For Liya Kebede, Sunday night marked a number of firsts. For one, it was the model and activist’s first time attending the Oscars. Kebede arrived on the arm of her partner Philippe Rousselet, a producer on the Best Picture winner CODA, which became the first movie with a majority of deaf actors in the cast to win the top trophy. It was also the first Oscars outing for the designer behind her dress, Pieter Mulier, who took over at the storied French fashion house of Alaïa early last year. Already worn by the likes of Zendaya and Alexa Demie, his designs have quickly become a red carpet favorite.
And who better to wear one of his slinky, razor-sharp designs than Liya Kebede? The Ethiopian-American runway star is known just as much for her prowess in front of a camera as she is for her playful off-duty style, after all. Working with her stylist Wil Ariyamethe, Kebede opted for a dramatic, floor-sweeping burgundy velvet gown with a halterneck and cut-out details. “I first saw the dress I wore to the Oscars on Vogue Runway after the Alaïa show aired and it stuck with me,” says Kebede. “The beautiful purple tones left a lasting impression—the understated elegance, chicness, and the gorgeous color, it was the perfect symphony. I love what Pieter is doing at Alaia, I did his first ever show and have always been a huge fan of his work. The whole Alaia team has been so wonderful customizing it for me, I’m definitely a lucky girl!”
For Kebede, though, the joy of attending Hollywood’s biggest night out lay just as much in her showstopping look as it did in the joy of seeing her partner’s film sweep to victory. “I was so touched to be there for a film that is not only simply wonderful but also brings light to the deaf community,” Kebede adds. “We were all so nervous coming into the awards [as] CODA had already won so much, so I kept reminding myself that, no matter what, this is such a wonderful moment no matter what happens.” When CODA took home the night’s biggest prize, Kebede was quickly on her feet cheering with the whole auditorium. “I heard CODA and I screamed so loud!” Kebede adds. “It was absolutely incredible.”
Here, join Kebede as she gets ready for her first-ever Oscars—and see all the details behind her breathtaking Alaïa look.