Despite only being in the game for a few years, 21-year-old singer Ariana Grande always steps out in style. With a petite body, signature high pony, and an angelic face, Ariana has proven time after time that her voice is not the only thing to be reckoned with. Since the early start of her career, celebrity stylist Brigitte Pilla has been the woman behind some of Ariana’s most iconic looks.
In case you needed a receipt, she is the genius who put Ariana in those white thigh-high stockings and YSL pumps for the “Problem” single cover. The two met while both working on Nickelodeon’s Victorious back in 2010. “We kind of built a friendship there, and then I came on when she first started her first album (Yours Truly),” Pilla tells us. Since Ariana’s start as a teen star, her style has definitely gone from shy school girl, to a young woman who knows how to own her femininity. Below, Brigitte talks about her influence on Ariana’s style evolution, what went into some of her hottest looks, and which young starlet she would love to work with in the future.
How would you describe Ariana’s style?
Brigitte Pilla: She has that Audrey Hepburn, old Hollywood feel to her. She’s girly, feminine, funny, super talented. She can pull off anything.
Who is most responsible for her look?
Ultimately it’s been Ariana. I do think I influenced her in pushing the envelope a little bit, and taking her out of her comfort zone. But if she didn’t want to wear it, she wouldn’t wear it. She’s very responsible for her look.
What influences Ariana’s style?
She’ll get influenced by watching Gossip Girl or an old-time movie like Sweet Charity, and then we’ll talk about it. We both put our ideas together and go with it. For how young she is, sometimes that’s not always easy to have the confidence to kind of go with something a little different.
What was it like styling Ariana at the beginning of career compared to more recently?
The VMAs in Brooklyn (2013) is when it all started happening. I use to go to these PR houses and pull stuff, and they were like, “Ariana who?” Then within six to eight months right after she went on tour, and after the “Problem” video, everybody knew who she was. That was exciting.
What was the vision behind the Yours Truly album cover?
Ariana wanted to go with a lingerie look but still be feminine and girly. I picked a whole rack of really girly, cute looks that were a little more grown-up and big girl.
Yours Truly was a little bit controversial because she was sitting on a bed of roses and she was in a corset with ruffles. I mean, I thought it was amazing. I guess [the record label] thought it was a little much with her coming off of Nickelodeon. They nixed that and went with more of a facial shot.
What went into the concept for the cover of her 2014 album, My Everything?
Same idea. We decided to go with a lingerie look, so a lot of the outfits that were custom-made had some retro, ’60s two-pieces and custom made crop tops and little ruffled bottoms. We used some vintage ruffled bottoms in the “Problem” video that Ariana really liked, so I went and had some more made. We just put those pieces together and tried some different looks.
How had Ariana’s style evolved from her first album to the second?
By the time of the second album’s photo shoot, I think people were starting to see her as more grown up, and not the girl on Nickelodeon. Her music was more grown up. I still think the cover of My Everything is feminine — it’s not over-the-top, you really can’t see anything. Even if you’re like, “Wow, it’s sexy,” Ariana is so feminine, and she can really pull off wearing hardly anything and still look appropriate. Because she’s so tiny and doll-like.
What do you say to the critics who believe Ariana is too sexy for her age?
I think everyone needs to give her a chance. I really don’t think she’s over-the-top sexy. She’s sexy in her own way because of who she is and [because of] her music. I don’t think that she’s obscene.
Who is the “no person” when it comes to her look?
Everybody has a little bit of a say but ultimately it’s her. There can be five people in a fitting and it doesn’t really matter if everybody likes it — if she doesn’t like it, she’s not wearing it. So she definitely has the last word.
The “Problem” video was one of the best and most talked about of 2014. How did you come up with that look?
Things were moving really fast. We were really busy, and we were staying along the lines of the ’60s look, and a high pony.
Who wanted to do the ’60s-themed look?
Ariana. I think one of the movies that she had been watching at the time was Sweet Charity. She liked the Brigitte Bardot ’60s look and was like, “Let’s run with it.” It just seemed cool and I think that video kind of influenced that black and white look.
Let’s talk about the “Problem” single cover look. What went into creating the look?
What she wore for the cover was made by me. It was a ruffle short, crop top, and we did the thigh-high white stockings. I think the pumps were YSL. That was definitely pushed by me, but I think she rocked it. It was such a relaxed day, fun, and kind of spontaneous. That cover was fantastic and I definitely did push the envelope a little bit and it was great.
Has there ever been a time Ariana was hesitant about something you presented?
Maybe a little, but in the end she has the last word — just like most actresses and singers do. They look for you to bring them something a little bit out of their comfort zone, and she’s young so I think she’s still trying to find her style.
How was it working on the “Break Free” video?
It was me and Johnny Wujek — we both [styled the video], but I think because of his management they had to have one person on the [stylist credit]. So even though I provided costumes, they had to go with one person. But that was actually a lot of fun, and we got a lot of amazing costumes that she can still use!
What about Ariana’s red carpet looks?
I really love the 2014 Kids Choice Awards look. It was a little orange dress by Aiisha Ramadan that was super cute. She also did a charity event for Anna Wintour, and she had a Diane Von Furstenberg dress on that was really cute, and kind of ’60s. At the EMAs red carpet she wore pink with lace that was Michael D. I also really loved the dress she wore to the White House for Women of Soul.
Do you plan on working with her in the future?
I hope so. She knows that I’ve been working on a TV show now. She has to have people who are available 24/7 and she can call me anytime, she knows that, she has to do what she has to do.
What do you think about other young starlet’s style, like Miley Cyrus?
I don’t think she thinks too much about what she’s gonna put on next and I have to give her credit for that. Like I said, it’s fun to watch someone like her, and she’s got a lot of guts! The bottom line is people are watching her.
Anyone other than Ariana that you want to work with?
I don’t know why she fascinates me but this Charli XCX. I would really love to style her.
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