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Lady Gaga's Stylist Explains Her Elegant New Look

"With Lady Gaga, of course, you don’t really have to think about comfort," says stylist Brandon Maxwell. "That’s not really the first thing that comes to her mind."
Photo: Hollywood Reporter

Photo: Hollywood Reporter

Brandon Maxwell is having a really great month. Not only did he make it onto The Hollywood Reporter's list of the 25 most powerful stylists in Hollywood, but he's also featured on the cover of the issue alongside client Lady Gaga. Oh, and Karl Lagerfeld took the picture at Coco Chanel's apartment in Paris. No big deal.

As if that weren't enough, Maxwell styled disco legend Nile Rodgers (known for such hits as "Le Freak," "Get Lucky" and "Uptown Funk")'s first music video in over two decades. Starring in the video is none other than Karlie Kloss, who hits the dance floor in the same sexy Versace jumpsuit she wore on the runway at the house's spring couture show in January. 

Read on for our interview with Maxwell about Gaga's new polished style, Kloss's "insane" body and why he considers Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin, who directed the video, family. 

What was it like to be shot by Karl Lagerfeld at Coco Chanel's apartment in Paris for the cover of The Hollywood Reporter?

I mean, it was incredible. I couldn’t believe it was happening. Getting to be there at that apartment — [Lagerfeld] brought the entire couture collection, and it was very surreal. He was super on top of it and knew exactly where he wanted to shoot, what he wanted it to look like, and we were in and out. He took the time to do that right before his couture show — his show was two days later.

The apartment was in impeccable condition. And the staircase is there, where [Chanel] did all of her shows before. It was so large... It was everything that you think it would be, very ornate and over the top.

Lady Gaga has been dressing much more elegantly recently. How and why did that come about?

She’s pretty in charge of everything she does. I’ve worked with a lot of other people and she definitely is one of those people who, from writing the music down to deciding what she wears during the day, everything is her vision. She had a jazz album out this year and obviously that informed a lot of the aesthetic, and you get older and you evolve and things change and your style changes, just like any person does as you get older. With the album coming out and her singing jazz, it just made more sense to do looks that were in line with the icons of the past, the great jazz legends, and do that in her own way. She’s very, very naturally beautiful and very regal, so it felt really natural for me to dress her like that.

Lady Gaga at the Grammy Awards in February. Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Lady Gaga at the Grammy Awards in February. Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

How many times does she typically change per day?

It just depends on the day. What I love working about her the most — you rarely get to do this with a person — is that in the morning she can have brown hair and be a bit more punk, midday maybe she's blonde hair and more regal and maybe at midnight she's got dreadlocks and she's doing something else. If she's doing events and changing for each one, I think we always like to change, even if she’s doing television interviews so that every outlet has a special experience [just] for them. 

So are you just constantly pulling clothing? How many potential looks do you have prepared at any time?

It depends. For a normal day for her to be at home and going around town, it's probably a rack or two of clothes at her house. But if we're doing an editorial, it can be 20, 30, 40 racks. And tables of shoes and tables of jewelry. It's a lot. I have an amazing team that deals with all of that. We always take time a couple days before an event to style things out in the office and pick out our favorite things. Just like anything, when it comes to doing a shoot or something, I always find one thing that I’m super in love with and everything comes out of that one outfit.

Does she dress differently on her days off? Maybe more comfort-oriented or more risky?

I feel like we approach her everyday looks the same way we would approach an editorial. We take it just as seriously, and try to get as much stuff for that. With her, of course, you don’t really have to think about comfort. That’s not really the first thing that comes to her mind but there are always new things coming out, always new collections, always young kids making amazing things. Anytime you get the opportunity to have those into the office, we really want to. It's a great platform to have with her. She lives in her apartment in New York and she has to walk on the street and people do see her. She wants to be able to give her fans that experience so the everyday is just as important for us.

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So highlighting young designers is something you and Lady Gaga consciously try to do?

There's so much that is out there. You look at all those young collections and they’re very daring, especially the first couple of collections — they’re not really worried like the bigger designers are. They aren’t really thinking, 'Is this going to sell, is this too much for people?' I love that fearlessness. Sometimes things come into the office and I think never in my wildest dreams, no matter how many drugs I could take in my life, could I have thought this up. You can take those big risks because there's nobody in the world who can wear almost anything like she can. 

Tell me about styling Nile Rodgers's "I'll Be There" music video, starring Karlie Kloss. How did you get that Versace jumpsuit straight off the runway?

I have to preface this by saying that Karlie is my very favorite model and so every time I’m at a show and I see her walking down the runway, it's like the first time. She walks like a Clydesdale down the runway, like the strut is out of a movie. I was in Paris for couture and I was at the Versace show and saw her come down the runway in that, and then strangely enough, we went to a party afterwards and it was sort of a disco type party and there she was, wearing the same outfit. So when Inez [van Lamsweerde] and I were talking about doing the video and discussing what it should be like and obviously hearing the music, the first thing I thought was, I have to have this jumpsuit. I’ve seen her actually dancing in it in a club, she looks amazing in it, and you have to have the most perfect body to wear that jumpsuit.

Was Karlie attached to star in the video at that point?

Inez wanted her very early on. Of course, as soon as they cast her I thought, 'I’ve seen her in this already.' That jumpsuit almost did not make it on the plane because there was a snowstorm and there was a conniption. We were like, 'Should we sent a helicopter? Should we sent somebody waiting at JFK?' It got there five minutes before and Karlie and I were sitting in the room being like, 'Where's the jumpsuit? Is the jumpsuit here? Is the jumpsuit almost here?' It fit like a glove and she came to light as soon as she put it on. If you see the bell bottom on the bottom of that pant, it's everything. Are you kidding, a white jumpsuit with one of your breasts out? That's the most ideal outfit for the video.

Karlie Kloss boogie vibes. Screenshot: Chic/Facebook

Karlie Kloss boogie vibes. Screenshot: Chic/Facebook

What was the inspiration for her at home look?

We wanted a "Flashdance" feel and you know getting there that morning and seeing the set that Marla Weinhoff made, which was amazing and had real Chinese take-out in it and all the record players and candles. With Karlie, the body is insanity. When you see her close up on the camera, her body is right in that high definition lens and there is not a flaw to be found, and I just really wanted to see a lot of body on her. We have an Adam Selman dress in there, we have a vintage sequin dress in there. 

This is a sexier Karlie than we've seen, I think.

I think so too, that's what I was saying. Of course you see her in Victoria's Secret and I feel like you do see a sexy Karlie, but something felt so relatable and girl-next-door about it and I think that's just the kind of person that she is. 

What kind of direction did Nile Rodgers have, style-wise?

He does have a lot of personal style and he’s very open to everything. All he cared about was wanting the girls in his band to feel major and feel beautiful. The girls had these really futuristic outfits on and everybody was so open. All the outfits the band wears are hand-painted suits. We had them made in Brooklyn — my team will come up with the weirdest things. I will ask for strange things and they’re like, 'Oh yeah, we can have that made in Queens. The suits were hand-delivered still smelling of paint. I thought, 'Nobody's going to be able to sing in these, they have fumes coming off of them!' But everybody was excited to wear them.

Everyone looks like this at home, right? Karlie Kloss in "I'll Be There." Screenshot: Chic/Facebook

Everyone looks like this at home, right? Karlie Kloss in "I'll Be There." Screenshot: Chic/Facebook

You've worked with Inez and Vinoodh many times, right?

Working with Inez and Vinoodh is very familial; I did my very first job with them when I went out on my own. We’ve done music videos together before and we’ve done so many editorials and campaigns. I spend a lot of my personal time with them, like vacations, so working with them is a bit like working with mom and dad. Everybody on that team has worked together in some capacity for a long time. Marla has done all of Gaga’s sets for years.

Inez and Vinoodh always have a very clear vision of what they want to do and they know in their mind what it's supposed to be before it ever takes places and that's really the most ideal situation. Inez knew exactly, 'I want a red sweatshirt that's cut on the bottom.' She sees it in her mind you work with your team to make it happen and then it works. They’re so good at what they do, they always make the women look the most beautiful.