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Rihanna’s Style Has a Name: Mel Ottenberg

When your star client is an internationally obsessed-over, unfailingly photographed clotheshorse, a peculiar problem presents itself.

“It’s the end of May,” the stylist Mel Ottenberg said, “and we’ve already used up all of fall/winter. It’s over.”

For most women, the fall/winter collections, which won’t arrive in stores for several months, are something to look forward to. For Rihanna, the record-setting artist and current idol of fashion, they are old news.

Even racing ahead of the fashion metabolism of the average woman as it does, the industry has not found a way to keep up with her. It is the job of Mr. Ottenberg, who styles her for her videos, tours, many of her innumerable magazine shoots and most of her appearances, to keep her in clothes.

It is all the more difficult to do because at the moment, Rihanna loves fashion, and fashion loves Rihanna.

She was the uncontested front-row get at Paris Fashion Week in March, where she took in the Dior, Chanel, Givenchy, Comme des Garçons and Stella McCartney shows, among others. She made the cover of the all-important March issue of Vogue, which took note of “The Rihanna Effect” on the spring collections, tracing the influence of her look on designers like Tom Ford, Peter Dundas of Pucci and Olivier Rousteing of Balmain. Backstage at his show, Mr. Rousteing listed her among his influences: His collection, he said, was “celebrating my age, my inspiration, my love, Rihanna.” He had already booked her to appear in his spring ad campaign, styled by Mr. Ottenberg.

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Rihanna Looks Styled by Mel Ottenberg, photo by bridesmaid dress

CreditJosh Haner/The New York TimesNext week, the Council of Fashion Designers of America will give her its institutional imprimatur, naming her the Fashion Icon of 2014 at the annual CFDA awards. “It’s very much the air du temps,” said Diane von Furstenberg, the council president, speaking from her home in Paris. “She appeared and everybody agreed.”

Why now? There’s no disputing that Rihanna has star power and an enviable catalog of hits. (She has racked up 13 No. 1 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 list, tying Michael Jackson’s record.) But the fashion adulation is a more recent phenomenon. “Her love of fashion, her becoming such a genius at using fashion as a creative expression, that’s sort of blossomed in the last couple years,” Mr. Ottenberg said. As much as he credits her sense of style and stresses that she is a collaborator, not a mannequin, the difference in the last few years is Mr. Ottenberg himself.

“I saw the potential there,” he said. “I could take that and really do something with that.”

In many ways, he is an unlikely choice for the position. Mr. Ottenberg has spent the last decade or so as a stylist working primarily in magazines and on the runway. He styled the fashion week shows of the workmanlike men’s wear designer Adam Kimmel and contributed to magazines at a distance from the mainstream, like Purple and i-D.

Yet through it all, he nursed a fixation as well with pop culture. “His retention for the history of pop culture is pretty unique, at least within our circle,” said the architect and designer Rafael de Cárdenas, a friend since their days at the Rhode Island School of Design. “And our circle’s pretty well versed in pop culture.” (About a jacket Mr. de Cárdenas was once considering, Mr. Ottenberg said: “You can’t wear that military jacket. You look like Audrey from ‘European Vacation.’ ”)

Continue reading the main storyMr. Ottenberg began working with Rihanna for the “Loud” tour in 2011, for which he commissioned his boyfriend, the designer Adam Selman, and the designer Jeremy Scott to create the costumes. (Mr. Selman has since become a frequent collaborator with Mr. Ottenberg on Rihanna’s looks, and a designer on the collection she created with the English retailer River Island.)

“To see it opening night, to see it live and to see the fans freaking out and singing along, I was hooked,” Mr. Ottenberg said. “I was like: ‘This is cool. This is something different. You can do something with this. You can start trends. This is something people will talk about.’ ”

But in an industry where stylists tend to split between celebrity and editorial camps, Mr. Ottenberg, 38, chose to straddle both. “Working with her is really fulfilling,” he said, “but it’s just one part of what I do. There’s definitely a divide.”

He consults for Nike and continues to style for magazines, including the vanguard culture journal 032c, based in Berlin, which last year named him its fashion director. Joerg Koch, its founder and editor, praised his ability to understand and balance the aesthetics of an international pop star and a niche magazine. “That’s probably a new phenomenon,” he said. “The whole thing about mainstream versus underground just doesn’t exist anymore.”

Whether mainstream or underground, a scuffed-up, lived-in grunginess has always been a key part of Mr. Ottenberg’s aesthetic. Not for nothing was an early patron John Galliano, who hired Mr. Ottenberg to style him personally in the kind of torched, threadbare finery he favored. (In April, a former assistant wrote in an online article that Mr. Ottenberg had instructed him to buy a homeless man’s clothes off his back for Mr. Galliano, an allegation that Mr. Ottenberg denies.)

“I love glamour and I can play with glamour, but at the end of the day, I’m more of a scrappy, disheveled type of vibe,” he said.


CreditPascal Le Segretain/Getty ImagesThat vibe proved to be a good match for Rihanna, and right for the time.

The last singer to make a comparable impact in fashion (and to be named the CFDA’s Fashion Icon, in 2011) was Lady Gaga, whose fashion sense tends toward the conceptual and the hyper-styled. Rihanna’s, by contrast, is sexy, often glamorous, but streetwise. “My whole thing was she’s so beautiful, she’s so over the top, she doesn’t need so much stuff,” Mr. Ottenberg said of the now-signature look he worked with her to create. “We can strip it down.”

He dates their fashion breakthrough to the video for “We Found Love” in fall 2011. (It won a Grammy for best short-form music video and the MTV Video Award for video of the year.) The wardrobe is echt Ottenberg: some fashion, including, notably, pieces from emerging and under-the-radar designers like Komakino and Forfex, but also heaps of well-worn vintage, much of it from close to home.

“She’s wearing my boyfriend’s clothes in so much of that video,” he said. (Mr. Ottenberg’s first-ever styled magazine feature, in The Face in 2001, was also styled primarily from his own closet.)

Designers now line up to create custom looks for Rihanna, working in concert with Mr. Ottenberg. In addition to Mr. Selman, Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy, Raf Simons, and Alber Elbaz of Lanvin created pieces for her recent “Diamonds” tour. A new tour, with Eminem, kicks off this summer, for which there will be more. A constant stream of the new is required. “She wants to be psyched,” Mr. Ottenberg said.

There are challenges to keeping a pop star that way. Mr. Ottenberg works on her schedule. “I get her dressed for some of her biggest red-carpet things in three minutes,” he said. “That’s all I really have.” He hadn’t intended to do the Paris Fashion Week shows with her in March, but once she made her intentions known, he “got thrown into full Ri world,” he said.

The reward is that as Rihanna has shot to fashion stardom, she has pulled Mr. Ottenberg along with her. Her Instagram account, now discarded, included pictures of her with Mr. Ottenberg fully in the entourage of her celebrity friends. She pressed him into service as a judge, alongside Pharrell Williams and the model Erin Wasson, on her reality show “Styled to Rock,” where he dispensed tough-love advice to aspiring designers hoping to create red-carpet looks for rock stars. He is frequently recognized on the street and pressed into posing for selfies.

On a recent trip, he said, “The lady at the airport was like: ‘I know who you are. Oh, my God, are you going to see her right now?’ ”

He wasn’t. He doesn’t travel the world with her, maintaining his own frenetic schedule for shoots and consulting. But his life has changed. He recently expanded his studio and moved out of the rent-controlled apartment he has called home for the last 15 years. He now has one assistant solely for Rihanna-related matters.

“He’s definitely harder to get ahold of,” said Mr. de Cárdenas, though he added: “Have I seen him change as a person? I can’t say that I have. He’s probably more the same person than anyone else we’re friends with.” Whatever fans may believe or social media may suggest about his relationship to his star client, Mr. Ottenberg said, “I’m part of the hired help.”

The question of where to go next looms. Requests come in from other stars, he said, but “at this point in my life I’m not that interested in creating a whole world around somebody else.” He said he is shopping around for a big project, with an eye on a TV series or a film. (He declined to share specifics, though meetings take him back and forth to the West Coast frequently.)

But first, there is Rihanna to ready for the red carpet at the CFDAs. Which might not be the canvas of choice for many fashion directors of Berlin magazines, but Mr. Ottenberg didn’t see it that way.

“It’s a new medium for doing a fashion shoot,” he said.

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09:44 Publié dans Mode | Tags : rihanna, style | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)


Cannes 2014: Top 5 Trends On the Red Carpet

The Cannes Film Festival displays the latest looks from couture designers. This year was no exception, as some of the hottest trends took over the red carpet. It seems like there was a lot of lace and sheer fabrics on the Cannes 2014 red carpet. Here are some of the fashion trends that took place at the 67th film festival.


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Old Hollywood Elegance

Most of the star’s focused on elegant and regal styles. Sophistication ruled the red carpet. Brazilian model Alessandra Ambrosio attended the movie premiere of “Two Days, One Night” in a silver Atelier Versace gown. The gown was embroidered with Swarovski crystals on the skirt and on the sleeve. It also had ruching and a high slit.

Bold Colors

Some celebrities opted to stand out by avoiding loud and gaudy designs. Still, they stood out in their colorful dresses. Lara Stone stepped out in a gorgeous fuchsia Calvin Klein gown. Actress Jessica Chastain wore an electric blue asymmetrical gown by Atelier Versace.

Lace and Sheer Fabrics

There was a huge trend of lace and sheer fabrics on the Cannes 2014 red carpet. The elegance trend was used in lace, sheer and embroidery. As mentioned before, Alessandra Ambrosio stood out with her Atelier Versace gown. The sexy dress included all of these elements.

Other trends that took place included pleats, asymmetrical styles and vintage-inspired style from the 1950s. Marion Cotillard’s Dior gown included asymmetrical tailoring while Eva Longoria’s nude Vionnet gown had an asymmetrical neckline. Blake Lively stole the show with her black and white Gucci gown, reminiscent of Old Hollywood.


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Aishwarya Rai outshines herself at Cannes

Being one of the most beautiful women in the world definitely has its perks, but lets not forget the downside of it – the constant media attention even in personal matters, the opinions from self-appointed fashion experts and of course the downright harsh criticism.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, a woman of grace and beauty has taken it all in her stride. With 2014, Aishwarya marked her thirteenth year at the annual prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Though her red carpet appearance was delayed, the actress made up for it with her jaw-dropping look at the French Riviera.

The former beauty queen picked a dazzling gold strapless mermaid-cut gown by Roberto Cavalli that showed off her curves like any proud Indian woman. Not only did it make Aishwarya Rai the talk of the town overnight but what’s interesting is that the actress has also made quite a few critics eat their words.


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Two years ago, the mother-of-one was at the receiving end of much flak for her post-delivery weight. Quite a few write-ups mentioned her ‘double chin’, calling her weight gain extremely ‘shocking’.

While some from the industry came out in support of the new mother, others went to the extent of saying that women in India, tend to let themselves go after marriage and babies.

In 2012, few months after giving birth to baby Aaradhya, Aishwarya took a bold step by wearing a belted Elie Saab gown. It showed all her plus size curves, drawing mixed responses from critics. While some were in favour of her embracing her womanhood in all its glory, others thought gown made her look chubby and plump.

Another look from 2012, which did little to impress, was a cream chikankari Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla sari for the amfAR Cinema Against AIDS Gala with an embroidered jacket, which was also received as a complete fashion disaster.


Many compared her to the likes of Victoria Beckham and said that she should take a leaf out of the Posh girl’s book and regain her figure as soon as possible.

In 2013, Aishwarya once again favoured designer Elie Saab with a beautiful black and grey couture gown, which Aishwarya wore to the premiere of ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’.


But, yet again the beauty didn’t seem to get it quite right when it came to her ethnic looks on the red carpet. Her black and gold embroidered sari-lehenga by Sabyasachi which she donned for the evening gala of ‘Bombay Talkies’ celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema was said to be quite a disappointment.

And her gold on gold look – Tarun Tahiliani’s sari for amfAR’s Cinema Against AIDS 2013 was

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09:51 Publié dans Mode | Tags : cannes, fashion | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)