Last night saw the stars of one of Britain's most beloved television shows return to the red carpet as they celebrated the premiere of the new film Downton Abbey: A New Era. This included Joanne Froggatt, who looked beautiful in a bright red, one-shouldered gown, which was custom designed for her by Sabina Bilenko.
The dress – which took over 200 hours to create – was a collaborative project between Froggatt, her stylist Holly White, and Bilenko. "We wanted to create an unforgettable moment that would make an impact but at the same time felt special to Jo personally," White explained. "A look that Jo would feel the most confident she has ever felt. This gown does just that; it felt like Jo, even from the first sketch. The strength and elegance in Sabina's design are a perfect match for who Jo is."
When it came to choosing what would help Froggatt to feel her very best self for this big red-carpet moment, Bilenko opted to make an impact with colour, and to channel elegance with the silhouette.
"Joanne and Holly really wanted something strong and modern and as red is such a bold colour, we thought it was a perfect choice," the designer told us. "In terms of the design, we wanted to incorporate draping and a contemporary, elegant silhouette to ensure Joanne would feel her most confident."
The gown was paired with Christian Louboutin shoes and some statement earrings by Boodles, helping to ensure that it was one of the best looks we have ever seen the actress in.
Just before she hit the red carpet, we caught up with Froggatt to talk about her outfit, her love of fashion more generally and how her relationship with her personal style has changed over the years.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR YOUR OUTFIT THIS EVENING?
In light of what is currently happening in the world, and the uncertainty that everyone has faced over the last two years we wanted to focus on something positive. It feels like Downton Abbey: A New Era has come at the right moment to bring audiences some much-needed joy. When I saw the film it certainly did that for me; it made me laugh out loud and shed a tear. It felt like a warm hug and filled me with positivity. I think those moments of escapism can be good for us all and we wanted to celebrate that, and carry it through to the red carpet. That certainly informed our choice of style and colour.
HOW INVOLVED ARE YOU IN THE STYLING PROCESS?
I’m very involved with the styling process. Holly and I collaborate on everything. We have a really strong relationship and I trust her judgment implicitly. She will often suggest options that I wouldn’t have thought of, and they are usually brilliant. We are always on the same page, and when doing fittings with Holly, I’m very open and honest about what I feel good in. Holly understands that feeling good in an outfit is important, it helps you to be your most confident, comfortable self, no matter what the event or situation.
HOW HAS YOUR STYLE EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS?
My style has certainly evolved over the years – changes in fashion and myself as a person have informed that. Working with various great stylists over the last 12 years has helped develop my sense of my individual style. My main concern is to always feel appropriate to the event, to feel great in what I am wearing and for it to be a fun and enjoyable process.
HOW HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR STYLE, BODY, APPEARANCE CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?
I have definitely become more comfortable in my own skin over the years. I’ve learned which styles and cuts suit me and which don’t. I’m a petite person and I’ve learned to wholly embrace that and enjoy the positives of it. When I was a teenager, I was convinced that one day I was going to develop in to a tall, long legged superhuman body, (I have no idea why, all my family are small) and when reality hit and I realised that was never going to happen, I decided to start seeing the benefits of being 5 ft 2 inches tall. I’ve reached a place in myself where I’m happy with the person I am, and I really believe that reflects on your outward appearance.
HOW MUCH DOES THE PROJECT YOU’RE WORKING ON IMPACT THE OUTFIT YOU CHOOSE?
The project I’m working on always has a big impact on the outfits I choose. Again, for me it comes down to what’s appropriate. If I’m doing publicity for work that is based around a very serious or sensitive subject matter, I wouldn’t be arriving at my interviews in sequins and feathers. I doubt Holly would allow that in any circumstance actually. But I always circle back to what is appropriate for the subject matter and the event, and what makes me feel my most comfortable and able to tackle what’s in front of me.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE RED CARPET MOMENT OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS?
I actually think this one will be my most memorable for quite a few years. It was such a special experience to collaborate with Sabina on this custom gown. Sabina and her team were absolutely wonderful to work with, and I think we all thoroughly enjoyed the process. This gown feels very ‘me’. I love the colour, the cut is just perfect and I’ve been so excited to wear it and channel the positivity of the movie.
WHOSE STYLE HAVE YOU ALWAYS ADMIRED AND WHY?
I’ve always loved Kate Moss and Victoria Beckham’s style. Victoria is always timeless with incredible tailoring. Kate’s style has been much more varied yet she has always been at the forefront of fashion. Even in my late teens, I would always follow what Kate Moss was wearing, or try to.
HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHICH BRANDS TO WORK WITH?
It really just depends on what works and what I feel good in. I think variation is key. Fashion should be fun and an expression of self and that should be ever-changing, dependent on mood, season and the event.
WHAT IS YOUR PERFECT ‘GETTING READY’ SET-UP?
My perfect getting ready set up for work events is having my usual team with me, who are all not only super talented but also wonderful people to be around. Having a relaxed and fun atmosphere, not rushing and occasionally a glass of champagne before the red carpet. Atmosphere is really important to me, I always want to work with good people with positive energy. A happy work environment is key.
FASHION HAS A REPUTATION FOR BEING FRIVOLOUS, BUT WHY DOES WHAT WE WEAR MATTER?
Frivolous isn’t always a bad thing if it brings you joy. For me, fashion should be an expression of self, a way to put forward to the world whatever you want to, on any given day. We all need to be aware of how damaging fast fashion can be to the environment, so to me fashion shouldn’t mean throwaway fashion. Buying key pieces that last and that you can take care of and love is important to me. I own coats, bags and shoes that I have had for many years and I still love rediscovering them. I take care of my wardrobe. I also love buying vintage. I have a slight obsession with vintage cowboy boots and I love to mix old, new and designer. I want to feel like me, depending on my vibe, and not simply recreate a carbon copy of someone else’s style. I am influenced by new-season collections and I enjoy that, but it doesn’t mean that I have to buy constantly.
I like to keep my clothes, but when I do have a clear out, I always give to charity or pass on to my friends' daughters. If you look after your pieces they can be around for many years, for either you or someone else to enjoy.
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