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July 25 2014

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Dressing for Fame: Stylist and A.L.C. Designer Andrea Lieberman on What Women Want

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andrea-liebermanIf celebrity status is conferred in red-carpet appearances, then no actress today can compete without the help of just the right stylist. As Kerry Washington once told Glamour after she noticeably upped the sartorial ante, “There were a couple of actresses whom I felt were having the upper hand careerwise—because they knew how to work that red carpet.” A carefully crafted collaboration between stylist and client, the perfect look can create an indelible impact on agents, casting directors, and those of us watching from the sidelines. Straight from the epicenter of all things celebrity, we’ve asked some of the industry’s top stylists to share their experiences and impressions from their perch above Tinseltown. With our Dressing for Fame series, we bring you an exclusive, insider look at everything it takes to create those iconic moments captured by a million photo flashes.

Andrea Lieberman is a rare breed of stylist. A success story at styling, no doubt (she put J.Lo on the map in that plunging Versace at the Grammys), Lieberman harnessed that success into A.L.C., her well-received contemporary collection that seems to set the standard of cool season after season. With one foot still delicately placed in the world of styling and one firmly planted in design, the stylist-slash-designer talks exclusively to Style.com about going through the Valentino archives, her friend Arianne Phillips, working with J.Lo, and more.

You’ve done a lot of work styling music artists. Is there anything about styling for music artists that you’ve found different from styling celebrities in general?
My background was always very much a music background. For me, I really enjoyed that collaborative effort and creating a whole image, like an art director. It was more about collaborating on their image and touring and costuming and just really creating a look to go along with the vibe of where the album was.

What compelled you to start designing?
I immersed myself at a young age growing up in New York in the world of fashion, whether it was internships to retail to helping out friends who were stylists. Arianne Phillips is a very dear friend and has always been a huge inspiration of mine. I remember when I met her when we were both young and hanging out in New York. She was one of the first people I knew who worked on music, so she was quite inspiring. In terms of when I made the decision, it was just organic for me, and it felt right at that time in my life. I had a great time styling for ten years, and it was time for me to start a family and shake things up.

Do you think your styling career has informed your design career and vice versa?
As a stylist, you understand women and their wardrobe needs. Whether it’s an artist or a more average person, how they take things from the runway and make it a reality is an interesting thing. That’s how people actually wear things, and I think that’s why there’s been so many street-style blogs. I understand the emotional connection of women getting dressed, what makes them feel good, and what they put on to say, “This makes me feel good, this is what makes me feel strong.” I think from dressing women who were not models, you understand this emotion.

You’re well known for certain looks that you dressed your clients in. Is there one that sticks out to you as your favorite red-carpet moment?
For me, there are quieter moments that might not have gotten attention like the other moments. I had access to the Valentino archives for the Oscars one year (when there was no red carpet) and dressed Jennifer Lopez in a beautiful mint green Valentino dress that [had been] worn by Jackie O. That was a majorly beautiful moment. And I worked with Fred Leighton, and we made these amazing maharaja-inspired earrings out of all platinum and diamonds.

Do you want to be remembered or regarded as a stylist or a designer? Or both?
I just want to be present. Obviously, both. Styling was a really important part of my journey, but maybe I’ll be remembered for the next thing that I do.

Model Elettra Wiedemann Rethinks the Word “Foodie”

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elettraThe fashion set hasn’t always made room on its plate for food. (Champagne, cigarettes, and a little caviar are all an exception to the rule, if they can be counted as that.) But the tides have changed and food and fashion have never been more entwined. Credit people like Bon Appétit editor in chief Adam Rapoport (formerly of GQ) or models like Karlie Kloss and her cookie collaboration with Momofuku Milk Bar for blending the two worlds together. But the focus isn’t just eating and cooking great dishes, it’s about being conscious of where and how the food was produced.

Cue model Elettra Wiedemann, who just added her own contribution to the culinary scene with her newly launched site, Impatient Foodie. The site is targeted toward people who “want to make responsible food choices but feel overwhelmed sometimes,” Wiedemann, who studied the connection between public health and sustainability at the London School of Economics, tells Style.com. That doesn’t mean she’s created a site loaded with juice recipes—every Thursday, for example, she posts cocktail recipes in the Thirsty Thursday section. We caught up with Wiedemann to hear more about being both a model and a foodie, fashion’s relationship with food, and her new site. Here’s what she had to say.

What is the new definition of a “foodie,” in your opinion?
For me, a foodie is someone who loves to eat food but also wants to be thoughtful about where their food comes from.

In the past, being a foodie and a model hasn’t been a very common pairing. How has your career as a model impacted your relationship with food?
As far as modeling and food, when I was a kid I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it, and didn’t think about health, nutrition, or size at all. Then I started modeling and I had to teach myself how to eat in a new way—namely, lighter and healthier. But I also loved experimenting in the kitchen and re-creating my favorite childhood meals with healthier ingredients. I can credit modeling with refining my palate in a lot of ways.

Fashion has always had a fickle relationship with food. How do you think that is changing right now?
In my experience, fashion is not just about clothes and accessories, but also about artisanship and stories. That is also true of food and where I see American food culture moving today. I think now there is a turn toward connecting to our food and where it comes from for the sake of our own health and the health of our families and communities. For me, excellent, fresh food that can be traced to its producer is the most luxurious and special thing. Also, food magazines have clearly been influenced by fashion magazines in their aesthetic and lifestyle angle.

Strawberry Clafoutis

Yes, food culture has definitely become more ingrained in fashion culture in recent years. Do you think food and fashion is a trend, or is it just a way of life at this point?
I think there are some food trends, but like I said before, once you try excellent food it’s very hard to turn back. I really want to make responsible food choices, but I also have a hectic professional life. We are all hooked on convenience, and in my opinion, that is what seasonal food purveyors need to start addressing. This is incredibly difficult because so much about local, seasonal, responsibly sourced food is totally incongruous with the industrial scale food model that dominates today.

What has been your greatest cooking catastrophe?
There are so many, it’s hard to know where to begin. Unlike other food sites, I share my fails on Impatient Foodie. For example, if you look on the site right now, I talk about how making homemade mozzarella totally sucks and is not “so easy,” like other food sites brag. It’s so not easy. It’s complicated and requires a lot of time and you need to buy things like a nonreactive pan. Forget it—just go buy some at the store or the farmers’ market.

What can we expect from your site in the near future?
We have a Friends section on the site where I share recipes and dishes from my fashion and film friends. My question for them is always, “What are you cooking after a long day at the office or on set?” I’ve gotten back some fantastic dishes so far. My IMO pieces will be my take on various food issues of the day, and I try to connect it to recipes. For example, I’m researching tuna right now and, because it’s so endangered, trying to create dishes that would substitute tuna for another fish. I know we all love tuna, but we have almost completely decimated the population. I think to say to “never eat tuna again” will not work, but how about just eating it once a month and figuring out other alternatives?

Photos: Kevin Sinclair; Davide Luciano with food styling by Claudia Ficca

Q&A: Lanvin’s Elie Top Is Launching High Jewelry, Was Bottle-Fed Chanel

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Elie TopElie Top, the fashion jewelry designer behind Lanvin’s remarkable baubles, announced today that he would launch a line of precious and semi-precious jewelry during the Couture shows in January. In an exclusive interview, Top spoke with Style.com about his lifelong influences, his friendships with Alber Elbaz and Loulou de la Falaise, and how he intends to handle high fashion as he ventures into the ever-expanding “haute jo” [high jewelry] category.

Finally! What convinced you to take the leap?
I’ve always had the idea of doing my own jewelry, but it was really about meeting the right people at the right time, ¬plus I’m not sure I was creatively mature enough before. And then there came a time to decide, and that’s when I met all the right people at the right time. They all complement each other. It was a good match. I’m really happy about it.

How do you envision your own brand?
I consider it sort of haute fantasy jewelry based on my experience in
costume jewelry. I want to take advantage of all the sophisticated techniques and possibilities high jewelry offers. For me, it’s a natural extension of my aesthetic and my taste for couture and costume jewelry, recast through the prism of high jewelry. I’m very French, so it will be a French brand, entirely. We’ll have a little salon where I can receive clients and design exclusive pieces. I’m obsessed with doing things myself from beginning to end. The point is to remain exclusive without being elitist.

Who do you look to from the past to define that style?
There are my basic-basics: I was practically bottle-fed on Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, who are the foundation of fashion jewelry in the noblest sense. There are so many things I love: Art Deco, Despres, Fouquet; then Boivin and Belperron are always hovering in the background.

But a lot is about what I feel like now and the season, because I live in the world of fashion. It could be Belle Époque garlands one minute, or something very Baroque the next. And it’s not just jewelry—earlier this year I saw Einstein on the Beach in Paris and it was phenomenal, just extraordinary. But architecture, especially Art Deco, has always been important to me. I am always torn between that and things I loved as a child.

Which were?
Versailles, Vaux le Vicomte, Venice, Rome, and churches in general. From a young age I was crazy for Baroque. I would spend hours drawing my own meticulously detailed churches and castles that were a total mash-up of Italian Baroque and French classicism. My parents were kind of post-68 hippies—they had no idea what to do with that. Later I discovered the more radical, pure modern art of the inter-war period, which influenced me in terms of line and is much more mechanical, industrial, and constructed. So my aesthetic centers on two contradictory codes. It’s like a morganatic marriage between fantasy and nobility. At some point, much later, it dawned on me that I’m still doing what I was doing when I was 8 years old. Right now I’m calling it futuristico-Baroque. It’s an improbable fusion of two worlds.

What’s the storyline for your first collection?
There are many stories that compose the same story, about twenty pieces in all. I’m not obsessed by the value of the stone itself; for me, it’s more about design, conception, volumes, etc. If the stone is very important, that’s great, but I hope the value will be in the work itself. I’m totally not interested in doing just a diamond necklace. I love the
possibilities of mixing things up.

What did Alber Elbaz say about your decision?
He’s always been supportive; it’s a conversation we’d had for a long time. That was liberating, because he always told me I should be thinking about that, that it was important. I was just starting as an assistant when we met, when he joined Yves Saint Laurent. He’s the one who put me to work on accessories and jewelry fifteen years ago. I consider myself very lucky to have met him when I did. The same goes for Loulou.

What was your relationship with Loulou de la Falaise?
Love and admiration. She and Alber were the biggest influences in my life
between the ages of 20 and 30, and she was very intuitive. When it came to jewelry, among other things, she was so un-bourgeois; there was no snobbery, just a love of beauty. She didn’t overthink fashion, she just threw pieces together and it came out great. Precious things are not always what the world says they are. It can come in all sorts of shapes.

How will you juggle Lanvin and Top?
It’s easy for me, because its not the same story. What I do for Lanvin is for Alber—it’s guided by his collection, and it’s about the clothes and his world. But it’s costume jewelry, and it’s subject to the fashion calendar. High jewelry is based on other techniques, so I wind up doing something completely different. But I’m used to working a lot—I love it. Eventually I’d like to do other lifestyle objects, too. I’m only just getting started!

Photos: François Goizé

Dressing for Fame: Erin Walsh Talks Kerry Washington, Red-Carpet Make-Believe, and the Art of Collaboration

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If celebrity status is conferred in red-carpet appearances, then no actress today can compete without the help of just the right stylist. As Kerry Washington once told Glamour after she noticeably upped the sartorial ante, “There were a couple of actresses whom I felt were having the upper hand careerwise—because they knew how to work that red carpet.” A carefully crafted collaboration between stylist and client, the perfect look can create an indelible impact on agents, casting directors, and those of us watching from the sidelines. Straight from the epicenter of all things celebrity, we’ve asked some of the industry’s top stylists to share their experiences and impressions from their perch above Tinseltown. With our Dressing for Fame series, we bring you an exclusive, insider look at everything it takes to create those iconic moments captured by a million photo flashes.

Erin Walsh

erinWhen Kerry Washington began making sartorial waves on the red carpet last year, the effort was nothing if not strategic. Her understanding of the power of the red carpet—and those viral images—quickly shot her into the fashion stratosphere, with stylist Erin Walsh knowingly by her side. Walsh, who also counts Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristen Wiig, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as clients, continues to garner attention with her impeccable, take-notice looks that allow her actresses to stand out and shine through. Here, Walsh talks to Style.com about shooting in Irving Penn’s studio, the Samuel Beckett approach to styling, and the power of make-believe.

How did you get into styling?
I fell into it, really. I went to NYU for theater and was planning on becoming an actress. But after graduating and realizing that I was absolutely terrified of the business logistics (ahem, rejection), I immediately looked into other options. Ironically, everything I feared about the acting world is innate to this business as well! I had always loved writing, and thought maybe I could write for a magazine. I got a job in the fashion department of Vogue, thinking I could transfer to Features if things went well, but after my first time on set—in Irving Penn’s studio—it all just clicked. It felt right.

As the intro to ‘Dressing for Fame’ mentions, your client Kerry Washington talks about how actresses who know how to work the red carpet can have the upper hand careerwise. Why do you think that is?
You would have to ask Kerry for her opinion, but I do think that social media and the media in general have gotten completely insane. By being in the spotlight, you’re a part of [the insanity] anyways, so it certainly behooves you to manage the way you are seen. It gives you a certain degree of control in an arena that can be really overwhelming. Everyone has an opinion (albeit plenty of uninformed ones in this peanut gallery). It helps to do what you can to keep the reins in your own hands.

Kerry WashingtonHow do you think you’ve been able to help transform Kerry’s red-carpet personality?

We are a team! Period.

When dressing someone for promotional appearances vs. red carpet, what do you take into consideration? What helps you decide on a look?

I think there isn’t really a difference in what goes into press and red carpet. If you don’t apply the same thought process and consideration, I don’t really see the point. I think every look should always start from a point of ease. You should feel comfortable to look comfortable. A red-carpet version of yourself is elevated, same as press looks, but it should still start from the same canvas. You’re not dressing dolls, you’re dressing people, with character, points of view, and personalities to represent. It begins and ends with my clients, not me. I repeat, it’s not about me. I always take my ego out of it. I like to listen, hopefully inspire, and fill in the pieces, making things a little magical by exaggerating the terms of reality. Red carpet should be a place for make-believe, but it has a personal context. In more specific terms, you should look like yourself.

You style men and women for the red carpet. Which do you find more challenging?
I think it depends on the person, but there are definitely more possibilities with women, if only because of design logistics. Perhaps working with men can be more challenging in this respect because you have to find ways to be creative within a smaller box of options.

When working on editorial spreads, do you find it inspiring or challenging to work with other people? How do you stay true to your vision?
I love collaborating. You learn so much by listening. Obviously, you come to the table with a vision and ideas, but I find you learn the most by at least trying the ideas that others have to offer. If you know the story you want to tell, you keep that thread and try what works around it. It’s a very Samuel Beckett sort of mentality of throwing shit on the wall and seeing what sticks. But there is always a certain amount of risk involved in experimenting, especially considering the way the media feeds on these things. In any case, life is too short to not listen to those around you, and to try and find new ways to dream.

What are the day-to-day challenges you encounter with styling?
Logistics. The amount of merchandise trafficking around and getting things where they need to be—and on time! Getting everywhere on time, when there are only so many appointments you can fit into a day. Letting go of things after they happen. I am a perfectionist but also a realist, and in this business you would go mad quite quickly if you focused on all the “could have beens.” Keeping grace under fire—I like to pride myself on staying calm. Freaking out never helps. It’s only fashion, after all. There is always a way to fix it.

Photos: Courtesy Photo; Film Magic

Victoire de Castellane Talks Dior’s New Jewels

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Dior

Victoire de Castellane, the cerebral artistic director of Dior Joaillerie, has taken a new approach to high jewelry this season. The collection’s name, ArchiDior, plays on French shorthand for “architecture,” as well as a familiar term for “extreme.” So what does that tell us about the house’s latest jewels, a selection of which debut exclusively here? For starters, de Castellane turned away from the flora that so often informs her wares, and instead focused on the structural details found in Dior’s pristine garments of past and present. In the run-up to couture week, the designer took a moment to talk with Style.com about her childlike approach to design, rings that boast a thousand stones, and what sets this high-wattage collection apart from its predecessors.

What were the inspirations behind this new collection?
I started with a theme, Dior couture, and above all the idea of construction in fabric, which I adapted to gold. For Dior, I usually work with nature-inspired themes like roses, flowers, and so on. But this time I wanted to look at the work Dior did in his collections. Most of all, I had read that [when Dior was young] he wanted to be an architect. In some of his collections, he was really building constructions that were translated as cuts, pleats, geometry, and asymmetrical shapes. I thought it would be interesting to take those ideas and work them in metal, which is nothing at all like fabric.

Did you start with one iconic piece, or was it more abstract?
It was the lines: the Bar jacket was an inspiration, but so were the Ailée, Milieu du Siècle and Corolle lines, and such dresses as the Songe (haute couture, Spring/Summer 1947) and the Junon (Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 1949), among others.

Dior

How did you translate those garments and shapes into jewelry?
I like to injecting an idea and then working around it. There’s a point of departure, but it’s light, and it builds from there. ‘Literal’ is not my style; imagination takes over, and when you see the final piece you forget about [the inspiration] because every single one of them looks different depending on the angle from which you view it. For the Junon earrings, I set diamonds in black gold because I wanted to capture just the festive spirit of the dress, which is covered with paillettes. When it came to the Bar jacket, I designed a bracelet that’s cinched with an emerald and diamond baguettes on the ‘belt’ part. I reversed that same scheme for the ring, using a diamond and emerald baguettes. I incorporated the idea of the Miss Dior dress from Raf Simon’s first haute couture collection, which was covered in multicolored sequins like an Impressionist painting. So I took all the colors on that dress and adapted them to this bracelet. It’s a mix of modern couture colors and the Bar suit by Mr. Dior. At the same time, I wanted to give it my personal touch and slightly different volumes.

How do you reconcile architecture with movement?
Every dress moves in a certain way, but that aspect is just a detail in the final piece. The rest is asymmetrical, as if each piece were actually many jewels in one. Each face is always different.

Whimsy is one of your hallmarks. How does that come through in ArchiDior?
There’s a childlike feeling to the collection because I always work in a very spontaneous way. The technique is controlled, but I always forget my real age—when I’m working I feel like I’m five! There’s always joy. I can never work with something that bores me.

Soiree dress and Corolle Soir Rubis

What did you want to express with this collection?
I wanted to show how I work with figurative abstraction. I felt like I was exploring something that I had never done at Dior before, which was the mastery of curves, working outside of vegetal themes, and mixing unusual colors. Everyone does “couture” jewelry. It’s quite classic to depict animals and flowers. With ArchiDior, I wanted to create something new that had never been done this way. That’s why I thought it was really interesting to start with Dior dresses. And it was a real challenge. Some of our craftsmen with forty years of experience behind them found certain pieces so complex and spectacular that it took a year and a half to complete them. That’s what happened with the Ailée bracelet. And lots of rings have a thousand stones in them. There are so many incredible stories behind these pieces.

What’s the balance between the influence of Mr. Dior, that of Raf Simons, and your own vision?
It’s hard to say—all three are there, but it’s complicated. The foundations are Mr. Dior, there are Raf’s colors because he has a very special palette, there’s my taste, there’s what’s happening in couture now… it’s impossible to quantify. Ultimately, I think that’s something people will judge for themselves.

Photos: Courtesy of Dior, Sophie Carre