Janelle Monae’s Stylist Details Her Stylish, Surreal Met Gala Look

Written by on May 8, 2019

By Megan Zukin

Janelle MonaeCostume Institute Benefit celebrating the opening of Camp: Notes on Fashion, Arrivals, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA - 06 May 2019
CREDIT: LEXIE MORELAND/WWD/REX/SHUTTERST

Alexandra Mandelkorn went through 15 sketches before settling on Janelle Monae’s final Met Gala look.

Mandelkorn is the mastermind stylist behind Monae’s red carpet reign and is responsible for her style from PYNK-era to present. When it comes to Monae’s look for the first Monday of May event, Mandelkorn turned to Picasso and Dali for inspiration and incorporated surrealism with the artificial and over-the-top.

The charity ball, hosted by Vogue editor Anna Wintour and a band of talent, is known for making hundreds of stars play by the rules of the annual theme, which is inspired this year by the Susan Sontag essay “Notes on ‘Camp.’”

Variety spoke with Mandelkorn about her interpretation of camp and how she wove together Monae’s personality into the final product.

Why is camp important right now?

Camp has always been important because it takes away so much of the seriousness that can come along with fashion. It allows you to be cheeky and over the top in the most fun ways.

What did you turn to for camp inspiration?

We looked to campy surreal art for our inspiration. Janelle is a huge fan of Picasso and Dali and we really wanted the surreal nature of their works to come through in the look.

How do you merge together Janelle Monae’s personality with this year’s theme of camp?

The black and white is always a signature of hers, but we also incorporated her love for technology and performance art into the look with the addition of the blinking eye.

How many tries did it take to arrive to Janelle’s final look?

We went through a lot of sketches. Christian Siriano probably ended up sending over about 15 sketch options. From there we chose our two favorites to have made as options. We finally settled on the gown look. When Janelle first tried it on, she totally lit up and we knew we’d found a winner.

What was your collaboration process?

This was a true collaborative process. We went back and forth on hundreds of texts, emails and phone calls, relaying Janelle’s desires and ideas to Christian Siriano, who would then in turn come back with his interpretation of her thoughts. Sketches, photos and videos were sent every step of the way, tweaking and adjusting as we went along. It was amazing to be a part of such a creative group of individuals, all working together to bring this incredible and iconic look to life.

What is your favorite part of her look?

Honestly, every single part is important in making the look as strong as it is. From the crystal detailing, the black trimming, to the silhouette and the incredible hat sculpture, every bit matters. But I do have to say, the blinking eye really makes me smile.

What is your dream Met Gala theme?

I would absolutely live for an outer space, galactic, alien-inspired theme.

What are the campiest accessories of 2019?

Wearable tech! It’s the future, honey!


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