There was a sense of anticipation in the room as Paul Mescal was getting ready for the 2023 BAFTAs – not least because he had his entire family in tow. Paul’s dad likened the atmosphere to John Henry Frederick Bacon’s painting “The Wedding Morning”, Felicity Kay, the Irish actor’s stylist, told British Vogue the day after the ceremony. “It shows a bride being dressed while the family looks admiringly on, with all the excitement and anticipation of such an important day,” she says. “And it really has felt like that: calm, serene, and quite special to be a part of.”
It’s a particularly significant awards season for Paul – an unknown before his breakout role in 2020’s Normal People – who was nominated in the Best Actor category at the BAFTAs for his moving performance in Charlotte Wells’s stunning debut film, Aftersun. (Though he lost out on the night to Elvis’s Austin Butler, he’s still in the running for an Oscar next month.) A special night required a special look, and Kay and Mescal had just the thing in mind: a custom Gucci suit accessorised with a spectacular 1930s Cartier brooch.
“It’s what I always imagined I would wear if I was ever lucky enough to go to a major awards ceremony,” says Paul, who no doubt has countless red carpets in his future. “Gucci made the suit for me a while ago, it was so special I had to save it, and the BAFTAs was the perfect moment. Cartier then showed me a photo of the brooch and it was so elegant – it was the perfect combination. I love the Old Hollywood feel.”
Paul’s fascination with the golden age of movie-making has informed his collaboration with Kay from the beginning. “When Paul and I started working together last year we sent a lot of references back and forth,” Felicity says. “Old Hollywood stills, vintage band artwork, pictures of shows we liked, old editorials. I quickly got a sense that Paul had great taste.” Together, they’ve established Paul’s now signature approach to the red carpet: “Classic, great tailoring but subtly subverted. A little rough around the edges, tactile and contemporary.”
The star’s BAFTAs look more than fit the bill. The black double breasted suit with white pleated evening shirt – not to mention the vintage Cartier bling – ticked the classic box, while the earring, mini bowtie and, of course, the mullet, kept things contemporary and “authentic to Paul”, Felicity says, adding: “The look is very true to Paul’s taste.”
The platinum, white gold and diamond brooch was key to capturing the Old Hollywood mood the pair was aiming for, says Kay, who considers jewellery to be just as important and impactful an element of menswear as women’s red-carpet looks. “I knew the look had to include an element of vintage, and this brooch is so special,” she says. “It was made in London in 1939 at the London workshop on New Bond Street, so it feels special for it to be worn to the BAFTAs in the city it was made in. It’s also unique in that Paul is only wearing one half of it – we had contemplated him wearing each half on either lapel, but settled on just one side, with it seemingly appearing from beneath the lapel.”
Now, the Academy Awards beckon for Paul and his stylist, who have something of a routine at this point when it comes to red-carpet prep. “Paul and I are both Mitski fans, so ‘Your Best American Girl’ has been on repeat,” says Felicity. The other essential? A pre-event cocktail in the shape of Sergeant Peppers. “Similar to a Picante – but with a pineapple kick.”