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To the casual observer, the fashion industry and all the glamorous red carpets, runways, photo shoots and campaigns where its wares are presented, posed and fawned over, the business can, at the very least, seem sprawling and intimidating.
But when you get a chance to peek behind the curtain — like The Hollywood Reporter did on Tuesday night during an intimate dinner co-hosted with Jimmy Choo at West Hollywood’s Sunset Tower to celebrate the magazine’s annual 25 Most Powerful Stylists list — the façade is stripped away to reveal something much more personal, familial even.
Actually, the most fitting description would be a family reunion — that is, if your relatives wear Loewe, Chanel or vintage Paco Rabanne paired with a chic pair of Jimmy Choos. But don’t take our word for it, trust real-life siblings Elle and Dakota Fanning, who arrived together with their personal power stylist, honoree Samantha McMillen. (Check out more photos of the event.)
“No one deserves this more than Samantha,” Elle explained, with Dakota finishing the thought only like an older sister could do: “Like Elle said, she’s really part of our family. We see her outside of all the fun styling things that we get to do, and she’s the most hardworking and unassuming person. She doesn’t want any of the lights on her, but she really does deserve it.”
Dakota, in Loewe (“with a flower stuck on my boob”), described McMillan’s role in their lives as someone who not only creates magic through their ensembles but acts as a loving, supportive force to bring out their best, much like — you guessed it — a trusted family member. “She’s someone who helps you to feel your best or however you want to feel in any particular moment. Stylists help you to feel comfortable in your own body; you’re literally very intimate with them because you’re naked half the time. It’s having someone who understands your personality, your body and your vibe so much that it makes everything come to life in the best way possible.”
Not only did the event mark the in-person return of the stylish affair after several years off during the COVID pandemic, but the list itself got a modern makeover that removed rankings from No. 1 through 25 in favor of celebrating the town’s top image makers as a totality. That said, veteran stylist Elizabeth Stewart did receive a covetable spotlight as THR’s Stylist of the Year thanks to a standout run collaborating with clients like Cate Blanchett (a champion of eco-conscious ensembles) and Viola Davis during awards season.
For some in attendance, seeing their name on the list delivered a déjà vu moment. Stylist Erin Walsh, who returned as an honoree, expressed gratitude for snagging a place once again. The night just so happened to coincide with her nine-year wedding anniversary with husband Christian Högstedt, who joined for the evening alongside client Lucy Hale. “I think that a lot of people have very jaded ideas about Hollywood, red carpets and all of it, but I believe that there is a really wonderful power to putting a spotlight on people who have something to say. Being a part of making people feel more beautiful, I think, is a way to allow our souls to shine.”
Hale was happy to pass that shine back Walsh’s way. Speaking directly to her, she offered, “You’re a visionary and so gifted and talented with what you do. But what makes Erin so special is that she’s an exceptional woman. When you talk about being a light in an industry that needs more of that, that is who Erin is. She radiates goodness and therefore, she brings it out in the people that she dresses. I mean, the last year you’ve had is unbelievable, but it’s because you always lead with your heart and that’s what sets you apart.”
Walsh picked up the compliment and continued by saying, “That’s the thing, it’s not about the clothes. It’s about the story that you’re telling, and if you are telling a story of authenticity and truth and joy and love, then that will come across no matter if it’s a garbage bag or Richard Quinn or Valentino.” (For the record, Walsh was in Chanel and Hale in Richard Quinn.)
Speaking of stories, Law Roach inspired countless headlines in recent weeks. He lands on THR’s Most Powerful Stylists on the heels of announcing his retirement from the personal styling business. And he landed at the party alongside A-list client Megan Thee Stallion amid a swarm of flashbulbs. Asked how he felt about being singled out for his work this year as he takes a bow, the image architect didn’t miss a beat.
“I wish this event was last year because I was No. 1,” Roach said with a laugh. “Or the year before that because I was No. 1 then, too. But it’s always great to be recognized. I feel like these are our peers and that makes it feel really good.” He added that it feels slightly different this year in the wake of the retirement news, offering, “I’m just grateful for all of the things I was able to do [in my career] and all of the joy I brought people with my work.”
Just then, Megan Thee Stallion joined the conversation. “What can I say about Law?” pondered the rapper as she gathered her thoughts. As she did, she turned heads in a vintage Paco Rabanne from 1997 (originally worn by Yasmeen Ghauri) that Roach said was remade “months and months and months ago” by the house’s Julien Dossena. When Meg “decided to grace me with her presence,” Roach said they pulled it out of storage. “Iconic things,” explained Meg.
Then she was ready to express her feelings about the man standing by her side. “He’s the best. Like, I’m so upset that he’s going away right now because I need him. The world needs him. But he’s amazing, and we appreciate him so much,” she said. “We don’t have a business relationship. It’s more like family. I’m still going to bother him, and he’s not going to stop being my family. He’s just not going to be in my closet.”
There’s that family talk, again. It also continued in conversation with Oscar nominee Barry Keoghan and his power stylist, Ilaria Urbinati. “We’ve become really, really close now over the last while and, you know, she’s also an auntie to my son,” revealed the Banshees of Inisherin star. “Just yesterday, I got to meet Ilaria’s kids and I know her husband, Johnny, quite well. So, we’re a pretty close group.”
Urbinati, a veteran of the fashion business who works with some of the biggest A-list actors in Hollywood, said showing up to the event served as a reminder “to never feel jaded about what I do.” She added, “I never want to take for granted or not appreciate that we have pretty awesome jobs.”
It’s a gig that feels even more electric with a client like Keoghan, who landed on many best-dressed lists during awards season for his colorful black-tie ensembles, many of which were custom Louis Vuitton, born out of an ongoing collaboration. “Oh my God, he’s great. I love him. He’s so adventurous and bold and he’s always pushing to go further, like, ‘What’s the next thing?'” Urbinati shared. “He’s got this amazing vibe, and he’s, obviously, just the most talented and beautiful with these big blue eyes that we see onscreen. But he’s also got this scrappy Irish kid side, which is awesome. So, [as a stylist,] you want to capture that. When you dress someone, it’s about incorporating all the elements.”
Keoghan seemed proud that he got to pick out his own ensemble for the evening. “I did, but I was clearly going off of what I thought Ilaria would want, so I kept sending her pictures, and she told me to tuck the shirt in,” he said with a laugh.
Keoghan’s Banshees co-star Kerry Condon also turned up to honor her stylist, honoree Emma Jade Morrison. New this year, the list featured breakouts like Social Media Stylist of the Year Dani Michelle and Rising Star notables Morrison, Chloe Takayanagi (Ke Huy Quan) and Enrique Melendez (Jenna Ortega), all of whom were present at the event.
Other power stylists in the room included Petra Flannery, Alexandra Mandelkorn, Sophie Lopez, Warren Alfie Baker, Wayman Bannerman, Micah McDonald, Wendi Ferreira, Jordan Johnson, Jamie Mizrahi, Molly Dickson, Jennifer Austin and Georgia Medley. Stars in attendance included Riley Keough, Jodie Turner-Smith, Jurnee Smollett, Harry Shum Jr. and Chanté Adams.
The evening began with cocktails and canapes on the hotel’s scenic terrace, followed by a seated dinner in the Sunset Tower’s dining room (as DJ and photographer Myles Hendrik pulled double-duty snapping photos and spinning tunes). Guests were treated to a menu that featured Caesar salads, steak frites, grilled salmon or a vegetable medley with quinoa, with warm chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies for dessert.
THR’s editorial director Nekesa Moody teamed with THR style guru Carol McColgin (who, once again, steered this year’s Stylists package) to offer welcoming remarks.
Moody offered a tribute to Roach by acknowledging his previous No. 1 rankings while also touching on his retirement. “He remains an incredible force in the fashion industry, and we are excited to see where his amazing career trajectory will take him next.” She then praised McColgin’s stewardship and “brilliant” curation of the list over 14 years. “Carol’s put incredible work into this issue to make it as magical as it’s ever been, and her attention to detail, her diplomacy and integrity, her immense knowledge and stellar reputation in this industry is what makes this Stylist Issue such a coveted issue.”
McColgin welcomed the fashion set back to the event “after a few years away.” She said they always “love the opportunity to be able to celebrate the work that each of you do. You guys work so hard.” Their remarks were followed by Jimmy Choo creative director Sandra Choi, who praised the stylists for working so hard behind the scenes, much like they do at her company. She then offered a toast “to the makers.”
One of those makers, Warren Alfie Baker, who earned raves for styling A-lister Andrew Garfield, Matt Bomer and Glen Powell, said he was moved by making his Power Stylists debut.
“I’m normally the stylist that just kind of hangs out in the back, keeps quiet and does my own thing, so it’s nice to step out from that and be in acceptance that, ‘Wow, I’m being recognized for the work that I do,’” explained the Brit. “I always want to do better for myself, and to have a night with peers that I’ve known forever is really nice. It’s like, ‘OK, mate, I’ve been let in.’”
Baker was quick to give credit to his clients for their trusted collaborations. “I’m very lucky that I get to work with really nice, great guys. Andrew is at the top of his game, so professional and cool. We just have the best time. It’s really us having a laugh and a good time while we keep pushing toward whatever the next one is. It’s always organic and feels nice and easy. He’s just a really kind, good human who is so supportive. It’s just nice having someone like that in your corner.”
When THR caught up with styling duo Wayman and Micah (aka Wayman Bannerman and Micah McDonald), they were near the corner of the terrace dining room, posing for photos beneath an oversized magazine cover that featured the pair with their client Turner-Smith. “It’s very special to us because Jodie is a client of ours who is not just a client, but she’s also very dear to our hearts,” Bannerman noted. “Being on this cover for us magnifies diversity in the industry and it magnifies Black excellence in the industry. It also magnifies the partnership that we have with one another. We just love to show that and showcase that on a larger scale.”
Added McDonald: “A lot of amazing things have happened in our career, and they arrive at the influx of us being so busy all the time, so we’re really focusing on being present in moments like this. Even talking to you, we have gratitude swarming in the front of our heads, so we have to take a moment to pat each other on the back to acknowledge all the hard work that we’ve accomplished together.”
Honoree Jennifer Austin, who styles Angela Bassett and appears on THR’s cover opposite her Oscar-nominated client, said the acknowledgment nearly had her in tears. “As a stylist, especially in Hollywood, every time this list comes out, you always immediately say, ‘OK, who’s on it?’” explained Austin, accompanied by muse Chanté Adams. “You’re excited to see and you always hang on to the small dream that that’s where you want to be. Coming here tonight and seeing that I made it, it’s unreal. I’m surprised I’m not crying already.”
At the end of the night, Austin joined Bannerman and McDonald to snag their oversized covers on the way out the door so they would have a memento to remember the milestone.
As for power stylist Jamie Mizrahi, who styles Adele and was joined by client Keough at the dinner, the recognition offered a moment to exhale and appreciate where she’s standing. “I’ve finally gotten to a point in my career where I feel really comfortable, confident, supported and respected by my clients. There’s a mutual love and respect there and my clients also happen to be my friends.”
Or, you know, friends who are like family.
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