“The 200,000 crystals can wait!,” said stylist Brett Alan Nelson on Thursday morning at The Residency Experience in West Hollywood, where he was in the throes of Grammys prep, doing last-minute pulls for Lizzo’s onstage Grammys look, which may (or may not) include 200,000 crystals.
“Lizzo’s performance is going to be the most iconic of the night. When I saw the rehearsal, I cried,” said the image-maker, plucking a dangling triangle diamond earring for his tray.
It’s one of the tamer pieces on offer at The Residency, which this week has been a revolving door of stylists pulling for Grammys attendees Billie Eilish, Rosalía, Gwen Stefani, Kehlani and Ariana Grande.
A go-to designer showroom and wearable art space for those looking for something unique or custom, The Residency has helped orchestrate such viral fashion moments as Cardi B’s $250,000 Met Gala ruby nipple covers (custom-made in a week’s time by Stefere jewelry), and Joey King’s hypnotic, undulating Iris van Herpen Golden Globes dress.
Opened five years ago, the space is an avant-garde candy store of under-the-radar global fashion and jewelry brands, haute armor, headdresses and human hair wigs curated by self-described “fashion activist” and former stylist herself B. Akerlund, who has worked with Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, among others. It’s also the first stop for stylists like Nelson who are represented by the showroom’s sister company, The Only Agency.
On a glass table sits a white feather On Aura Tout Vu headdress worn by Nicki Minaj on her recent tour, and displayed on a mannequin in a corner is a futuristic pannier dress made by Australian designer Kirsten Fletcher from 500 upcycled festival tents, and freshly modeled by Lizzo in her David LaChapelle shoot for the current issue of Rolling Stone, styled by Nelson.
There’s a wall of fanciful headbands by Piers Atkinson, including Katy Perry’s favorite cherry, and boxes of crystal body art by J Maskrey (who made the crystal snake art that envelops Lizzo in the Rolling Stone shoot).
Despite the scandal brewing around the Recording Academy and the Grammys in the wake of chief executive officer Deborah Dugan filing a discrimination complaint, Nelson thinks this is still a year to celebrate.
“It’s nice to see a group of strong women dominating the music industry and all of them so different. Lizzo, Billie, Rosalía — they are the new vanguard,” said the stylist, who hails from Missouri and got his start assisting Simone Harouche.
Their fashion is something to watch, too. “It was always the same boring sheer crystal dress,” he said of Grammys dressing of yore. “We used to just have Lady Gaga doing different. Now, with social media, everyone has to be something individual or some troll is going to say you’re copying so and so. Helping artists figure out their individuality is inspiring…And it’s great to have someone who has a good eye like B. She knows what people want, from little eye patches to ball gowns.”
What celebrities want now more than ever is something nobody else has. “It used to be all about big names. But when I couldn’t find what I wanted, that’s when I started finding emerging designers,” said Akerlund, who is currently working on projects with Absolut Elyx and with the group Abba. “Cut to now, celebrities don’t care who made it as long as they look amazing. That’s why I changed my title to fashion activist, that’s what I do — fight for fashion, supporting designers and finding the unknown. That’s my passion.”