done in the past, because she didn’t want to waste designers’ time or money.

Designer Carmen Marc Valvo had created a couple of dresses for one star and sent sketches to another, but considers a break from the red carpet almost a welcome change, says spokesman Frank Pulice. This is giving Valvo the chance to focus on his upcoming fall collection, which debuts in February.

“It’s always a challenge for us internally with the Globes so close to Fashion Week,” Pulice says. “Do we stop to make something for a celebrity? If we were guaranteed they’d wear it, it would be the right thing to do, but there always is a question mark of, will they wear it?”

No doubt about it, though, celebrities do make a difference in brand awareness, Pulice says, and when the award shows come back, so will Valvo, who in 2007 dressed Queen Latifah for both the Globes and Oscars.

There is no shortage of celebrity dressing opportunities these days with blow-out movie premieres and big charity events, even the upcoming Super Bowl and NBA All-Star Game, but the Golden Globes put one of fashion’s most important runways into a holding pattern.

And designers aren’t the only ones feeling the red-carpet letdown.

“It’s what’s more interesting than the award shows,” says Maria Rodriguez of Norwalk, Conn., who discusses everything from the stars’ hairstyles to shoes with her co-workers at a meat-importing company. “I like to know who the celebrities are wearing, who they’re with. You get an idea of the trends.”

Chavez’s Mexico vacation would have been unthinkable at this time last year. Stylist Phillip Bloch, who helped choose many of Halle Berry’s winning ensembles and had planned to work this year with Keisha Whitaker, wife of Forest Whitaker, hasn’t gone to the showcases of jewelry and accessories that he would have visited by now.

Even so, the big question is, will the other shoe drop? The Academy Awards are slated for Feb. 24, but the writers’ guild so far has refused to grant a waiver for its members to work on that show. “To me the Golden Globes is a glamour moment … you get the TV stars as well as the movie stars,” Bloch says. “But the Oscars is the big show.”

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