Angelina Jolie Talks Designing Suleika Jaouad’s Oscars Dress

Typically, Angelina Jolie walks the Oscars red carpet as an A-list nominee, or serves as a presenter for the evening. But this year, the actor took on a more behind-the-scenes role at the 96th annual ceremony: She designed a red carpet dress for it.

Under her new fashion label Atelier Jolie, which launched last year with a focus on sustainability and upcycling, Jolie created a custom dress for writer and artist Suleika Jaouad; Jaouad stars in the documentary film American Symphony alongside husband Jon Batiste, which is nominated in the best original song category this evening. “I have such deep admiration for Suleika and the way she lives her life—how she meets difficulty with strength and grace,” Jolie tells Vogue. “[She’s a] brilliant creative force who inspires everyone who knows her. I would have dressed her for anything she needed; It should never be about the dress, but how anything worn feels like an extension of the person.”

Photo: Getty Images

The American Symphony documentary follows musician Batiste as he sets out to compose a symphony while his partner, Jaouad, learns that her leukemia is back after a decade in remission. “There were many weeks when we couldn’t see each other, because he had to be out in the world for work, and the exposure risk was too high,” Jaouad tells Vogue. “Lullabies became his way of enveloping me with care, love, and presence from a distance. To see that lullaby become a full-fledged song [titled “It Never Went Away”], become a part of a film, and then go on to be nominated at the Oscars, shows how much things can change in two years.”

Given the film centers around themes of resiliency, and the healing role that music can play within that, Jolie wanted to create a look that nodded to Jaouad’s own artistic roots. “I wanted a look inspired by Suleika’s creativity and her love,” says Jolie. “She is a painter, and so it felt right to have her gown used as a canvas.” To do so, Jolie collaborated with American artist Chaz Guest to treat her red carpet dress as a form of wearable art. “Chaz and I have known each other for years, and I knew he would approach this with the dedication and intention needed to feel right,” says Jolie. 

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