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With Rihanna’s highly anticipated Super Bowl LVII performance fast approaching on Sunday, Feb. 12, there is buzz aplenty about what the star and her long-time fashion stylist Jahleel Weaver have dreamt up for the occasion.
To get in the spirit, The Hollywood Reporter chatted with A-list stylists who masterminded the looks for three memorable halftime shows on game day. B. Akerlund, Nicolas Bru, and the team of Ty Hunter and Raquel Smith (who respectively styled Super Bowl acts for Madonna in 2012, Shakira in 2020, and Beyoncé in 2013) talk about what it takes to pull together a show-stopping Super Bowl halftime performance, from outfitting hundreds of backup dancers to orchestrating wardrobe changes in a split second.
Super Bowl LIV: Shakira in Peter Dundas
Fashion stylist Nicolas Bru was the force behind Shakira’s looks, designed by Peter Dundas, for the 2020 Super Bowl LIV halftime show in Miami Gardens. The stage was shared with Jennifer Lopez (who called it “the worst idea in the world” in Netflix documentary, Halftime) and the Latina artists’ combined time was just 14 minutes.
Shakira first stepped out in a Swarovski-encrusted, fringed red top and mini skirt, designed by Dundas, and matching bedazzled arm cuffs and knee-high boots by The Dan Life, who Bru says he discovered on Instagram. The boots alone incorporated 30,000 crystals.
“Engineering the outfits to work seamlessly, with practical solutions” was the greatest challenge, Bru tells THR. “We had to condense Shakira’s career into a six-minute set, and she’s touched on so many genres, so you go from pop to hard rock to belly dancing into salsa with Bad Bunny. Her look had to move from completely cinched in to very exposed with fringe, as she was walking. It’s not a regular concert, where you can step off stage and change. So we had dancers put things on her.
Someone hands her a guitar (covered completely in Swarovski crystals that took over a week to make) to hold in front of her stomach. For the belly dancing, we added a fringed skirt belt. Then for the salsa, she wanted to [cover up], so we had a drop-down on her top that made it longer. It had snaps and was tucked into her bra, so she pulled down to release it. That was the trickiest part.”
Bru adds, “We looked through the Super Bowl archives and I couldn’t find anyone who had worn red since Diana Ross in the Nineties. We got this deep crimson red and thousands of Swarovski crystals in two or three shades to give [the outfit] depth. Then Dan came to Miami and he was rhinestoning those boots for a week! She wore them during rehearsals and some of the crystals popped off and he would retouch them. Swarovski provided all of the crystals so generously. We kept saying, ‘We need more; we need more.’ They sent more packs and we just kept using them.”
Bru additionally dressed about 50 background dancers in custom one-leg crimson catsuits by L.A. Roxx that mimicked the iconic look from Shakira’s “She Wolf” video, all paired with custom-painted Sam Edelman boots. “She really wanted a whole red wave, so it was a big pop of color, and all the catsuits had different types of crystal embellishments,” says Bru. “Then we needed 50 pairs of the boots in the right sizes and right heel type, where the sole can bend in a certain way. I had this little moment, wondering, ‘Are they really sending them?’ We had to get them all to our painter and give him the exact Pantone color. But they were done in time.”
For Shakira’s return to stage with Lopez, Bru settled on gold ensembles for the dancers and the Colombian singer, whose 2018 concert was the El Dorado (meaning “gilded one” in Spanish) World Tour. Custom gold Adidas Superstar sneakers completed the bespoke crystal-embellished Dundas outfit with a cropped bomber. Lopez had landed on a silver look, so the singers’ metallics worked well together.
“During rehearsals, we had a team of eight tailors come in, because every time we modified something, everything had to be recut and recrystalled and resewn,” says Bru. “They weren’t easy garments to modify. We were working non-stop!”
Super Bowl XLVII: Beyoncé in Rubin Singer
Ty Hunter and Raquel Smith were the duo behind Beyoncé’s 2013 Super Bowl look, a leather bodysuit and skirt with Chantilly lace insets and a chrome-colored jacket created by fashion designer Rubin Singer. The 14-minute set and surprise reunion with Destiny’s Child bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams (also styled by Hunter and Smith) in New Orleans was one of the most-watched halftime shows in history, as was Beyoncé’s 2016 performance (styled by Marni Senofonte). The 2013 styling team included Timothy White, Senofonte (who helped style 10 band members in Balmain and other labels) and Beyoncé’s then-creative director, Jenke Ahmed Tailly.
Related: Beyoncé Stole the Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show, According to Twitter Users
Hunter, who currently styles Billy Porter, worked with Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child for 18 years, starting in 1999, as chronicled in his memoir, Makeover from Within (Chronicle Books), released in November. Smith interned at House of Dereon in 2007 and moved up to become one of Beyoncé’s personal stylists; she continues to work as a stylist and launched children’s eyewear brand, Kidraq, in 2017.
“We first had a meeting about how Beyoncé wants to feel and what she wants to look like; then Raquel and I contacted six or seven different designers and they did sketches,” Hunter tells THR of Super Bowl XLVII prep. “We didn’t let Beyoncé know who was who. We let her pick through the sketches she liked. I love that she’s more of an ‘if it’s hot, why not’ kind of person. If it’s quality and she feels beautiful in it, she’s on a rocket.
Then the designers bring them to life by making a muslin, the outfit in a cheaper fabric, to get the feel of it and to get the measurements down to a science. All the top designers were up for this job, but we ended up going with Rubin Singer, who was an up-and-coming designer. It changed his life, and he’s always making sure to let us know how grateful he was for that. He came with really hot sketches. The workmanship he did was a lot of delicate lace and hardcore leather and boning, so it had to be custom, to the point, to make sure that she had movement and that it was a comfortable fit.”
Singer, who did five fittings for Beyoncé’s look, also crafted costumes for Williams and the show’s 135 backup dancers. (Rowland’s leather bodysuit was custom Emilio Pucci.) While some publications reported 120 dancers, Hunter and Smith confirmed that the number was closer to 135. “The choreographer would say, ‘I think we need to fill in with 10 more dancers,'” says Hunter. “Adding that last minute was a whole process.”
Other challenges? “Making sure that all the outfits are fitting perfectly with the perfect undergarments, the shoes, it was a lot of women!” says Hunter. “And still last-minute alterations for B. Day of show, little tweaks were being done all the way up to when it was time for her to put it on. We made the lace a little bit higher on both sides. Rubin had to take it in a bit more in the waist. Making sure that all the zippers were perfect. It’s such a mega moment. Everybody’s tuned in that day. We did give her a minute, we did a prayer, but we were still sewing and zipping.”
The fact that the Destiny’s Child women hadn’t been together for a while was another factor. “Each girl came with a different flair, a different style, so they all had different looks,” says Hunter. “But at the last minute, the Prada [ankle] boots were so good and comfortable that we were trying to get them in for all of them. They had a chunkier, thicker high heel that was almost like an army boot, but in a feminine kind of silhouette, and Beyoncé loved the sturdy feeling. One pair was in Vegas, one was somewhere else. Trying to get them FedExed to New Orleans in time for the show was stressful.”
That wasn’t the only eleventh-hour accessories change-up. “We bought these expensive leather Sermoneta opera gloves and then we ended up having to cut the fingers out of the gloves with scissors at the last minute, so they could have a better grip, and it actually made them look a bit more edgy,” says Hunter.
The team shopped Capezio stores from coast to coast to stock piles of fishnet stockings, so every performer had extras. “And double-stick tape was our best friend to make sure everything stays intact,” adds Smith. “Sometimes we had to ride a golf cart to the stage and we would still be working, trying to make sure everything was perfect.”
Super Bowl XLVI: Madonna in Givenchy
The first female solo artist to headline the Super Bowl halftime show since Diana Ross in 1996, Madonna’s 12-minute performance in 2012 boasted an average 8,000 tweets per second for a solid five minutes, according to Twitter analytics. Stylist and costume designer B. Akerlund, also the co-owner of The Residency Experience showroom in West Hollywood and creator of the new Bootzy Couture pet apparel and accessories line, orchestrated Madonna’s Super Bowl XLVI look in Indianapolis. Three bespoke Givenchy haute couture ensembles, designed by Riccardo Tisci, were accessorized with a Phillip Treacy headpiece, Bulgari jewelry, and Miu Miu thigh-high boots.
“I was running in between all the dressing rooms, catering to Madonna, Nicki, M.I.A. and all the dancers at the same time to make sure every last detail was executed and everyone was happy,” says Akerlund, also tasked with dressing Nicki Minaj and M.I.A., who had cameos, as did L.M.F.A.O. and Cee Lo Green.
“It took something like 100+ hours and 30 people to hand bead Madonna’s embellished couture cape to make our deadline,” Akerlund tells THR, referring to the dramatic gold, leopard print chiffon-lined Givenchy number that Madonna wore to kick off the show. “The look changed many times before we settled on the final one … We actually changed the costume 48 hours before the show to incorporate last-minute changes from rehearsal. You have to be well-prepared way ahead of time, even when the outfit is still in progress, due to all the detailing and completion.”
Akerlund says that she and Madonna oversaw “an entire separate costume team” that was hired to dress 450 background performers in gladiator costumes. “Being that our theme was Roman, I did a lot of research and had people all over the world sourcing the best Roman accessories and props to make the show look authentic,” Akerlund says.
“There were [also] about 20 dancers, besides Madonna, and we rehearsed for months ahead, with all the headgear and accessories,” Akerlund continues. “By the time we came to showtime, I was scared it was all gonna break! The biggest challenge styling a live show like this is that it’s live and nothing can go wrong, since you have 110 million people watching and judging the performance. All quick changes have to be seamless and you have to plan ahead with layers. Every second counts.”
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