From Kendall Jenner to Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber, street style beats red carpet when it comes to fashion inspiration, stylists say

How celebrities like Lady Gaga (here in Valentino in August, 2021) and influencers dress when on the streets is as important as what they wear on the red carpet.
PHOTO: Twitter/THEIMONATION

For proof that the street is the real catwalk, it’s quite impossible to beat Lady Gaga.

Earlier in August, the singer and actress (soon to appear in the hotly anticipated House of Gucci) descended the steps of Radio City Hall in New York wearing a sculptural purple cape from Valentino’s autumn 2021 couture collection.

There to perform with jazz maestro Tony Bennett, Gaga paired the cape with a matching hat featuring a plumage of feathers, yellow gloves and oversized reflective shades.

The look was pure, OTT high-fashion catnip and an extreme example of a shift in the way we think about celebrity fashion.

Granted, we’ve just had 18 months with very few events and – with mainly digital fashion shows – less opportunity for street-style peacocking.

But how celebrities and the fashion set dress when snapped on their morning coffee run or posting to their Instagram story feels as important as the couture gown they might wear on a red carpet.

Take a recent photo of Rihanna: the singer (and freshly minted billionaire) was snapped carrying a brown paper bag of groceries while wearing a blousy silk shirt, denim shorts and heels.

The look was so good, it prompted super stylist Harry Lambert (whose clients include Harry Styles and The Crown star Emma Corrin ) to tweet: “Rihanna is a fashion icon! Photos of her going to dinner are better than most red carpet looks!”).

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Not long after that, Rihanna went on another grocery run in a vintage Chanel jacket accessorised with strands of pearls and a baseball cap.

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The impact of “real life” and Instagram style very evidently drives trends (and sales). Consider this: one of the key trends this summer is, erm, roomy khaki trousers, ideal for running errands in.

Indeed, the “uniform” of the fashion and model set was cribbed straight from luxury New York label The Row’s spring/summer 2021 collection – a crisp white shirt worn open over a white T-shirt and tucked into creased khaki chinos.

The look was all over Instagram in the past few months, worn by fashion “It girls” such as models Kendall Jenner, Elsa Hosk and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Danish influencer and stylist Pernille Taisbaek, among many more.

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Sydney-based stylist Jess Pecoraro says styling celebrity clients, who go to events and use social media as a personal branding exercise, for “real life” has become an essential part of her offering.

“It is definitely as important as red carpet and event dressing, as it helps set a tune for the celebrity and also keeps style consistent and elevated,” she says.

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Los Angeles-based super stylist Maeve Reilly, who chooses the wardrobes for the likes of Hailey Bieber, Megan Fox and more, agrees.

Reilly told website Fashionista it’s the everyday outfits she chooses for clients that really dial up sales; for Bieber, this has included a cream Magda Butrym suit with sneakers, and a cute lilac outfit complete with a purple Bottega Veneta clutch worn in Paris.

“A gown is amazing and it’s beautiful to look at, but most people aren’t going to a store to buy a U$100,000 (S$135,500) ball gown.

"They’re going to the store to buy the blazer or the bag or the crop top or the shoe from the brand that made the gown,” she told the publication.

Brands are increasingly acknowledging the power of these outfits, she says.

The shift also speaks to how we’re spending our time. Kay Barron, fashion director at online luxury retailer Net-a-Porter, says the shift towards more casual and timeless pieces is driving the influence, too.

“Much like our customers, celebrities and their styling teams are adopting a more casual sensibility, as they embrace the new normal."

The current climate has taught us about ‘now and forever pieces’ – styles that will last beyond one, two or even 10 seasons; the ultimate wardrobe we can wear now and forever."

Stylists are following these trends closely and realising how to better relate to their clients’ needs,” she says.

“The lack of red carpet events over the past year has also provided further opportunity for stylists to embrace casualwear for their clients, ensuring they’re looking their best no matter the occasion, so it’s no surprise that Instagram and general street style pictures are more influential than ever.”

As Barron notes, given the straitened circumstances for most of us these past 18 months, Instagram was the main opportunity to see celebrity style – well, other than paparazzo photos of celebrities walking around the block and virtual event ceremonies which offered, well, uneven outfit choices.

“As we lost street style over the last 18 months, due to global lockdowns, Instagram was the only way for us to be inspired by celebrities’ personal style. I loved that many relaxed their looks, and played with sportswear and loungewear in an elevated way.

“Personally, I love seeing anyone who clearly loves fashion, and loves playing with it. For me, I always look to see how Zendaya, Bella Hadid and Alexa Chung interpret the season, as they all have very different aesthetics, but their experimentation is inspiring,” Barron says.

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Best of all, if celebrities’ elevated running-around looks have inspired you to lift your game, social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok offer a wealth of styling tips – from how to style denim to recreating outfits from shows such as Bridgerton and The Queen’s Gambit.

Styling tips for real life is something Net-a-Porter is seeing traction with too.

“Style SOS is a new franchise of ours on YouTube and Instagram where our in-house team, from buyers to personal shoppers, offer expert advice, responding to our audience’s biggest sartorial dilemmas.

"I recently tackled how to wear autumn/winter 2021 trends and the engagement and conversion rate was exceptionally high, showing that our audience can’t wait to embrace the new season ahead,” says Barron.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.

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