How Lupita Nyong'o's Stylist Gets Inspired and Stays on Top of Trends

Plus her strategy in avoiding wardrobe malfunctions for her A-list clientele.
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Plus her strategy in avoiding wardrobe malfunctions for her A-list clientele.
Stylist Micaela Erlanger and Lupita Nyong'o in Suno at the 2014 CFDA Awards. Photo credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Stylist Micaela Erlanger and Lupita Nyong'o in Suno at the 2014 CFDA Awards. Photo credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

We're just weeks away from the apex of awards season — THE OSCARS — and all eyes are on celebrity stylist Micaela Erlanger -- or rather, her famous clients. Erlanger is the responsible for Lupita Nyong'o's tremendous red carpet run this past year and Michelle Dockery (aka Lady Mary)'s unexpected and totally modern off-screen game (especially in the multi-hued and gorgeously layered Rosie Assoulin dress at the 2014 Emmys). 

As Feb. 22 approaches, Erlanger — who held court at as the Brand Ambassador at a Maidenform gathering on Thursday — was unsurprisingly tight-lipped about the big day. I sure even the toughest of CIA interrogators wouldn't be able to break her. Plans for Nyong'o's upcoming Academy Awards dress? "I cannot tell all my little secrets, but it will be sensational," she told me with a smile. In January, rumors flew that Jennifer Aniston sought out Erlanger's styling help for awards season. The gossip was quashed, but, hypothetically, what would Erlanger like to see perennial LBD-fan wear? "I can't speak about that."

Ah well. But the New York resident was willing to share some tidbits on her favorite up and coming designers, the decision-making behind Nyongo's matchy-matchy SAG Awards and after-party looks, and how to avoid wardrobe malfunctions on the red carpet. 

What are some new favorite designers that you've come across through your styling work? Who should we look out for?

I love Jonathan Cohen. I actually went to Parsons with him and he is a designer whose clothes my clients are really loving. Lupita wore his designs a few times. He plays with color and print beautifully and he makes fabulous dresses and really great separates. He's an up and coming designer and I think you should keep your eye on him.

What's your strategy for seeking out new designers?

A huge part of my job is research. I'm a market editor and it is my job to be going to the shows, to be researching trends, to be immersing myself in fashion and culture and staying up to date — reading the blogs, street style, all of it. I'm inspired by my peers. I'm inspired by what other people wear, by moods, by movies, by music, all of it, and I just think it's really important to observe.

You mentioned that you're inspired by movies. Can you talk about one instance when you were inspired by a movie and that translated into a red carpet moment? 

I can't think of anything on the spot like that, but right now, I'm really inspired by the '40s, that period, and film.  So right now you'll see some Deco-influences on the red carpet. More modern takes on classic silhouettes.

Lupita Nyong'o in Elie Saab at the 2015 SAG Awards. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Lupita Nyong'o in Elie Saab at the 2015 SAG Awards. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Like the Elie Saab gown that Lupita Nyong'o just wore to the SAG Awards? 

Absolutely. The plunging neckline with the long sleeve — that was very Elizabeth Taylor. But with wild patterns, so that's one interpretation.

Nyongo's dance-floor outfit at the SAG after-party. Photo: Ari Perilstein/Getty Images

Nyongo's dance-floor outfit at the SAG after-party. Photo: Ari Perilstein/Getty Images

So what was behind the decision to have Nyong'o wear the long Elie Saab gown to the ceremony and then the short version of the same dress to the after-party?

It was fun, come on! The dress existed in the print and instead of having to dance in a ballgown, which can be cumbersome when you go to these after-parties in a big dress. It's easier to change into a little shift so, why not?

Have you ever had a wardrobe crisis moment for a client right before an awards show?

Knock on wood, I've never had any serious crises for an awards show, but there have been instances when I've needed to sew someone into a dress or a button pops or something like that. But it is my job as a stylist to be prepared, so I have an emergency kit that I carry with me and it has everything from deodorant remover to topstick [body tape] to needle and thread and all that jazz. So I'm prepared.