As some of you may have noticed, my obsession on this blog is celebrity styling and the star-making potential of smart fashion choices and a good fashion game plan – it happened last year for Lupita, it’s happening right now for Nicola Peltz. And it’s star-making for both starlet and designer, with many a career having been launched off the back of a stellar fashion moment. So when I saw how Irish model Madeline Mulqueen took the world by storm when she accompanied her finacé, Jack Reynor – star of a little summer movie you may have heard of… Transformers 4? – on his movie’s world-wide press tour, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to find out straight from the horses mouth if the red carpet is all it’s cracked up to be.
Asides from eschewing the cookie-cutter glam beloved of many Irish celebrities in favour of an edgier, more experimental approach, what most impressed me about Madeline’s wardrobe was her commitment to showcasing the work of Irish designers and businesses. As well as offering exposure to emerging designers like Colin Horgan and Zoe Carol Wong, she pulled out the big guns in more established names like Louise Kennedy and Joanne Hynes, and threw in some high street staples and well known boutiques for good measure.
Mixing it up and trying different looks from city to city, she wore every look with ease and more than held her own alongside newly-crowned fashion star Nicola Peltz. And, not for the first time, Irish design held its own on an international stage alongside the heaviest of hitters. With Peltz wearing everyone from Prada to Stella to Dolce & Gabanna, you can’t but feel proud to see independent Irish designers like Colin or Zoe or Geraldine O’Meara showcased on the same platform.
In this era, where celebrity stylists are burgeoning power players and young actresses have someone to help them pick out what they should wear on a Starbucks coffee run, I often hear people wonder why someone would need so much help pulling a wardrobe together, like it would be a dream come true to have access to the best designers and to spend your time putting looks together yourself instead of getting someone to do it for you. But I think those people underestimate the enormity of putting together a press tour wardrobe. You don’t just throw a few of your favourite dresses in a bag and hope for the best, you have to be well turned out in different outfits for up to three or four events a day, for weeks on end, and you have to impress fashion bitches like me so you get all the right exposure. That is no small task, and stylist Laura Mullett stepped up to the plate to help Madeline get her fashion home run.
I was super excited to get a chance to pick both their brains and find out if the red carpet experience was all glamour, all hard slog, or a pleasant combination of both!
TDD – Obviously, as a model, you’re well used to being styled and dressed up, but I would imagine that when you’re modelling you’ll wear anything and almost go into character to pull it off. How was the experience of being styled as “Madeline” different, and why did you think Laura was the woman for the job?
MMQ – That’s so true. When you’re modelling you have a job of making what you’re given to wear look good, and with this it was very different, it was about representing myself well and also representing the designer. Laura instantly came to mind for the task at hand. I had always been an admirer of Laura’s work and at the beginning of the year she styled me for two shoots I did, one with Richie Buttle (above) and another with Alex Hutchinson (below). She had my sense of style and personality off to a T. We immediately had one of those ‘Did we just become best friends?’ moments! While being incredibly warm and fun, Laura is one of the most professional and hard working ladies I’ve ever met.
TDD – So Laura, how did you come to be styling Madeline for the Transformers tour, and is this the first time you’ve taken on a project like this, ie, coordinating a number of looks for a press tour?
LM – I have worked as a press fashion stylist and journalist for several years and my day to day styling would be shooting for brands or styling shoots and editorial spreads for newspapers and magazines. I have styled special prolific clients for private events and had personal shopper duties like doing seasonal wardrobe rehauls. I styled Madeline for a covershoot for the Sunday World magazine and I interviewed her for the feature and it went really well. It was a collaboration with New Look UK and had a grunge glam vibe. I was thrilled when Madeline asked me – I knew it would be a challenge but an inviting one. This has been a very exciting experience and is my first global press tour.
TDD – And how does your approach to and preparation for that kind of project differ from a regular styling job? How far in advance did you start planning, how did you communicate your ideas to Madeline, how involved was she in deciding the overall approach?
LM – Myself and Madeline were consistently on the same wavelength for the weeks ahead of the tour. When we would meet I talked through my ideas and designers I felt would be the right fit and we enjoyed pondering over the short list of options. Then we had fittings and appointments where attire was made especially or select garments were altered to be the perfect fit on Madeline’s frame. It is great to celebrate Irish design but my prerogative was to select the best options – many of which coincidentally happen to be Irish. The choices reflect the flavour of the cities and besides being occasion appropriate and understated look effortless on Madeline.
TDD – This was a huge, international tour. Did each country on the itinerary influence what Madeline might wear for that event, and did you both have each look very specifically planned out in advance – as in, you’ll wear the Colin Horgan dress in Beijing with the black and white sandals – or did you prepare a kind of a capsule wardrobe that could be mixed and matched as the tour progressed?
MMQ – It was a bit of both really. For the red carpet choices we thought about the different cities I was going to be in and how I could capture the feel of that place with my look. And for my every day and night looks we chose a mixture of designers and high street outfits (mostly from my own wardrobe) that I could play around with depending on how I was feeling! Laura generously gave me some amazing pieces from her own wardrobe to wear too. She seriously is my style angel!
LM – We were very organised and right up to the flat packing of bags and suitcases we had a set plan, but naturally there were extras and multiple options for dinners and press events besides the red carpet premieres. Monochrome is elegant and looks very becoming and demure on the red carpet. The world premiere in Hong Kong called for a Geraldine O’ Meara floor sweeper whereas Berlin called for the Zoe Carol chic tailored white ensemble. The Joanne Hynes beaded and Perspex two piece had that carnival vibe and showed enough navel to have the carnival flavour for the Rio premiere while still being classy. Every city has a different atmosphere and strike different inspirations so that was the guideline from the get go.
TDD – And Madeline, I saw from your twitter feed that you did your own hair and make up for the events. Was that a case of whatever felt right on the day or was that planned in advance also to bring out the best in the clothes? For example I loved the milkmaid braids with the Zoe Carol dress!
MMQ – I love doing my own hair and make up anyway so I already had a huge amount of inspiration looks I wanted to do that I’ve seen on some of my favourite hair and make-up artist’s pages. Great Lengths Ireland kindly gave me a few extra inches to the hair so I could play around a bit more with my hair styles, and I also did a make up course with Make Up Forever. I sometimes have to do my own make up for shoots so their skills were good to know and definitely came in handy while I was away. And similar to emulating the cities with my clothes, my hair and make up choices were inspired by where I was at the time too.
TDD – Did you make a conscious decision to use this opportunity to support Irish designers? These days it seems a red carpet showing and the coverage that gets can be as valuable to a new designer as a catwalk showing, if not more so, so did you both realise that you could really boost the profile of whichever designers you chose?
MMQ – Absolutely! I’ve always been a firm believer in supporting your own, be it fashion or any form of home grown talent. We honestly had too many outstanding Irish designers to choose from, we were spoilt for choice. We also wanted to use a mix of up and coming designers along with known ones. Every designer we spoke to and met with were so forthcoming and it’s very uplifting to see such generosity and support from people. It is an honour to have been dressed by them.
LM – I knew it would be a great platform for everyone and I am honoured to get to work with a multitude of such talented Irish designers but I made sure to select what would look fantastic on Madeline. It was a conscious decision in the sense that as soon as I was asked I instantly thought Colin Horgan, Louise Kennedy, Natalie B Coleman and Joanne Hynes as I follow their work closely and I knew they all had pieces that would be exceptional. Through the tour I met Zoe Carol and am so thrilled I did. Her work is stunning and I was honoured she asked me to style her SS15 lookbook. I am very passionate about Irish design and it is exciting to be part of the tour which is followed by so many people all over the world, and to meet and collaborate with bright upcoming stars on the Irish fashion scene is very inspiring.
TDD – Which of the designer looks do you feel was most representative of your personal style, Madeline? I know the Zoe Carol dress was custom, yet typical of Zoe’s classic but modern, elegant approach, whereas the Colin Horgan dress was from his Spring Summer collection, which is very cool and directional – not to mention reminiscent of a Transformer – and the Geraldine O’Meara dresses were much more classic.
MMQ – Oooh, it’s a tough one to choose!! When choosing the looks, myself and Laura always discussed openly how I felt in each garment and if I felt it was my sense of style, but at the same time we had just as open a discussion with whichever designer about how they felt and what they envisioned for the look. We had a great balance between my own and the designers style.
TDD – And what do you think Laura? Do you feel the looks Madeline wore on the press tour were representative of her general style or was it more important to mix it up a bit, show different facets of Madeline’s style and bring some young Irish designers to an international audience?
LM – I couldn’t pick a particular designer because being honest it’s like a story! If you put all the different pictures of the outfits together they fit like a jigsaw. Madeline is confident and carries everything off with personality so the clothes didn’t wear her in any instance. She is very intuitive of fashion and trends and it isn’t her style to follow the pack so she was a dream to dress. The outfits are representative of Madeline. Contemporary and cool but playful.
TDD – That’s very true, she really did wear everything, from the hand-beaded Louise Kennedy dress to the much edgier Joanne Hynes two piece with such confidence, and even though a lot of red carpet veterans talk about how intimidating it is to face that wall of photographers on the red carpet, you seemed to take it in your stride Madeline! So how did you find that? Did you look more confident than you felt or, being a model, was it just a matter of switching it on for hundreds of cameras just as you’d switch it on for one?
MMQ – I thought I was going to find it a lot more nerve wracking than it was. Of course you’re going to get the sweaty palms and a few butterflies before doing something like that, but after one of Laura’s awesome pep talks you feel like you can do anything! My attitude is, if I stress out or put myself under unnecessary pressure about the red carpet, then it’s going to take away from the amazing experience of getting to travel the world and showcases Irish talent. More importantly though, I really just wanted to enjoy myself with my wonderful man… Cheeeese!!!!
And the fun’s not over yet! With the Tokyo premiere still to come I can’t wait to see what the girls have in store for the world’s most fashion forward city.