Kenyan-Mexican actress Lupita Nyong'o landed on the perfect moment to pay tribute to her African heritage. Last Fall, Lupita starred in Disney's Queen of Katwe, a film about chess player Phiona Mutesi, who lives with her family in Uganda. Lupita played Harriet, Phiona's mother, and to prepare for the role, she spent plenty of time traveling.
While chatting with Lupita's stylist, Micaela Erlanger, via phone, she told us how the actress and she visited Uganda, sourcing materials from African designers that would eventually inspire looks for the promotional tour. For the film's premieres, Lupita wore a lineup of red carpet dresses by top designers like Rosie Assoulin, Balmain, and Carolina Herrera, but their matching headpieces were all part of a larger collaboration.
Micaela explained how she partnered with Lupita's hairstylist, Vernon Francois, to create designs that sat like a crown atop Lupita's head. It wasn't so simple: Micaela pulled from fabric shops in New York to bring the full combinations to fruition, and even more accessories came into play. Still, the stylist is a master, and thanks to her print-mixing tips and wise tricks, Lupita's appearances were absolutely dazzling. Read on for the full story Micaela told us behind what may just be Lupita's most memorable looks to date, then find out which ensemble excited the actress and her stylist the most.
"We were inspired by Lupita's heritage and of course the story of Queen of Katwe for this tour. We have been waiting for the right opportunity to embrace African designers and African-inspired looks. This was a wonderful moment to celebrate that."
"What I love most about our work together is it is always a collaboration. I worked with Lupita's hairstylist, Vernon Francois, and he had such great ideas and was able to manipulate the fabric and create these magnificent head wraps or crowns for her looks."
"It was very simple actually. After we had decided on a look (here, Lupita wears Rosie Assoulin), we asked the designers for matching fabric or to provide special fabric for us to use. I also spent a lot of time at the African fabric shops in New York and used some material I had brought back from my trip to Africa with Lupita last July."
"My personal favorite was the Carolina Herrera gown we custom designed. It was directly inspired by some fabric I'd brought home from Africa last July when I went to go visit Kenya with Lupita. The colors were fantastic, and the print was so beautiful. I also really loved the fact that we had the chance to work with some African designers. It is important to represent the talent there, and this was a wonderful platform to do so."
"[When it comes to print mixing], it's all about balance and knowing when to scale back." Here, Lupita wore an Elie Saab gown.
"You never want a print to look too busy. I like to mix in solid shades here and there to give a look some kind of foundation as well." Here, Lupita wore a black hair crown with her Balmain dress, as well as Jennifer Fisher hoop earrings.