As Ilaria Urbinati dresses Ty Burrell, Lizzy Caplan, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau for the big night (as well as regular client Bradley Cooper), she shares her edge as the men’s go-to, the politics of dressing women, and the secret to keeping her clients happy
Ilaria Urbinati has a proven reputation as a go-to dresser for some of Hollywood’s most notable men — but at the moment, the trusted stylist has an opinion with which her clients would likely disagree.
“Thanks a lot, football,” Urbinati deadpans.
She’s referring to the annual Emmy Awards telecast getting yanked up from September to August 25, to avoid a ratings battle with NBC’s juggernaut “Sunday Night Football.”
Also read: Emmy Nominees 2014: The Complete List
It’s at the forthcoming telecast that a sampling of her client roster, like Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama series nominee Lizzy Caplan and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy nominee Ty Burrell will strut in honor of their respective nods.
It’s a job she had to start prepping for weeks earlier thanks to the schedule shuffle.”It’s crazy right now,” she confesses of the summer season, usually reserved for recovering from the previous winter awards madness before the fall calls everyone back for TV trophies.
“I had eight people at Comic-Con,” Uribinati said of folks like “Divergent” leads Shailene Woodley and Theo James, Will Arnett, and “Game of Thrones” star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
“I have a press tour for Nina Dobrev, and then about forty people for the parties surrounding Emmys, plus the show. All of this happened a lot earlier than it usually does.”
“Menswear has more to do with your own taste than with politics ” Urbinati said, “with the girls it’s more political.”
Indeed. Current portraits of womenswear stylists are presented as anxiety plays: praying a bigger starlet doesn’t steal a coveted gown, begging for dress alterations that might make an actress more relatable to a moviegoer.
Her job requires an understanding of fashion houses, and how they relate to men in the industry.
“Each designer has certain men that they’ll dress and certain one’s that they wont. They have ‘their guys’… and we often do custom,” Urbinati said.
Custom suiting is where craft comes in, and it doesn’t take a GQ subscription to know that tailoring is your ticket to sartorial praise.
“You want to think outside the box, you don’t want too many bells and whistles. I want them to stand out, but not look like clowns. It has to be effortless,” Urbinati said.
Her trick to effortlessness? “My focus is very special materials, very special colors and fabrics. But done in very classic shapes.”
She points to clients like Bradley Cooper, who counts fashion demigod Tom Ford as a fan.
“For ‘The Hangover III,’ all of Bradley’s suits were custom. Almost all the premieres we did for ‘The Lone Ranger,’ Armie [Hammer] wore custom,” said said, “which actually works out when some of the guys aren’t normal sizes. Armie is 6’5.”
“I do have a really good eye for [rising talent],” she sad, “I’m such a cinephile. I’m a movie nerd. I’m a big fan of actors, and almost like a director in that way. A lot of my clients I had before they had big success. My agent knows to never turn people down without checking with me, because it could be some random person on some random show I adore.”
And the Los Angeles resident isn’t afraid to introduce some of her lesser-known boys to the fashion brass.
“I’ll play publicist. I’ll say, ‘Hey, here’s this new actor. They have this coming out, and this is why you should dress them,'” Urbinati said. The look has to make sense with where that person is in their career and what they wore in the past. You want to surprise people a bit.”
Emmy nominees like Kerry Washington and Jessica Lange have acknowledged the benefit a good style game can have on actor’s career, and Urbinati sees the same value for her guys.
“This is a visual industry, it’s all about the way you present yourself. If someone’s been playing a bimbo in every role, go chic and conservative and watch how people start looking at your differently,” she said.
Urbinati, married to fashion photog Eric Ray Davidson, doesn’t spend much time worrying about her own critics, but like any creative has a few homeruns she wants to hit.
“I would love to say it’s whenever I think it looks good,” Urbinati said of an outfit’s success, “but it’s whenever they’re on the best dressed list!”
Her men of style, and female clients like Caplan and Woodley, habitually appear under the Best Dressed banner.
“Also, there’s this blogger, Red Carpet Fashion Awards? She’s what I hold my breath for. She’s got great taste, and she’s the standard now. Also, Look of the Day on InStyle.com. When a client is getting the right kind of attention, I love it,” she said.
The most important kind of attention her clients can get, it would seem, is from Urbinati herself.
“They put the job in my hands for sure … but they trust me,” she said. An average fitting will last two sessions, sometimes three for custom, with Urbinati pinning, pulling and trying endless options. The men are well behaved, she concedes, and allow her to execute her vision.
“You have a guy in a suit that no one has ever worn, with colors and fabrics I specifically picked out,” she said of the emotional effect the the experience has on a client.
“For Bradley, I remember we did a peacock-color suit from Ferragamo and it just looked made for his face,” she recalled with adoration.
The same adoration that millions will share when they click through cumbersome blog galleries and flip through glossy celebrity weeklies come August 25. They’ll see the familiar handsome faces, but they’ll be feeling Urbinati’s touch.
Michael Kovac’s original photography for TheWrap captured with a LYTRO ILLUM.