Lady Gaga with her outré, original style is the up-and-coming doyenne of the music world, racking up Grammy nominations, setting pianos afire at the American Music Awards, playing at a private Museum of Contemporary Art gala in downtown L.A. She’s as noted for her eye-popping looks as she is for her music.
But when Lady Gaga takes the stage at Nokia Theatre for performances Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, stylist B. Akerlund, who helped her burst onto the scene with her stunning look, won’t be there -- she’s moved on to other things.
FOR THE RECORD:
Stylist B. Akerlund: An article about B. Akerlund in the Dec. 20 Image section said she was the first official professional stylist to work with Lady Gaga. Akerlund is one of several stylists who have worked with the singer, but she was not the first. —
Akerlund is the stylist/costumer behind Gaga’s cinematic, eyebrow-raising “Paparazzi” music video. Although many of Gaga’s original, otherworldly ensembles are crafted by “Haus of Gaga,” her own in-house artisans and style technicians, Akerlund is the first official professional stylist to have worked with the pop songstress.
Not surprisingly, the thirtysomething Swede loves to bring drama and madness to her creations.
The combination not only has been a signature for Gaga but also has carried over to Akerlund’s more recent work with Madonna, Iggy Pop and the Black Eyed Peas.
“A lot of people go to school. . . . I wish I had an education as a stylist, but I don’t. I feel like style is something you have or you don’t,” she says. Akerlund began styling at 17. Even during her early years she was bursting with inventiveness. For a year she didn’t repeat a single outfit in her own wardrobe, she says.
These days her focus is more on her 14-month-old twins than her wardrobe, but her devotion to fashion and her playful spirit continue to shine through her styling. This is particularly true in her work on music videos; she has dolled up clients including Justin Timberlake, Blondie, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Robbie Williams.
“A lot of people that I know, if they see something on TV they know that I styled it. . . . I have my niche. And it took me years to have that,” she says.
What is that style? Akerlund never repeats herself and tailors a look to each client, but she’s not your jeans and T-shirt girl -- and she wants to keep it that way.
She leans toward storytelling ensembles and likes to “have a lot of things happening.” Her sense is about being in the moment and creating along the way.
Take the iconic Lady Gaga Rolling Stone magazine cover, which features the blond babe with frizzy tresses in a Thierry Mugler nude bustier covered in oversized translucent bubbles and set against a hot pink background. Akerlund says it was a last-minute collaboration. “That was actually made on the spot five minutes before we shot,” she says.
It’s not the only time Akerlund has played with placing a near-nude image front and center. Madonna can be spotted in a flesh-colored leotard shaking her well-sculpted booty alongside Timberlake in the “4 Minutes” music video. And one glimpse at the stylist’s editorial portfolio and you’ll discover lingerie-clad lovelies dripping with over-the-top accessories exuding sex appeal.
Ask Akerlund why her work is so sexy and she’ll say, “It is?” And then she’ll shrug, adding, “Everything has to have a bit of sexy. You can be crazy but if you go too crazy, and there’s no sex appeal it’s not relevant anymore. I feel like whatever you do, it has to have a bit of sex because sex sells.”
Her roster with Madonna, arguably one of Gaga’s greatest inspirations, is impressive. Recently Akerlund did the costumes for “Filth and Wisdom,” Madonna’s directorial debut, and she also decked out the gyrating superstar in thigh-high boots, black shades and a Balmain mini dress for her “Celebration” music video. Akerlund adores working with the pop queen and calls her “a true inspiration.”
Still, she cites one of her proudest accomplishments as collaborating with her director husband, Jonas Akerlund, to create fashion madness on set for the “Paparazzi” video. The fantastical mini-film has been called “visual pornography” by Perez Hilton as well as worthy of “a red carpet” and “a full-time human being fashion show” by Rolling Stone magazine.
“I feel like why that video was so successful is because the timing was really right. Everybody was starving for a fashion moment and that came out and made people go ‘wow,’ ” Akerlund says.
If you’ve missed the video, it features plenty of Gaga mayhem and skin-revealing creations, including robotic-looking body suits, a bedazzled neck brace and wheelchair, bizarro eyewear and ruffles gone awry.
“Basically, when I did the Lady Gaga ‘Paparazzi’ video I had taken maternal leave, because I hadn’t worked for eight months -- because of my twins -- so I feel like when that job came along I exploded in a fashion way, because I hadn’t been able to express myself for so many months, I was only dressing my twins,” Akerlund says.
She credits the fashion success of the video to the inspired collaboration on set. The stylist sees a lot of herself in young Gaga and says she was a wonderful canvas to play with.
“I like to look at the whole picture, with the makeup and the hair, and everything, it’s not just: ‘Here, put this on,’ and everybody does their thing. It’s a collaborative creative process that involves a lot of people,” she says.
When she’s not trotting around the world gussying up Hollywood’s elite or paying a visit to her second home in Sweden, Akerlund is in L.A. spending time with her husband and baby girls, whom she considers her muses because they love to dress up.
The fashion maven also loves to shop. In Los Angeles, she likes to prowl thrift stores, stop in at the Way We Wore on La Brea or spend some green at Maxfield. “I feel at home there,” she says with a laugh.
But Akerlund is disappointed by the lack of fashion diversity here and she challenges the city to step it up.
“I don’t understand why they can’t pull [L.A. Fashion Week] together? All the elements are here. . . . Why can’t it be as great as New York, Paris, or London?” she says.
The stylist’s next big project has her jet-setting up and down the country. She’s styling the Black Eyed Peas for their upcoming “The E.N.D. World Tour,” which will no doubt feature her signature storytelling costume skills.
Akerlund is mum on the details regarding Fergie’s wardrobe for the tour but she does reveal, “I’m going big, I’m going huge. I’m ready to blow her away.”