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What do Gwyneth Paltrow and Kylie Jenner have in common? Besides buzzy beauty brands and millions of Instagram followers to both of their names, not much.
In addition to the obvious age difference (Paltrow is 43, Jenner 19), their personal styles and body types are practically polar opposites. Paltrow is tall and willowy; Jenner, curvy and petite. Paltrow’s wardrobe leans polished and preppy, while Jenner’s is sexy and sporty.
Still, both women made multiple best-dressed lists after walking the red carpet in London-based brand Galvan’s plunge-front jumpsuit. Paltrow debuted the style (now, fittingly, named the Gwyneth) in October 2015, while Jenner wore it in ice blue the following July. On Paltrow, who kept her hair and makeup characteristically simple and her jewelry minimal, the look was tailored and tomboyish. Jenner’s addition of a diamond-encrusted Rolex and Gobstopper-sized sparkling studs — not to mention her jumpsuit’s second-skin fit — took it in an entirely different direction. You couldn’t ask who wore it better, because you could hardly tell the two stars were wearing the same garment.
According to Galvan CEO Katherine Holmgren, that’s precisely the point. "There’s a lot of bedazzled eveningwear on the red carpet these days," she explains. "And often, it ends up being that the clothes wear the celebrity rather than the other way around." Enter Galvan’s brand of frills-free luxury, where the clothes are meant to fit, flatter, and feel good, but never outshine the wearer herself.
The quartet of friends behind the label — Holmgren, along with Carolyn Hodler, Anna-Christin Haas, and Sola Harrison — never set out to design for the red carpet. Rather, they wanted to make versatile eveningwear women would want to wear again and again, even in the age of social media. I hopped on the phone with Holmgren to chat about how she’s accomplished both in just a few short years.
How did the four of you decide to launch Galvan in the first place?
For years, we’d been complaining that we couldn’t find eveningwear we liked. There was one summer where Carolyn and I had about eight different wedding invitations during the same three-month period, and it was such a struggle to find dresses that felt more cool and clean and fresh instead of embellished and really formal. Nothing felt modern, and everything seemed to cost a fortune. The price tags for designer eveningwear are just exorbitant.
It’s especially crazy given that most women don’t want to wear the same dress more than a few times. I blame Instagram.
Right. If I’m going to spend over a thousand dollars on something, I want it to be timeless — something I can wear over and over again, rather than something that stands out so much I can only wear it once. I want something I can throw my biker jacket or wooly sweater over and wear with boots during the daytime, but that I can pair with statement jewelry and a high heel for a black tie event.
What inspires your simple designs?
Mostly the ‘90s supermodel era — Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Amber Valletta. Lines that are really clean and strong and sexy, but you’re not flaunting everything. We really like the idea of mixing off-duty and formal in the same look, almost like a tomboy take on eveningwear. If you look at old pictures of Kate Moss, for example, she’s often dressed up, but her hair and makeup is really clean and natural.
Sienna Miller in Galvan at the premiere of 'Foxcatcher' on October 16th, 2014. Photo: Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for BFI
Speaking of supermodels, do you remember the first time a celebrity wore one of your designs?
I think it was Sienna Miller, who wore our silver striped spaghetti-strap dress to the Foxcatcher premiere in October 2015. We’d just gone into stores maybe two months earlier — nobody knew who we were. But it was particularly exciting because of how it happened. We had a friend in common who had heard about our label and wanted to see some looks, so we sent five or six different samples over to her house in London. They got there the day before Sienna’s premiere. She’d been slated to wear a different dress that day, but wound up wearing ours instead!
Now Sienna’s a regular customer, as are Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Selena Gomez. What do you think draws these very famous women, all of whom have distinctly different styles, to your label?
You know what’s interesting? We’ve never had to alter any of these celebrity pieces — beyond maybe shortening something a little bit. So I think they like the fit, and the comfort, and the fact that they feel like themselves in it. So much eveningwear is just incredibly uncomfortable — you can’t dance, you can’t eat. That means that not only will you not enjoy the evening, but it’ll also come across in your body language in photos. And I think when women find a flattering brand they tend to come back to it again and again. We never pay anyone to wear anything, of course.
That’s pretty refreshing, considering so many of the larger fashion houses have contracts with celebrities these days.
We actually have this signature corset jumpsuit from our second season that Rihanna bought last year — she went out and bought it herself! We had no idea she was going to wear it, of course, and then we opened Instagram one day and had hundreds of new followers. That was a huge moment for us, and that jumpsuit’s been our bestseller ever since. Sienna wore the same one in white to Wimbledon.
Jennifer Lawrence wears Galvan to a Met Gala after-party on May 4th, 2015. Photo: Dave Kotinsky/WireImage
Speaking of which, a lot of big fashion brands tend to retire specific styles after they’ve been worn on the red carpet. Galvan, notably, does not. Why?
I think the more embellished an outfit is, the harder it is to have somebody else wear the same thing. With a simpler piece, you end up actually focusing on the woman wearing it! We’ve seen that with Gwyneth and Kylie in our jumpsuit, and also with Sienna and Rita Ora in our bias-cut silk slip dress. It’s how they each styled the look that made it feel different. That said, we’d never place the exact same piece in the exact same color on two celebrities.
Do you usually design with the red carpet in mind?
Only if we’re doing show pieces or something bespoke — for example, Rosie Huntington Whiteley’s amfAR dress from Cannes. There, we were definitely thinking about cameras flashing, and what would be the most eye-catching. But we also like the idea that our pieces are things you could wear on a red carpet, but also wear to the afterparty by throwing on the right jacket. Very few of our pieces are meant to be red carpet-specific, which is why a lot of these exact celebrity pieces are up on our e-commerce site, which we just launched this month. There's a really pretty cross-back dress that Rosie's worn; the Gwyneth jumpsuit's on there.
How has Hollywood’s support benefited the brand overall?
It makes a huge difference. You see it directly in sales; if someone like Gwyneth wears a jumpsuit, you’ll see within a couple of days that your sales spike across all of your stores. But what’s also really important is that a lot of press doesn’t pay attention to you unless you have a celebrity following. Likewise, a lot of really great stores perk up when you send them a press pack that includes celebrities wearing your things. I think it would be very difficult right now for a fashion brand to grow without having some sort of celebrity presence.