We often forget that stars don’t dress themselves like you or I. Behind every incredible outfit on every incredible celebrity is their personal stylist, weaving their magic behind the curtain. Fashion in Hollywood involves as much calculation and preparation as negotiating royalties.
Whilst Ilaria Urbinati may not be a household name, her clients certainly are: Bradley Cooper, Ryan Reynolds, Will Forte, Ian Somerhalder, Ty Burrell, Nina Dobrev and Lizzy Caplan to name a very well-known few. Urbinati is a highly-regarded stylist and one of the most in-demand fashion talents in Hollywood, as well as the mastermind behind some of the most incredible looks recently seen on the red carpet.
Urbinati is a 34-year-old stylist currently based in Los Angeles. Born in Rome but raised in Paris by her photographer father and model-turned-art-dealer mother, the family moved to the City of Angels in the midst of Urbinati’s teenage years. There she attended boarding school in Sheridan, Ore, and aspired to become a writer. “I came out of the womb wanting to be a writer,” she recently stated to The New York Times.
“I was a tomboy and I thought fashion was vapid… I was going to be, like, Dostoyevsky, or something, which is funny.”
When Urbinati graduated high school she quickly realised that literary life was not as thriving as she had once hoped. Her aunt, Laura Urbinari, was a designer with a successful store in Los Angeles. In the 1990s, Laura showcased and carried Nicolas Ghesquière’s first collection for Balenciaga, as well as then-limited labels Maison Martin Margiela, Comme des Garçons and Helmut Lang.
Despite the fact she needed a job, Urbinati readily acknowledged that “no one’s handing anything out in my family,” and was forced to seek work on her own. She found her entry into fashion with renowned boutique Ron Herman, quickly becoming their best seller. It was only after her success that Urbinati’s aunt reached out and offered her a career. In no time Urbinati was being sent to Paris Fashion Week on behalf of her aunt’s store. “I was, like, 17 and remember sitting front row at Balenciaga and Margiela,” she reminisced to The Times.
But Urbinati’s free-spirited nature soon found the lifestyle tiresome and she made the decision to reignite her literary flame. She wrote for independent fashion magazines such as Nylon, amongst others, before falling back into the world of retail: becoming a buyer for Jeannie Lee, owner of the luxury Los Angeles boutique Satine.
It was excellent exposure for the young fashionista. Satine was a hotspot for Hollywood celebrities with a keen eye for style. One of these celebrities, Canadian actress Mia Kirshner, provided an avenue into Urbinati’s next line of work: fashion consultant on The L Word, the hit television show on which she had a starring role.
It was here that Urbinati, arguably, was truly born. She dressed one of the actors on the show: Eric Lively, elder brother to actress and fashion icon Blake. When Lively went on to win an award for best-dressed man on television, “or something like that,” Urbinati recalled “I remember thinking, ‘Huh.'” It was then she realized she had a way with men’s styling.
Urbinati began freelance styling with a close friend of hers: Danny Masterson, an actor from That ’70s Show. When Masterton asked Bradley Cooper to co-host an event for their joint clothing boutique Confederacy, everything changed for the up-and-comer.
Urbinati and Cooper instantly hit it off, and subsequently Urbinati chose a series of three suits for Cooper’s press tour for The Hangover. Her choices involved the likes of designer Simon Spurr and became signature pieces almost overnight. Other early clients from this time included Gossip Girl actor and fashion icon Ed Westwick, along with Chris Evans of Fantastic Four and Captain America fame.
It wasn’t long until demand for her talents increased and Urbinati became one of the most influential and wanted stylists in Hollywood. She closed Confederacy in November 2013 after designing an entire suiting collection for it, allowing herself room to further expand as a personal and freelance stylist. Her success was put down to a combination of unique personal flair and respect for her clients’ boundaries.
Actor James Marsden trusted Urbinati so much he hired her as a personal shopper. “She knows what works for you, what works for your personality,” he remarked to The New York Times. “She gets my style.” Even New York designer Michael Bastain has praised the talented young fashionista, stating that he has “pulled stuff from my own closet to ensure she has what she needs… she’s the only one I would do that for.”
It’s no secret Urbinati has a monopoly of grounded celebrities under her wing. Less known, but no less impressive, are the myriad of established designers she has worked with: Gucci, Calvin Klein, Alexander McQueen and Acne, amongst others. Her reputation is a testament to the meticulous preparation she invests in every one of her clients, taking careful consideration of the elements “which are best suited to particular clients’ physiques… Armie Hammer, for instance, is 6’5, which means he will not be wearing the short-guy-friendly Band of Outsiders.”
Named of the 25 Power Stylists of 2014, Urbinati almost tripled her client roster in the space of a single year and now represents an impressive collective of 28 men and eight women. Says the stylist: “It was a crazy year — eight of my clients had films that were nominated [throughout awards season], and four of those were individual nominations.”
Her recent efforts were on full display at the 2015 Oscars, dressing Cooper in a classic Tom Ford tuxedo:
Ty Burrell of Modern Family fame was also content with Urbinati’s choice: a simple black tuxedo from designer Todd Snyder.
As seen with wife Holly at the 2014 Screen Actors Guild Awards:
Urbinati started working with actor Ryan Reynolds while he was promoting animated feature The Croods, along with the aforementioned James Marsden during his press tour for The Butler. Other big names that have recently fallen under the spell of Urbinati’s styling include Juliette Lewis, Steve Coogan and Divergent actor Theo James.
The celebrity stylist refers to the Jenny Packham turtleneck dress, worn by actress Nina Dobrev at the 2014 People’s Choice Awards, as her top styling decision; she particularly enjoyed the black, crystal-encrusted fabric it was made from. However, her most memorable moment came in hand-sewing Masters of Sex actress Lizzy Caplan into the Emilio Pucci gown she wore to the recent Golden Globes.
“Not my favorite thing to do, but the beading was so heavy that the sleeves had to be sewn on to the dress. I have no idea how she got out of it at the end of the night,” says Urbinati.
Urbinati dresses young up-and-comers, middle-aged dads and established movie stars alike, making them all appear distinctly fashionable while accounting for their body types and unique personalities. Beyond the red carpet she’s known to style front-row VIP’s for major fashion shows, Tommy Hilfiger amongst them.
A list of her favourite labels reads as a highlight reel of the fashion industry: Gucci, Thom Sweeney, Todd Snyder, Christopher Kane, Emilia Wickstead, Antonio Berardi, Preen, Wes Gordon… esteemed names that Urbinati may soon find herself standing amongst. Not content with remaining stagnant in an ever-evolving career, the stylist is now trying her hand as a designer. Her nuanced understanding of what makes a well-appointed man has allowing for a seamless transition from picking clothes to creating them.
Through designer Eddie Bauer’s Limited Edition she aims to bring the modern man’s needs to a legacy brand. As she detailed to GQ:
“I made a list of lines and Eddie Bauer was the first on the list. I love their history – they patented the very first down jacket. They dressed the first man to climb Mount Everest. And the story of Eddie himself and his wife was also really fascinating to me. So it seemed like a good fit.” She sent a top-to-bottom display of what she envisioned for the potential collaboration “to introduce a more tailored, modern fit, with a lot of attention to detail, but still classic.”
Urbinati kept her own clients in mind when designing the collaboration, stating that whilst they all had different styles, she wanted to create something that would work on a variety of men. Her favourite piece in the collection is a field jacket, as she reasons “the bright blue honestly looks good on every single guy who puts it on. Guys wear a lot of neutral colors so its fun to throw on a pop of rich bright color.” The limited-edition 28-piece menswear collection launches at select Eddie Bauer stores and online in early October 2015.
Until that line launches, Urbinati is going to continue doing what she does best: styling the most talented Hollywood celebrities in a way that befits their natural grace and elegance. Amongst the accolades of magazines and designer labels, her Twitter account holds a wry profile that best seems to sum up her chosen career path: “I shop for a living, poor me.”
If she hadn’t made the switch from Russian-inspired literary to behind-the-scenes fashion powerhouse, her bio would have read something very, very different. And, knowing Dostoyevsky, considerably bleaker.