How to Dress Like an A-List Actor with Celebrity Stylist Ilaria Urbinati
Ilaria Urbinati is feeling a real ’70s vibe right now. “I love the exaggerated proportions—higher-waist trousers, wide notch lapels and printed shirts,” says the stylist, citing an article which calls this craze “the ’70s Sleaze.” Considering how well Urbinati dresses famous gents, we’re keen to trust her judgement.
The most in-demand celebrity stylist for men, Urbinati has major styling prowess that reflects in her clientele list—a starry roster that includes Tom Hiddleston, Rami Malek, Armie Hammer and Riz Ahmed. “I take a lot of pride in the fact that each of my clients have their own look as opposed to my look,” says the stylist, who encourages men to take more risks on the red carpet. Recall Donald Glover’s velvet Gucci ensemble at the 2017 Golden Globes, where he accepted an award for Best Actor in Atlanta while simultaneously nabbing the night’s “Best Dressed” title. As one of her favorite red carpet looks ever, the latter was Urbinati’s win, too.
Tasked with styling over 40 Hollywood gents for various red carpets, luncheons, dinners, screenings and premieres, Urbinati has learned that in order to get the pieces she wanted with tailoring she could work with, she would have to create them herself. So she turned to Strong Suit, the affordable, millennial-focused suit label with a reputation for luxury and quality. The partnership was a no-brainer for Urbinati, who had already been dressing her clients in Strong Suit trousers and jackets. With the Strong Suit team, Urbinati played with construction, texture, color and fabric to create exactly what she wanted for her fittings—a dream situation for the stylist who enjoys customization.
For her collaboration with Strong Suit, the stylist sprinkled in a dose of her favorite decade (think printed button-downs) among the elegant, versatile collection of suits. Never one to shy away from colors and interesting textures, Urbinati incorporated these elements in her designs from the casual, unlined linen suits to the velvet-trimmed tuxedos and the stylist’s personal favorite, the spezzato: an Italian practice of pairing jackets and pants that don’t match, but complement each other.
The collection is available exclusively at Nordstrom Men’s Store NYC and online starting today, April 12th. (The collection will be available at Nordstrom at The Grove in Los Angeles starting April 26th.) Ahead of the launch, we spoke to Urbinati about the future of men’s fashion and what to expect from her Strong Suit collaboration. One thing we do know: her clients will be wearing it.
What menswear trends are you most excited about right now?
Again, it’s all about the ’70s. We did a red printed shirt for this line that is my absolute favorite. I like these shirts worn just on their own, with a trouser and the sleeves rolled up. Especially for the warmer months, it’s a nice way to look stylish and presentable without having to wear a jacket. And lately I’ve gotten more into men’s jewelry.
Besides that, I love a spezzato suit. That’s Italian for a suit that’s split—meaning a different color jacket from the trouser. We created a lot of blazers for the collection because I wanted guys to be able to throw them over a black or navy trouser to recreate that Italian look.
What was missing in menswear that you wanted to address with your Strong Suit collaboration?
For me, it was really about making suits in the styles and fits that I think are fashionable—such as a higher-waist suit pant, a slightly wider notch lapel and patch pockets—and then adding a contemporary twist. I chose fabrics, colors and textures that felt special and a little unusual, and it makes the item even cooler.
What does it mean to you to keep the collection at an affordable price point?
I really wanted my friends and peers to be able to afford the line. I am always posting photos of looks I’m dressing my clients in, and I love the idea that someone can see something on my Instagram and actually go out and buy it for themselves. It means that a guy can get outside his comfort zone and try a suit in a color that isn’t your typical black, navy or grey because it’s affordable and he doesn’t have to overthink it too much.
And for the same reasons, I love being able to have the line at Nordstrom. The collection is accessible to everyone while sitting side-by-side with brands and labels that I love and respect. I personally shop for myself and my clients at Nordstrom, so it’s nice to have the line there and not somewhere I would never shop.
How do you encourage your male clients to push the envelope, but still look good?
I try to hone in on what my client’s personal style and vibe is, and as long as I’m working within that, I can get them to try new things. It’s important for them to feel like themselves. Over time, we try to keep evolving their look so it never feels stale.
What are the things you want to know about a client in order to style them?
I try to get a sense of their personal aesthetic—what they’re into, how they see themselves—and I create a look that speaks to that version of themselves. If I haven’t worked with a client before, I Google them and look through photos of things they’ve worn on the carpet and in editorial shoots to get a sense of what they like, where they’re willing to go, what works and doesn’t work on them.
How do you approach styling differently with your male and female clients?
From a stylist’s perspective, dressing men is a very different process from dressing women in the behind-the-scenes politics of the industry. When styling men, it’s only about the creative process. And because men don’t get scrutinized on the carpet the way that women unfortunately do, there’s a lot less anxiety about trying new things and taking risks. My male clients and I get to be into whatever we’re into, and I then work with various brands to get my hands on the right pieces to create that look.
For women, it’s a lot more about getting your hands on the “right” runway dress that will get the attention of editors and so on. It is also an extensive creative process, but a lot of it is stunted by having to play the game.
Favorite occasion to style for?
You and Strong Suit founder Jamie Davidson both share a love of literature, which has been incorporated into the collection. Each suit is embroidered with the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” And the styles are names of literary characters, among them Roark, Kilgore and Buddy Glass. How else did art and literature inform this collaboration?
I’ve been going through a real ’70s vibe. I’m a big fan of that era of film—especially early Scorsese and Pacino. I’ve been pretty aggressive about incorporating this vibe with my red carpet styling, but for the line, I wanted the inspiration to be more subtle.
The printed shirts, some of the jacket cuts (and as I mentioned before, the higher-waisted trousers and wider notch lapels) and even some of the tie prints are all nods to the ’70s. I didn’t want to go too far over the top with that theme because, though it’s important that the line feel very now, it should also be timeless.