In the 1937 film A Star Is Born, Janet Gaynor’s character Esther Victoria Blodgett undergoes a transformation to become moviestar Vicki Lester. At the time, it was a very real reflection of the Hollywood star system in which studios manufactured the image of their talent, changing everything from their appearance to their backstory in order to capture the wonderment of audiences. While (debatably) not as extreme these days, the work that goes behind crafting an image can determine whether a wide-eyed ingénue becomes a certified A-lister. And that’s exactly the position that actress Hunter Schafer finds herself in, which is why she sought the help of friend, stylist and fashion director of Interview Magazine Dara Allen.
Already critically acclaimed for her lead role in HBO’s Euphoria, earlier this month Schafer made her big screen debut in the highly anticipated Hunger Games prequel, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. She plays the role of Tigris, the cousin of antagonist Coriolanus Snow. Introduced as a designer’s apprentice, the character’s creativity in upcycling old garments allowed her and her cousin to fit into the fashionable (albeit dangerously materialistic) world of the fictitious metropolis of the Capitol. Throughout the series, the character becomes a premiere stylist of the annual Hunger Games.
‘Because it’s Hunter’s first big movie role and the next step she’s taking, for me it was really important to push her towards the classic Hollywood modes’, the stylist and fashion director of Interview Magazine tells me over Zoom from New York City. While no stranger to taking red carpet risks (her barely there feather bandeau from Ann Demeulemeester A/W 23 at the 2023 Vanity Fair Oscar Party springs to mind), this press tour presented Schafer the prime opportunity to pivot from the edgy-yet-creative character of Euphoria’s Jules to a full-blown movie star.
‘People already have a memory of what a movie star looks like. If you give them that – a certain kind of hair, a certain silhouette and make-up – then they’ll look at you that way.’ This meant not only referencing The Hunger Games universe, but icons of Hollywood glamour like Rita Hayworth and Veronica Lake. ‘Even though we speak a similar language about clothes, our styles are very different. She pushes me and I push her. She has a very avant-garde, creative approach to fashion and I come from a more classic, glamorous place. It’s an interesting tension’, Allen says on working with Schafer.
The fashionable festivities began with the Berlin film premiere, where Schafer wore a hand-painted panelled dress from Schiaparelli’s A/W 23 haute couture collection - a nod to the crafty creativity of her character in the film. ‘I approached it very much like a fashion story, because everything needs to be cohesive and feel like the same character’, says Allen. From there it was a whirlwind of premieres, late-night talk shows, and press junkets, with Allen pulling runway looks from Alexander McQueen, Dries Van Noten, Thom Browne, and more.
Two of the standout looks include the Marni S/S 24 flower dress, made of metallic sculpted petals she wore to the New York City premiere, and a custom gold Prada two-piece referencing the brand’s S/S 09 collection. ‘She loves fashion and she loves art and she’s super creative and artistic. She has an idea of how she should look and what she should be wearing’, Allen explains. ‘On the red carpet she can take a big risk because it comes naturally to her. Wearing a crazy, sculptural Marni dress is like wearing sweatpants.’
The risks the duo took paid off, with Schafer making headlines for her bold style choices, but also tapping into the fashion fanatic zeitgeist online. ‘DARA ALLEN YOU WILL ALWAYS BE FAMOUS *GASP*’, reads a post on X. ‘Hunter knows how to slay! Kudos to her stylist Dara!’ reads another. Both Allen and Schafer’s first major Hollywood press tour, the resounding fanfare marks a triumph for the duo’s collaboration.
It’s a full circle moment for the two who met in New York City at the beginnings of their careers in 2017. At the time Allen was working as a stylist assistant on one of Schafer’s first modelling jobs before making the move to acting. She was quickly recognised by burgeoning the model, having just walked Marc Jacobs A/W 17 show, and a friendship quickly formed.
Allen’s road to becoming one of today’s most exciting young stylists began when she first moved to New York from San Diego. ‘I knew I wanted to work in fashion but I never really knew in what context’, she tells me, while citing the careers of Tonne Goodman, Grace Coddington, and Diana Vreeland as inspirations. ‘I read Diana Vreeland’s memoir and that was a big pivotal shift in how to see and how to talk about things. The emotional connection to colour and texture, that I’ve always felt but never had a way to talk about’.
Allen was among the Tumblr generation who not only used the micro-blogging website as a research tool, but as a way to connect with like minded creatives. It’s there she met lifelong friends and collaborators like photographers Cruz Valdez and Ethan James Green. ‘There wasn’t a specific plan to do things. I just loved the creative process.’ Soon after, photographs of Allen circulated the digital realm and led to modelling opportunities for i-D and Helmut Lang. But it was her styling work behind the lens that captured the attention of Mel Ottenburg. When Ottenburg was appointed editor-in-chief of Interview Magazine in 2022, Allen’s freelance styling for the magazine evolved into a role as the publication’s fashion director.
What makes Allen particularly exciting isn’t just her undeniable eye, it’s the feeling that she’s first and foremost a fan of the industry that she works in. This is evident not only in her triumphant press tour with Schafer, but her other major project this year styling Troye Sivan’s ‘One of Your Girls’ music video. More than Sivan’s drag debut, the music video referenced the style of early 00s pop stars, particularly designers Kurt and Bart’s work with Britney Spears. ‘Go two steps behind what you’re looking at and what you’re inspired by,’ she says when asked about the advice she would give young creatives. ‘If you’re inspired by your favourite singer, look at who they’re referencing and then who that person is referencing. That’s where you should start your reading and researching’.
Wrapping up our time I can’t help but ask who her dream client is now that she’s experienced red carpet styling. ‘Britney Spears. I’ve always loved her and she’s my favourite and I know it’s never happening.’ It's a modest outlook for someone whose risen the ranks from scrolling Tumblr as a fashion superfan to styling one of Hollywood's promising young stars' silver screen debut. So who knows? With reports that Spears is working on a follow-up to her New York Times best selling memoir, she might just need a stylist for her next book tour.