BRAVE new style

BRAVE new style

by marlies|dekkers

From Li’l Mama’s spectacular makeover to singer Brandy’s unforgettable outfits, Hollywood stylist Michael Mann creates looks that turns women into the best, most powerful version of themselves. In other words: power dressing pursang. I talked to the über-stylist in LA to find out how he does it, and even managed to score a few tips…

Marlies: I love what you do, Michael! Please tell me what motivates you.

Michael: Thank you, Marlies! I feel that a great stylist is able to curate a unique style narrative for each client, based on their personality and the direction that they would like to take their brand. Brandy (Norwood, red.) and I were speaking about tennis -she plays too- and I was telling her how I needed to get better at serving. ‘Well get better then!’, she said. Meaning: what’s the problem? I thought about it, and she was right. We can push ourselves creatively and mentally to limits that we cannot comprehend. I apply this to my career and every aspect of my life.

Marlies: I especially love how you help women look strong and self-confident while retaining their femininity and sensuality. I think the very talented singer Brandy -who happens to be a fan of my lingerie!- is a perfect example. Can you tell me about your successful collaboration?

Michael: Brandy is one of the biggest stars of all time who still managed to stay a warm-hearted and caring person. When we first worked together on an editorial, I literally had a reaction within my soul! She asked me to work with her forever and I said: ‘I do!’. It was the beginning of a friendship and a ‘fashion marriage’ that I deeply appreciate.

Marlies: Another great example is your work with Niatia, aka Li’l Mama. Your image overhaul gave her career and incredible boost and is the talk of town! ‘From trashy to classy’, I’ve heard people say. How did you achieve that?

Michael: Niatia, from day one, felt like my girl. She had this fabulous spirit and you could that tell she wanted so much more for herself. But her take on the ‘New York hip-hop style’ was always a bit hard and over the top. ‘Tooooo much custom!’, as Niatia would say herself. I wanted to give her drama, sparkle and glam, and Diana Ross and Donna Summers were the perfect style references: they embody the same, fabulous spirit. Also, it’s a style that really compliments Niatia’s figure and softens her look up in a natural way.

Marlies: My muse for my current collection is the formidable Queen Elizabeth I. With her clever use of wigs, enormous ruffs and ostentatious jewelry, she was a great power dresser avant la lettre. How would you define ‘power dressing’? Can you give me some examples of women in the public arena who you think have mastered it?

Michael: To me, power dressing is about being you and owning it. Develop a style direction that makes you feel confident in your body; don’t let your outfit wear you! You don’t see Rihanna walking down the street awkwardly fidgeting with her clothes, right? She is a badass who owns what she is wearing. I think that Zoë Kravitz, Tracey Ellis Ross, and 65-year old style icon Lyn Slater are other great representations of power dressing at any age!

Marlies: Could you share 3 ‘power dressing’ do’s and don’ts with my readers?

Michael: Do’s: combine men’s tailoring with lingerie, choose wide leg or straight fi t jeans, go for statement earrings and perhaps even ‘mismatch’ them for extra flair. Don’ts: avoid clingy clothes -many of us have a little extra; no need to accentuate it- don’t be a slave to trends, and most importantly: do not try to be anyone but you. That is where your power lies!

Marlies: What role does lingerie play in finding the right look for a woman?

Michael: Lingerie is key to every look. If you wear a pair of sexy panties you are adding this sexiness to your look and projecting it to the world through a form of osmosis. And if the lingerie is visible it’s added texture and how I tend to use it when styling my clients. I love a peek of a textured bra!

Marlies: If you could style anybody, who would your dream client be?

Michael: if I could pick anyone it would be Julia Roberts or Susan Sarandon. In addition to them being beautiful women with reddish hair -my favorite- they have been such a big part of my life, and remind me so much of my grandmother. She was a huge supporter of mine and always told me I would be great. We would watch movies together starring Julia and Susan, like ‘Mystic Pizza’ and ‘Thelma and Louise’. I just love them and she loved them and I miss her.

Marlies: You look amazing yourself (and I’m not even talking about that six-pack of yours!). But you must have made some fashion mistakes in the past… Please share your most embarrassing style blunder!

Michael: Oh, thank you! I’m blushing! I feel like my late teens were a bit crazy. I began going to these underground clubs and I found myself in lace tights, ‘poom poom’ shorts -that means inappropriately short- and vintage sequins blouses that I would alter. It was the era of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, if that helps you visualize a bit better.

Marlies: Oh believe me, I have a vivid picture of it in my head! Ultimately, what is your styling motto?

Michael: Don’t be basic. Some people won’t always get it and that’s okay. Just never compromise art for likes.

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