Welcome to our new podcast, Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr. Think of it as your direct line to the designers, stylists, beauty experts, editors, and tastemakers who are shaping the fashion-and-beauty world. Subscribe to Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
We've sat down with the artists behind Jennifer Lopez's hair and nails during her unforgettable Super Bowl performance, so it only makes sense that we round it out by speaking with the masterminds behind her wardrobe. Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn are the duo behind many of our favorite sartorial celebrity moments and have a massive lineup of A-list clientele. From dressing Rihanna for her iconic "Umbrella" music video (the project that launched their partnership) to making sure Gwen Stefani, Hailee Steinfeld, Camila Cabello, and the aforementioned J.Lo look good both on stage (yes, even the Super Bowl stage) and on the red carpet, there's nary a Pinterest inspo board that their work isn't featured on.
Strap in as Hillary Kerr talks the celebrity stylist team through some of the milestone moments that have earned them a place on The Hollywood Reporter's 25 Most Powerful Stylists in Hollywood list for 10 consecutive years.
Talk about the [Jennifer Lopez] Super Bowl. I remember watching it in real time. I obviously follow both of you on social media, so I watched all of the lead-up. There was a pole routine involved. How did you approach that performance?
Mariel Haenn:That job, we actually did have time. It went so well and was so smooth because we were like two or three months ahead. For her, I think that was really important because there was so much preparation, so much rehearsal, [and] so many moving parts because it's a live show. It's a live show in the middle of a stadium, a huge event. She was sharing the stage with Shakira, which isn't a typical thing for her, so there was just a lot of pressure, I would say. I felt very secure in that job because we were so organized. It did help that Versace did all of the costumes, so it was sort of like a one-stop shop, even for the 120 dancers or whatever the final count wound up being because they kept adding more and more and more at the end. The design process was… She was very involved. We just worked on sketches and were working through the holidays, which is always tricky as well because everybody checks out for a minute and then checks back in and then checks out again. Being organized is such a big part of making that work where she feels secure because, at the end of the day, we need to make her feel secure. If she's not feeling sure about something, that's when we get stressed.
Rob Zangardi:This was one job that we did have some advance on. We probably worked on it, at least the beginning of the creative, six months earlier. We knew she was doing the Super Bowl. We didn't know exactly what it was going to look like or how many songs, and those things definitely changed. Versace also made us an extra outfit that we didn't use, which hopefully we'll still use. There were moments when she was opening up the show with Shakira and then they were both going to do it together and then close together. But then that kind of changed. We actually had one of her outfits in two colors. Shakira was going to be in red for her opening setup, so we made a red outfit for Jennifer to also start. Those kinds of things change, which is kind of a bummer because that outfit was amazing. And then adding the kids was something that popped up real close to the final days where they were like, "We're adding 60 children," and they had to dance also. We wanted fringe for the movement but also young enough for a 7-year-old to do some salsa moves. Normally when we're doing a show, there's a quick change area in the back, and there's a backstage. In here, you're in the round. You're seeing it from all four corners.
Let's go back to [Rihanna's] "Umbrella" shoot. What was that like? Did you think you knew what you were doing? Did you know that it was a moment that people were going to talk about for the rest of your lives?
MH: I don't think we realized. It was kind of a shit show in the sense that it was a huge video. It was the first time she did a feature with Jay-Z. There were water elements. There was fire. We had to do fire retardant on the clothes, green screen. Literally everything you could throw at somebody in one video as far as wardrobe challenges. We had latex, latex broke. It was a lot of things. I think it was her first video that she chopped her hair short, so it was definitely a moment in the making, but I definitely don't think we realized that in the moment.
RZ: We do have flashbacks from the music videos. You know the ones that you're shooting at three o'clock in the morning and then freezing. Rihanna's in a water tank, and we're freezing and only can imagine what she's going through. You hear those songs on the radio still, and you're shivering and have PTSD.
Can we talk about designing and creating for the stage versus a red carpet? She has to move and dance and do things. What is the process like when you're doing something for the stage like [Gwen Stefani's Vegas residency]? How is it different than a red carpet moment?
MH: It couldn't be any more different. Red carpet, you just have to look good for a couple of hours and stand still and take a good picture and find your best angle. On stage, you have to move, sing, breathe, dance, run, quick change, gag if there's a gag involved. Your brain has to open up all these different files that all have to connect in order to make it successful. A lot of times, the gag is on wardrobe—no pressure for us—but how do we go from this look to that look on stage in three seconds?
RZ: And be able to see it from, you know, 100 yards back.
MH: And it has to look good. Don't forget. It has to look good.
RZ: I remember back in my MTV days I was dressing somebody, and they were like, "Well, I can't wear a belt because it'll scratch my guitar." There's so much of that stuff where every single thing needs to be checked off.
MH: Your corset can't be too tight; otherwise, you can’t sing.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Next up, check out our previous episode featuring celebrity manicurist Tom Bachik.