The Met Gala, a fundraising event held in New York City to benefit the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was launched in 1948 and tickets were $50 to attend a dinner and rub elbows with the in-crowd. In 1995, Dame Anna Wintour, artistic director of Condé Nast and editor-in-chief of Vogue, became the ball’s special consultant and, each year, on the first Monday in May, she orchestrates an event some call the "Super Bowl of Fashion." The Met Gala challenges hairstylists to work at their creative best and to collaborate with fashion designers and invited celebrities to bring the year’s theme to dramatic life.
“Anna Wintour was so smart to establish that there would be a theme to the gala, each year,” says Laini Reeves (@laini_reeves), a celebrity hairstylist who, this year, worked with actress Emily Blunt. “Once that theme is announced, everyone starts paying attention to how it is going to be interpreted.”
For 2019, the theme was “CAMP”- not summer camp, but outrageous, exaggerated, and extravagant—and the over-the-top gorgeousness that word inspired was wonderful to see.
Celebrity hairdresser and Italian-native Giannandrea (@giannandreahair) has been in the world of fashion for 30 years. His first Met Gala in the late 1990s was auspicious, as he was called to do Linda Wells, then editor-in-chief of Allure magazine. After this debut, he went on to do starlets and celebs including Scarlett Johansson, Eva Mendes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Naomi Watts, and Christy Tiegen. This year, he worked with actress and Luis Vuitton muse, Jennifer Connelly, giving her a sleek blowout with a deep side part.
On being hired to style at the Met Gala: “You are evaluated, you are screened, and it makes me proud to be considered. I know I’m part of a tight little group and I work hard to stay there.”—Giannandrea
“I love doing the Met Gala because it’s one of those events that still holds a bit of mystery and I like that,” Giannandrea explains. “I do like the element of surprise and waiting for the big reveal. It is also the event where I am the most challenged and genuinely nervous. Every year you have to come up with something that is beautiful, relevant and that captivates the audience. Everyone’s eyes are on your work.”
Giannandrea uses a physical practice to stimulate the creative and make himself open to inspiration. “Everyone who is creative has their routines to prepare and I have mine,” he says. “I get in some really good workout sessions, I run, and I breathe deeply which opens up my creativity. From this process, I usually extract something that is my starting point and it gives me the confidence to proceed.” Three or four days before the event, he visualizes his client on the red carpet (or pink, as was the case this year at the Met Gala.) “People are banking on you so you have to set yourself up to succeed.”
The look he designed for Connelly was created using ABBA Pure Performance Hair Care for a minimalist-chic finish. He also cut Connelly’s hair into a sharp, angular shape. And while “camp” evokes some crazy possibilities, he knew he had to be guided by Connelly’s –and Luis Vuitton’s—elegant esthetic.
“When I work with someone, I go back at least three years and look at images of my client to see what elements in their look have remained the same and what is sometimes changed,” Giannandrea says in describing this part of his process. “Those things that don’t change keep them looking like themselves. Then, I go in and I have a conversation; I stand in front of them and I start connecting with my previous creative thoughts and I articulate them with words, I tell a story of what she should look and feel like. I’ll use references to old movies, fashion campaigns, and I’ll talk about volume, shape, and texture. I’m Italian, so my body is very involved in telling the story, and I’m very passionate about communicating it to them. And then I see that they are maybe smiling a bit and I know that they are following me.
“I realized a long time ago,” he continues, “that I have to trust myself and that I have to connect on a deeper level with my client. There’s no judging, there’s just feeling and seeing where her beauty resides and that is what I extract.”
Lady Gaga has always found a way to fuse fashion and fantasy in her red carpet style. Gaga’s go-to hairdresser, Frederic Aspiras (@fredericaspiras), the artist responsible for many of her most memorable hairstyles and color changes, actually walked the pink carpet with Gaga at the Met Gala. While she tumbled out of one dress into another look, entirely, (all designed by Brandon Maxwell), Aspiras followed closely by, can of hairspray in hand, fully participating in the high camp of the evening.
Photo caption: Lady Gaga on the pink carpet at the Met Gala 2019. Hair by Frederic Aspiras. Photo credit: Karwai Tang/Getty Images
“I was inspired by one of Lady Gaga’s most memorable hair looks,” Aspiras says. “I decided to deconstruct the iconic bob and hair bow and give the bob a new rippled wave shape and make multiple mini hair bows throughout the hair.”
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Actress Sophie Turner (“Game of Thrones”) was styled for her Met walk by her longtime stylist, Christian Wood (@cwoodhair), Wella Professionals celebrity stylist and ghd brand ambassador. “As soon as I saw the amazing Louis Vuitton jumpsuit she was to wear, I thought a wet, glitter look would work perfectly for the theme, and pull the entire look together,” Wood shares. “I wanted it to have a futuristic fashion feel, while still being young and fresh. To me, glitter is the ultimate element when envisioning the camp theme.”
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The beautiful Sophie Turner// Hair: Christian Wood// Makeup: Georgie Eisdell//Photo: Christian Wood @cwoodhair/ Instagram
IT'S RAINING GLAM
Some stars and their stylists soaked up inspiration from the “wet look” including award-winning actress Emily Blunt, whose hairdresser was LA-based Laini Reeves (@laini_reeves).
“It’s really nice to work so closely with the designers, literally shoulder to shoulder,” says Reeves, who has done the Met Gala for years, styling Amy Adams, Kate Bosworth and others. “It’s fast and furious—I fly in from LA and am there for 24 hours—but I have connected with my team, I am very well prepared and I can hit the ground running.”
Blunt went for the gold in a sequin-covered dress and a bespoke gold headdress designed by Stephen Jones. Reeves was inspired to create a wet look by Michael Kors’ runway shows and also Reeve’s own interpretation of camp which evoked the 1970s, Studio 54 nightclub, and the sexy, almost androgynous crossover styles of the era. Grace Jones meets Cher.
Reeves collaborated with Paul Mitchell, using their products and tools. “Once it’s been decided what the looks are and how we’ll approach it, I start playing with products, using them on myself, first. I like to use product in different ways than they are presented and that’s what was nice about the Paul Mitchell products because you can mix without them getting flaky or going white.” She blended Neuro Heat Protecting with a Paul Mitchell Gel to achieve the very reflective, slick hairstyle that was adorned by the golden crown.
“Emily’s hair started wet, no product, and I blow dried it into the place I wanted it to go,” she explains. “I didn’t want wet hair, because wet hair dries, but I put in a cocktail of products to make it look wet and to keep it looking that way all through the night.”
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Photo by Laini Reeves @laini_reeves/Instagram
“The Met Gala is a very special event, with a definite cool factor, and it’s a privilege to be part of it,” Reeves concludes. “It means all eyes will be looking at what we do. Sometimes, honestly, we’re thinking more about what our peers think of it than the public. Other hairdressers are the ones who truly understand what goes into preparing such a big moment.”