Q&A: Micaela Erlanger and the Power of Styling

Interview by Lorena Murat, Fashion Publishing

Micaela Erlangera native New Yorker, is one of the most successful stylists of the moment. Not only is she the hardest working person I have ever had the honor to work alongside, but she’s the best mentor and boss in the fashion industry. Micaela graduated from Parsons The New School For Design with a BA in Design and Management in 2008 with concentrations in Art History, Fashion Marketing, and Graphic Design. Since then, Micaela has worked with A-list celebrities, photographers, designers and stylists across the fashion industry. She has styled for editorials such as e-commerce Shop Bazaar, GQ Brazil, Glamour, VMan magazine, among others. At first she didn’t know she wanted to be a stylist; however, she found her passion by doing many internships and assisting stylists during her time in college. Micaela says that it was working as an assistant and senior stylist for renowned stylist Annabel Tollman that gave her the fundamentals and skills to push forward in the field. “Annabel Tollman represents glamour everyday,” she says.

For Micaela, styling is the art of putting together different combinations in a visual and aesthetic way. Vintage is always one of her go-to options when it comes to dressing someone for a special event. She has incredible taste, and always captures the unique pieces from any designer’s collections. Her mission is to highlight her client’s personality through fashion, and so she believes that the key to doing an extraordinary job is doing deep research, getting to know her clients, and always respecting their tastes and preferences.  I am sure we will be hearing about her extraordinary work in the fashion world for years.

Micaela has been working with renowned celebrities for the past month, so she and her team have been running all over New York in order to deliver extraordinary results. After a long day, she was very kind to answer my questions for 560. We had a chance to talk in her apartment, which is ordered, clean, shiny, and fashionable. Even though racks full of gowns, Dolce & Gabanna suits, Moschino dresses, garment bags from Marni, Opening Ceremony, Stella McCartney, Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Walter Steiger heels (I could go on and on and on), are all over the place, she is extremely organized, and everything has a place. Disorder is not a word in her dictionary!   

What is your idea of a woman with unique style?

Someone who doesn’t follow trends– someone who carries their look with grace and ease.

What would you say is the connection between art and fashion?

Fashion is wearable art. It is a creative outlet; it is the art of self-expression.

What do you think is the power of styling?

For me styling is about expressing oneself through owns appearance, creating a look, creating a feel, creating a moment. You can channel any vibe and reference any era’s feeling through the way that you dress. For me it’s not only about professional dress-up, but having a lot of fun, and getting to be creative.

What do you think is the real art behind styling?

I compare it to my sister who is an artist who makes sculptures paintings and video art–that is her art form. Some people paint, some people make music, some people draw, some people write poetry. I make outfits. I put things together in a visually aesthetic way. Sometimes you wake up and you are feeling tired or relaxed and you go out in your sweatpants, or if your feeling exited and flirty you put on a party dress. My self expression is through the medium of apparel.

When you have new client how do you know what will work for her?

I do a lot of research, looking at photographs and figuring what suits her the body type, what colors, and what shapes will work. If I am able to have a conversation in advance with them, it’s important to have an idea what she likes and what she doesn’t. I find that knowing what someone doesn’t like is more important that knowing what they do like. It’s funny, knowing the shapes and someone’s figure… it’s like a puzzle. A first fitting is always an important one, because reading someone for the first time you don’t know the figure type until you see them in person.

So in the end it’s important to understand the personality of your client…

One hundred percent! I think that is huge deal. Knowing about someone’s insecurities and knowing what gets them excited. Knowing what colors they love and which designers they love. Are they are risk takers or not? Are they more conservative, or are they not? These are important questions when you’re working with a client. Styling is personal. It’s not like you’re dressing a model for an editorial shoot.

There are people who think that fashion is a little bit superficial. What would you say to them?

I don’t think that fashion or styling is superficial at all. I think that people put a label on it and identify with it as perhaps being a more materialistic thing, but for me fashion is art. It’s my self expression. It’s the way I paint my pictures, the way I take my photos, the way I write my poems. Clothes are my poetry.

What has been the biggest challenge in your carrier as a stylist? 

Everyone wants to make it in fashion, and at the end of the day there is always someone who is going to want the job just as much as you do. Working harder, better, faster, and being positive through it all– to prove you are worth it– takes a certain kind of determination and drive. Certainly I’ve had my challenging moments.

What would you say is the competitive advantage of your work that helps you captivate your clients?

My attention to detail, my ability to turn what for many is a dreaded task of getting dressed. I love taking away the anxiety and making it fun, not to mention, landing my clients on every best dressed list! It’s a combination of knowing how to be the problem solver and outfit maker.

Which fashion icon do you look up to because of their unique style?

Annabel Tollman- she represents glamour every day.

What is your favorite fashion blog?

I adore  The Coveteur. It’s like a sneak peak into the homes and wardrobes of the industry’s elite. It’s fascinating, and the photos are really clever.

What is your favorite collection for Fall 2013?

Cannot. Choose.

Of what new designer do you have great expectations?

Is not a new designer but a reinvention. I am excited to see what Galliano is up to these days.  I also am such a huge fan of Phoebe Philo, and for this season I think Céline creations are astonishing.

How did Parsons influence in your successful career as a stylist?

Parsons taught me all of the necessary tools and skills and business practices needed to help me launch my career.

Do you have any advice for the fashion students at Parsons who want to make a business out of their passion?

Work, work, work. Don’t let frustration or exhaustion holds you back. There will always be time for sleep. Keep focused. Stay attuned; soak up all the information and insight you can gain. Never stop learning. And above all, find a mentor!