Naomi Ackie on Finding the Whitney Houston Style and Her Spectacular Schiaparelli Premiere Look

Another key entry point for Ackie was the remarkably meticulous wardrobe assembled by Charlese Antoinette Jones, the costume designer who had a breakout moment last year (and garnered a handful of award nominations) for her work on Judas and the Black Messiah. Delving into Houston’s outfits over the decades, they were able to identify, and more deeply understand, the dichotomy between her private and public life. “After taking a closer look, we saw these two very different sides of Whitney,” Ackie explains. “There’s what her friends and her family called Nippy, I nicknamed her when she was out of the public eye, who was much more laid back and down to earth: jeans and a tracksuit, all of that. And then you have Whitney Houston on TV screens and on stage in these beautiful, elegant dresses and sequins.”

It was the latter person who also ended up offering Ackie and Jones a fashion history lesson. “It was fascinating, everything from fashion to hairstyles to makeup trends, even brow trends!” remember Ackie. “It all helped me place her at a specific time and at a specific time in her journey.” In fact, the more Ackie and the wardrobe crew considered Houston’s place in pop culture history, the more they realized the influence it had had on fashion. “A lot of her outfits look really classic for the time they were in, but that’s partly because a lot of people dressed like her,” Ackie explains. “Bringing Whitney to the forefront as a fashion icon was definitely a goal.” As for Ackie’s personal favorite Houston looks? That would be her classic formula of a leather jacket, white tank top, and high-waisted jeans during her days as an ’80s ingénue, or the gold Marc Bouwer dress and jeweled turban she wore to her 1994 performances. in South Africa in honor of Nelson Mandela. . “She looked so regal and beautiful,” Ackie sighs of the last look.

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It makes sense, then, that for the I want to dance with someone Premiere in New York, Ackie and her stylist Nicky Yates turned to one of fashion’s most flamboyant (and offbeat) purveyors of glamor and glitz: Daniel Roseberry of schiaparelli. But there’s also a sentimental link to the Schiaparelli house for Ackie, who studied textiles in college and even considered a career as a dressmaker if acting failed. “My first fashion show in Paris was the Schiaparelli couture show just before the lockdown, and she was very nervous, as she had never been in the front row of anything before,” she says. “I was so aware of the Schiaparelli story, and when I got there and the models started walking the runway, I got so emotional about the music and the clothes, and I started crying.”

Photo: Avin Jarjis for Schiaparelli

Photo: Avin Jarjis for Schiaparelli

When Ackie and Yates began their usual process of putting together separate Pinterest mood boards and then coming together to share notes, they realized they had both earmarked look 21 from Roseberry’s Fall 2022 couture collection for the house: namely, a gown made entirely of strands of Swarovski crystals and silver-tone crystal bugle beads that required nearly 5,000 hours of hand-embroidering labor, topped with a stunning metal corset elaborated in floral shapes and encrusted with rhinestones. “I was talking to Nicky about the liquid metal idea, because he was thinking about the ‘Queen of the Night’ look in The bodyguardAckie says. “It’s that balance of femininity and also a kind of toughness, especially with the flowers made of metal. She felt very feminine and sexy, but also like being protected, a kind of armor.”

Photo: Avin Jarjis for Schiaparelli

Photo: Avin Jarjis for Schiaparelli

A quick call from Yates to Schiaparelli later, and the look was his. Heading to Paris in November to visit Schiaparelli’s headquarters in its founder Elsa Schiaparelli’s former apartment on Place Vendôme, where Ackie donned a custom version of the skirt, felt like a pilgrimage for Ackie. (She points out that her love of couture runs in the family, recalling lively discussions about fashion with both her sister and her late mother.) “There’s almost a churchy feeling walking into that space, there was so much history,” says Ackie, gushing about the excitement of seeing the seamstresses and shop workers up close retouching the garments. “It was absolutely amazing, I felt dizzy the whole time.”

Photo: Avin Jarjis for Schiaparelli

Photo: Avin Jarjis for Schiaparelli

However, in addition to being an ode to Houston, the look also reflected a major milestone for Ackie. With I want to dance with someone Marking her first leading role in a major studio film, it only made sense to go big. “I don’t think I get many opportunities to wear something that beautiful, you know?” she says. “You can’t go to Tesco wearing this!” Additionally, she pointed out how far Ackie has come, and the excitement of finally sending his biggest project yet out into the world. “I think there’s something about owning the moment and making sure that in this moment I have as much fun as possible and express myself as much as possible,” she adds.

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