Dressing for Fame: Kemal Harris, Stylist to Robin Wright and Idina Menzel, on Making Sure Her Clients Never Show Up Naked-------
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.
As one part of the bicoastal styling team of Kemal & Karla, Kemal Harris brings her New York sensibility to her enviable roster of clients. Whether she’s shaping Robin Wright’s killer figure in a custom backless Ralph Lauren jumpsuit or helping Idina Menzel realize her red-carpet potential from behind that powerhouse voice, Harris has a singular aesthetic that draws on both contemporary and historical fashion. Here, she talks exclusively with Style.com about why styling as a pair keeps clients covered, how Feist changed her career, and why she’ll never be a yes-man.
How did you originally form your partnership with Karla Welch?
We met at fashion week through a mutual friend and always kept in touch. I was working with the singer Feist here in New York and connected her with Karla for her L.A. appearances, and through that connection, our bicoastal styling team was born.
What is the process like working as a duo?
Well, clients are never in one spot for very long. Their movie will premiere in L.A., and then they fly to NYC for all the press appearances. I live in NY and Karla is in L.A., so it certainly doesn’t hurt that no matter where they go, we can make sure they’re never naked.
Do you think there is a certain sensibility you’re expected to maintain as a New York-based stylist, as opposed to being in L.A.?
It’s a fact that editorial styling is much different than styling for the red carpet. They almost require different sides of the brain, and neither is easier than the other. Regardless of what medium you’re working in, I think it helps to have a very strong sense of your aesthetic, the sensibilities and requirements of your clients, and an almost preternatural grasp of how garments will photograph.
Do you think your clients expect something specific from you, and if so, what is that?
Personally, I think it’s so important for a stylist to be honest and straightforward with their clients. They’re depending on us to make sure they look their best on their big night. An effective stylist is not a yes-man.
Red dresses flooded the red carpet at the Emmy Awards on Monday night, but Natasha Lyonne’s ocean blue, mermaid-shaped number stood out. Lacy, long-sleeved, with a hint of ’80s prom, the dress looked stunning on the Orange Is the New Black bad girl and was one of our top picks of the night. The piece was custom-made by Opening Ceremony, so we asked cofounder and designer Humberto Leon to tell us a little about it.
How did you decide on the silhouette of the dress?Natasha originally fell in love with a dress from Opening Ceremony’s Pre-Fall 2013 runway, and we worked with Karla Welch, her stylist, to adapt it for the Emmys.
Tell us about making the dress.
The process of designing the dress for Natasha was really organic and felt natural. We’ve been friends for a long time and were so excited to have her wear Opening Ceremony at the Emmys.
Anyone else you thought looked particularly great Monday night?
We loved Mindy Kaling in Kenzo, of course! Carrie Brownstein also looked amazing.
Every day, Style.com’s editors reveal their current obsessions—and where to buy them. Check out today’s pick, below.
My Alaïa obsession is second only to my Comme des Garçons addiction, so when I received an e-mail today that Resurrection Vintage got in a black Alaïa zipper dress from 1986 (a favorite of Grace Jones’), my heart skipped a beat. To say this saucy little number, whose swirling zips are almost Charles Jamesian, is timeless would be a gross understatement. It’s going to look divine when paired with high-heeled booties or even my Prada combat boots. The only question remaining is, if I plan on donning it with the hood up, can I still wear a hat?
Alaïa black hooded zipper dress, price upon request. For more information, visit resurrectionvintage.com.
Stockholm fashion week began yesterday, and since we can’t be there to report on the collections, Swedish label Cheap Monday is live-streaming its show right here on Style.com. This season’s lineup, titled “Mindless Optimism,” is all about childish naïveté—think bows, puff sleeves, and scribbly prints—mixed with punk-inspired checked shirts and bleached unisex jeans. (You read that correctly: Even boys can wear the “Spray-On” skinny jeans.) Watch the live show, above, and check back later this week for our daily Stockholm street-style updates.
Nicki Minaj, clad in a green sequined two-piece, gyrated her hips and thrust her backside in the air onstage at Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards as she belted out the lyrics to her song “Anaconda.”
“Oh, my gosh, look at her butt/Look at her butt/Look at her butt,” she sang.
Minutes later, pop singer Jessie J (who opened the show alongside Minaj and Ariana Grande) took the stage to perform her hit “Bang Bang.”
The opening lines of the song? “She got a body like an hourglass/But I can give it to you all the time/She got a booty like a Cadillac/But I can send you into overdrive.” Later that night, during her introduction for Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora’s “Black Widow” performance, Jennifer Lopez teased her new “Booty” remix with Azalea, which dropped yesterday. (The original version of the track was released on Lopez’s A.K.A. album, featuring Mr. Worldwide.)
The original chorus (“Big, big booty/What you got a big booty”) remains unchanged. But in the remix, Azalea raps, “The last time the world seen a booty this good it was on Jenny from the block.”
It was, after all, Lopez who originally kicked off the butt fad back in 2000 with her plunging, derriere-hugging Versace ensemble. “It started when J.Lo showed up in that green see-through dress at the Grammys,” says Dr. Constantino G. Mendieta, a Miami-based plastic surgeon who is the author of The Art of Gluteal Sculpting and a globally recognized expert on the subject of butt augmentation. “After they saw her, people started asking us, ‘Hey, how can I get a backside like that?’”
Ten years ago, women were enhancing their backside shape through silicone implants. Today, however, a quickly growing percentage of women (and even men) are increasing the size and changing the shape of their butts through fat injections, a process better known as the Brazilian Butt Lift. The cost of such a procedure, which can increase your butt size roughly one to two full sizes, can be upwards of a cool $10,000.
“It’s revolutionary what is happening to the backside,” Mendieta tells us. “If you look at the statistics, the number of people getting this procedure went up 53 percent from last year. Nothing else increased in our statistics like butt injections did in the past year, so you are certainly on to something.”
No doubt, butts have never been bigger, both in physical size and as a cultural phenomenon (umm…#belfies, translation: butt selfies). Sunday night’s VMA show only further cemented it. Not only were the performers riffing on booties, they were flaunting their own hourglass shapes, too. Minaj’s and Azalea’s rear ends received more attention—and resulting social media commentary—than most of the show. (There’s now even an app called Tap That, where you can digitally enhance the size of some of the most famous butts out there, including Minaj’s, Azalea’s, Beyoncé’s, and, of course, Kim Kardashian West’s. )
It’s the shapely derrieres of celebs like Beyoncé and Kardashian West (who was fittingly sitting front-row at Sunday night’s show) that’s inspiring women and men to go under the needle. And for those going after something slightly more conservative in scale, the Pippa Middleton treatment is being heavily requested these days.
“Many patients will refer to celebrities when trying to convey the look they desire,” says Dr. Adam Schaffner, a New York-based, board-certified plastic surgeon. “Celebrities with buttocks which are admired by many patients include Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, and Kim Kardashian,” he confirms.
Officially, the jury is still out as to whether or not those bold-face names woke up like that, or if they got a little help from their white-coated friends. Nicole Winhoffer, trainer to Madonna, helps ladies get kick-ass booties the old-fashioned way: a hard-core sweat. (This reporter can testify—I took several of her classes and could not walk for days after.)
Winhoffer, who didn’t want to comment on anyone’s plastic surgery, says, “It’s possible to completely change the shape and size of your butt—it’s just about sculpting your butt using different angles, changing the muscle memory, and working with the right trainer.”
Several of the doctors we consulted, however, said that while you can get a great shape from loads of squats and working out, the effects are different than when you add fat volume through injections.
“You can tell a butt when it’s been made. There is more volume in the upper part, it’s more round, and the volumes are not where they are naturally,” says Mendieta. “A butt that is built looks beautiful, but it’s like when you walk into a room and something has been misplaced. You know something has been changed.”
No matter how they got their booties, these ladies are helping to lead a body-positive message. “You have Kim K. and different models really using their butts to promote themselves,” says Winhoffer. “But I love that they are curvy and they love themselves. If you have the power to change the world and you have people paying attention to you—either through social or whatever—and you use it the right way for the right message, I am all for that.”
One thing is clear: The message in pop culture right now is that your backside can be your greatest asset. Beyoncé, for her part, came on top of Forbes‘ 100 Most Powerful Celebrities list this year, raking in $115 million in earnings. Kardashian West brought in an estimated $28 million and also made the Forbes Top 100 list. Azalea is currently the only artist since The Beatles to have the number one and number two record in the country at the same time.
And as for the original face of the booty campaign, Jennifer Lopez? At the end of the day, she’s still Jenny from the Block, but the 45-year-old force to be reckoned with raked in $37 million in the past year and came in 33rd on the 2014 Forbes Top Celebrity 100 list. Used to be a little, now she’s got a lot.