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13 posts tagged "Kerry Washington"

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.

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

“RuPaul Is Kind of the Ultimate Supermodel,” and More Musings From Parsons Honoree Jason Wu

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Jason Wu

With his Hugo Boss debut and thriving eponymous line, Jason Wu is having a banner year. So it comes as little surprise that the 31-year-old Taiwanese-Canadian designer is picking up the top honor at Parsons’ 2014 Fashion Benefit, which is set for tomorrow evening. Ahead of the festivities, Wu, who’s both a Parsons alum and—fun fact—a former toy designer, took time away from wrapping his forthcoming Resort collection to speak with Style.com about his secrets to success, New York fashion’s changing landscape, and his obsession with RuPaul.

Congratulations on the Parsons honor. Considering you studied at the school, do you feel you’ve come full circle?
I’ve kind of come full circle because I moved here in 2001 for my first year at Parsons. So it’s nice to go back and be a part of this new generation of the school, which has taught me a lot and done so much for me. It’s a very nice honor and I’m very proud. But I don’t think I’ve made it—at all. I think I’ve hit a nice moment in my career and it feels great to have your peers and people in your industry acknowledge your work. But that’s not to say that there’s not much more work to do.

Between your debut at Hugo Boss, the success of your own line, and now this award, it seems that you’ve really hit your stride this year.
I don’t know. I always think there’s more to do, so I never think I’ve hit my stride. I always want more and want to do more, but certainly I think it’s been a great year so far, having done two shows in New York for the first time, and then getting this award. I guess that comes with age and experience and just doing it for a while. And I guess I’m getting a little better at it.

Do people look at you differently now that you’ve become the big man at Boss?
I don’t know if I’ve knocked it out of the park yet, but I think we had a really successful first show and I guess people look at me a little more like a grown-up, a big person.

Do you feel like a grown-up?
Yeah, I feel a little older. I guess that means grown-up. Definitely achier.

Jason Wu

Your Boss show was quite the star-studded event, and Jennifer Lawrence just wore a gown from your Fall collection to the world premiere of X-Men: Days of Future Past. What role does celebrity dressing play in a designer’s success?
Having people you admire wear your clothes in a very public way is inspiring, and it’s also a great way to get your work out there. It’s a great form of advertising. But for me it’s always about quality, not quantity, and it’s about dressing the few girls that I love. I’ve always been very loyal to Diane Kruger, Reese Witherspoon, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Kerry Washington—those are girls I dress over and over and over again. And you really develop a rapport and a friendship and a relationship. It goes back to the days when Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn, and Catherine Deneuve and Yves Saint Laurent, had those relationships that went [beyond commerciality]. Those were true relationships. It’s great to continue that tradition.

Can a young designer make it these days without a celebrity bump?
Everyone does it differently. There are some people who make clothes that are more appropriate for a red carpet and there are some people who don’t. I’m not sure if it’s a do-or-die situation, but you do have to seek exposure in your own way, in a way that’s right for your brand.

Jennifer LawrenceHow did you come to dress Jennifer Lawrence for her X-Men premiere? Was that a big moment for you?

Yeah. Actually, we just found out [the day before]. I had no idea. I think there’s something so incredibly human about her. That’s why people love her so much—she’s so relatable. She shows a little imperfection—which we all have—and still looks stunning.

You mentioned that people like seeing imperfection in public figures. With that in mind, people seem to like you a lot. What’s your imperfection?

My imperfection is that I’m not as perfect as people seem to think I am. There’s a sense of controlled, sophisticated ideas in my clothes that are quite neat, and I think people sometimes think I’m that, but I’m not.

Are you messy?
I’m actually not messy. I’m terrible at waking up early. I’m terrible at a lot of things. I’m terrible at technology—anything computer-oriented. And I’m terrible at making anything on time, which I’m really working on. Actually, at Parsons, I was always really late, and you can’t be late at Parsons. You really get into trouble.

You, along with Alexander Wang, Prabal Gurung, Joseph Altuzarra, etc., are part of New York’s new guard. How do you think the creative climate here is changing?
Right now, New York fashion week is at its best. We have the most young talent [succeeding] at the same time for the first time in a long, long while, and this is the first time that we’ve really been acknowledged on an international level in a long time. That has to do with the fact that our generation’s outlook is global, rather than local. If you look at Style.com, you can read that anywhere in the world. That certainly helps. Having that kind of recognition all over the world is something that is quite rare. We’re experiencing something of a moment, a movement.

Why is that, do you think?
It is, in so many ways, New York’s time. All [of the young designers] in New York come from different international backgrounds. I think that’s a very nice representation of what New York fashion is about—it’s about diversity; it’s about fresh ideas; it’s about making its own statement, because we don’t have the hundreds of years of history. We’re really still, as a whole, quite new at it.

Jason Wu Fall 14

Do you remember how you felt when you were designing your Parsons graduate collection?
It’s so funny because I went to Parsons and my major was menswear, yet I make the most fit-and-flare dresses you could possibly imagine. I guess after going to the very masculine side, I felt like I was much more comfortable in the very feminine side, and eventually the combination of the two became my work as we know it today.

Why were you initially drawn to menswear?
I always liked the idea of tailoring. I always felt making a jacket was the most difficult thing, and it is still the most difficult. Sometimes the cleanest things with the least amount of details are the most intricate.

What do fashion students need to know that isn’t necessarily taught in school?
It’s that the fashion industry isn’t by-the-books. It’s not about following one specific route, it’s about paving your own way and making it your own. That’s what makes fashion interesting—individual visions—and not one person breaks through in the same way. We all get into it slightly differently—I worked in toys first.

Speaking of toys, I read that back in the day, you did a RuPaul doll?
I worked with RuPaul once! It was a long time ago. We made a RuPaul doll and it was wildly successful and that’s how I met him. Of course, RuPaul’s Drag Race is my favorite show ever. It’s like the best show on television. RuPaul is kind of the ultimate supermodel, and I have an obsession with supermodels.

Jason Wu RuPaul

Does your former life as a toy designer ever inform your fashion designs?
Attention to detail is what links my work as a toy designer and a fashion designer. Most people say I went from dressing toy dolls to real dolls. That’s kind of the press-y version of it. But in actuality, I did everything from designing the sculptural form of the dolls to the industrialization of the molds to the manufacturing. I always knew how to create a really good product, and I think that experience primed me for this industry.

How important has business savvy been to your success?
The balance between creativity and business-savvy is something that every young designer needs to be aware of, because it’s the reality of our industry. Having that balance is something that my generation of New York designers really thinks about.

What is your advice to fashion students who want to be the next Jason Wu?
I don’t know if they do want to be the next Jason Wu! But my advice is seize every opportunity and work hard. It sounds so obvious to say that, but the glamour of the industry can get distracting sometimes, and at the end of the day it’s about the work. I work weekends all the time—there’s no such thing as overtime for me because my own time is overtime. And I don’t have any vacations, so cancel those family plans.

Photo: Alessandro Garofalo / Indigitalimages.com; Leandro Justen/BFANYC.com; FilmMagic; Alessandro Garofalo / Indigitalimages.com; Getty Images

Are Celebrities the New Fashion Critics? No, Not Really

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86th Annual Academy Awards - Red Carpet

Unfortunately, The Hills‘ opinionated but not terribly enlightened Kristin Cavallari launches her new fashion show, The Fabulist, on E! tonight. This morning, Fashionista tapped into an interesting conversation: What on earth gives celebrities such as Cavallari the gall to knight themselves fashion experts? The story’s headline asked, “Are Celebrities the New Fashion Critics?” Although the article went on to defend reputable, old-school journalists, like Style.com’s own Tim Blanks, it seemed to imply that the public may be inclined to turn to celebrities as their go-to fashion reviewers rather than, well, actual critics.

Celebrities’ fashion thoughts are often (but, of course, not always) molded by their skilled stylists and sponsors. And while Fashionista did not suggest that stars are the educated voice of fashion reason, it did refer to them as fashion critics. This caused me to raise an eyebrow, and it leads us to the question: What is a fashion critic? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe a fashion critic is an informed, hopefully unbiased individual who can discuss a collection’s or garment’s merits and/or downfalls in both a broader fashion context and, more important, a broader cultural context. It takes a certain knowledge base to do that.

During a 2010 interview with Style.com’s editor in chief Dirk Standen, Cathy Horyn noted, “Right now we have a lot of people who are coming at [fashion journalism] from left field, and they can have some really wonderful insights into fashion and they can see it from their generation, which is fantastic…But then there’s also just the question of the knowledge about it, the span of time, so you can make judgments and conclusions that reflect the sense of history.” I hardly think that Kerry Washington can do that while judging Project Runway. Kelly Osbourne certainly doesn’t do it on Fashion Police, and even the savvy Rihanna doesn’t bring that kind of expertise to the table on her show, Styled to Rock. Celebrities’ commentary about the sartorial coups or disasters we see on the red carpet or reality TV are indeed entertaining, but criticism isn’t merely about cutting takedowns and gushing praise—it’s about the bigger picture.

“Traditional criticism set standards, so traditional critics wielded enormous amounts of power,” Tim Blanks once told me. “But the role of fashion criticism now is to express an opinion as lucidly, as graphically, and as entertainingly as you can.”

Stars are undoubtedly fashion influencers—just look at how Rihanna’s choice to wear Melitta Baumeister and Hyein Seo in Paris raised the up-and-comers’ profiles. But critics? Hardly. Now, I’m not saying that celebrity, or general, opinions are invalid or unimportant. I’m just saying that they’re not criticism. There is room for all sorts of musings—and all are welcome. The viewpoints of celebrities, consumers, style obsessives, critics, and beyond all work together to create a narrative, however, looking back thirty years from now, Cavallari’s comment during E!’s Oscars preshow that “Lupita has been killing it this season” won’t really tell us anything.

Will the general public gravitate toward celebrities rather than journalists for criticism? Sure, they’ll tune in to TV shows and celeb Twitter accounts to be amused (it is funny watching Joan Rivers rip apart red-carpet looks), but if they want the facts, they’ll come to the critics. As Vanessa Friedman told me in an interview last week, “There will always be a need for some sort of analysis and an informed opinion, and despite all the white noise and opinions we see on social media, people still want real information and facts.” I have to believe that this hunger for knowledge isn’t in spite of fashion’s increasing presence and importance in popular and celebrity culture, it’s because of it.

We need to be careful how we throw around the phrase “fashion critic.” Let’s not do to it what fashion writing has done to “iconic” or “chic”—that is to say, make it meaningless. Because what critics write does have meaning, and purpose, and I’d like to keep it that way.

Photo: Getty Images

Runway to Red Carpet: Pre-Oscar Fetes and a Well-Heeled Actress-Turned-Entrepreneur

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LupitaAs the Oscar countdown draws to a close, the celebrity set kept busy this week with a multitude of parties, premieres, and the final award show leading up to the season’s main event. For Saturday’s NAACP Image Awards in Hollywood, Lupita Nyong’o chose a plunging earth-toned Givenchy dress, a red-carpet first for her, from the Pre-Fall ’14 lineup. Nyong’o added another trophy to her growing collection that evening, taking home the statue for Outstanding Supporting Actress. A radiant Kerry Washington accepted several awards, including Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series for her role on Scandal, in a custom navy and peach silk Thakoon gown.

On Tuesday, Naomi Watts hosted Bulgari’s pre-Oscar fete that brought out stars such as Kate Hudson, Olivia Munn, and Dianna Agron to celebrate “Decades of Glamour” in Hollywood. Watts chose a look fresh off the Fall ’14 runway: Altuzarra’s black column with magenta and orange accents.

The famously well-heeled Sarah Jessica Parker turned her love of footwear into more than a hobby when she launched her namesake SJP Collection this week. On Wednesday, the actress feted the opening of her Nordstrom pop-up shop in New York, stepping out in a pale pink Valentino frock hemmed with black lace, paired with green sandals from her own collection, which launches today.

Here, more of this week’s red-carpet highlights.

Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images