As Lupita Nyong'o's star rose last year — for both her acting chops and her red carpet look — so did her stylist Micaela Erlanger's. You can tell by looking at her eclectically dressed clients — Nyong'o, Michelle Dockery and Jared Leto among them — that Erlanger is paying close attention to the runway. For her, New York Fashion Week is a time to get inspired and scout looks for upcoming awards shows and press tours (next up: the Emmys this Sunday), sometimes calling in gowns immediately after they come down the runway. She also has to style her clients — and herself — for the shows, and has a gig styling Naeem Khan's runway show. Here, Erlanger tells Fashionista what that's like.
How does fashion week factor into your job? What are your main reasons for going?
As a stylist, I wear many hats and fashion week is really an important time for research; it's an important time to gear up for the season ahead. I think about my clients and the looks I'm going to be choosing for them as I prepare for awards season. It's also a time for inspiration. Even beyond the actual attending of a show, looking at the people around you. And of course networking. You have the celebrities in town, you have the editors in town, you have the designers in town, you have hair and makeup in town, you have DJs in town, you have set designers and creative directors in town. The question is whether or not you have time for everything because it never stops. I attend shows with my clients, I attend shows without my clients.
It's also about relationship building. You're attending the shows and supporting the designers and seeking out new talent. And of course then styling the shows; it's also work.
Do you go to all four main fashion weeks?
I don't because the Emmy Awards are in the middle. I try to go to Paris when I can. It would be a dream to go to London and Milan because I've actually never been before and I think it's really important. It's my job to be as well-rounded and well-informed as I possibly can. I even did men's fashion week.
How do you determine what shows to go to?
It's hard because my schedule's ever-evolving — I need to make myself available first and foremost to my clients and make myself available to the work that I have, which is also styling shows. And then, of course, making sure my clients are prepared for the shows they're attending and styling them. I have a list of every show and I do my best to hit as many of them as I possibly can, but there's only so much you can do in a day — that's the beauty of re-sees. Whenever there's something I can't make or I can't send an associate in my position, then we attend the re-sees and those happen two weeks after fashion week generally.
Do you have clients attending shows this week?
I do have clients attending this coming week. Those details are still being firmed up so I can't really comment on it.
Fair enough. What kind of preparation do you do before fashion week beyond fittings and figuring out your schedule?
I have to give myself a fitting! I certainly plan my looks. A couple of years ago I did fashion week, then I had to go to Los Angeles for a job, then I had to go to New York for something, then I went to Paris and then I went to London... you have to pack for different weather and different occasions and you have to dress the part. It was almost like I was giving myself the client fitting treatment. It makes getting dressed a no-brainer.
How to you keep track of looks you might want to use in the future?
I make notes, I snap pictures, we take note of style numbers and we notify the brands. If I see something fabulous walk down that runway, I'm going to let them know that I'm interested in it and that I'd like to try it on whichever client I think it's best suited for. There are times I fall in love with things and I just know that it has to be for someone. And my intuition tends to be pretty spot on about that kind of thing.
How soon after a show will you notify a brand?
It depends on when we have a fitting or a shoot... of course we'll put the bug in the designer's ear that it's something that's a favorite for me, but every brand works differently in terms of holding items or reserving pieces, so that's kind of up to the designer. There have been occasions in the past where I've felt so strongly about something I've said, "Get it to me and I will get it to my client to try pronto, so that we can lock it in for an upcoming event." That's when I'm really passionate.
What events are on your mind currently?
The Emmys. I’m working with Tatiana Maslany, she's nominated for Best Actress. Awards season is upon us and I have a zillion clients with a zillion movies coming out, so it's a very exciting, busy time of year for my styling studio.
What do you think people misunderstand the most about what you do during fashion week?
I think a lot of people think it's all fun, and really it's work — but it comes with fun. I think people think it's a lot more glamorous than it can be. I mean, we're running from show to show, we're pounding that pavement and it's research. I take it seriously.
Do you ever get a moment of downtime?
Absolutely not. That word doesn't exist. Downtime comes at the end of September.
What's the first thing you do once fashion month is over?
Recapping the shows is a big one, making sure that I've seen everything that's gone down the runway. Then you wait for the jobs to roll in so that you can make use of all the beautiful things you see.
Are there any designers whose collections you're particularly excited to see?
I'm excited to see Givenchy in New York, I think that's gonna be pretty cool. I am excited to see Monse, who is a new brand I've been following. I think they are tremendously talented, I'm really excited to see their collection. Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, J.Crew, Kate Spade, Jason Wu, Altuzarra, Michael Kors, Oscar de la Renta, Victoria Beckham, Rosie Assoulin — I'm a huge supporter and fan of hers. Of course Naeem [Khan], I'm styling that show so that's a given. Public School, Zac Posen — he brings the glamour for sure. Prabal [Gurung].
Styling a show — what goes into that?
We started earlier in the year, we worked very closely together. The week before a show is the crunch time because that's when the casting of models happens; that's when we're finalizing music; that's when all the clothes are arriving, all of the embroideries have come and things are being put together and we're fitting them on models. It's also all about the details — the shoes have been sorted at this point in advance but it's thinking: what's the jewelry, what's the handbag, what's the accessory? And then hair and makeup tests. You're working up until the last minute.
This interview has been edited and condensed.