Stylist with the key to Lady Gaga's wardrobe

Nicola Formichetti's British Fashion Awards triumph is a belated nod to the industry's unsung heroes

Among the roster of models, designers and famous faces celebrated at the British Fashion Awards this week was one name that people beyond the industry may not have heard.

The stylist Nicola Formichetti, 33, who received the Isabella Blow award for Fashion Creator, usually works behind the camera, but it's his job to make you take notice of what's going on in front of it. "I was so happy to be nominated," he said after he won the award on Tuesday. "I really wasn't expecting to win."

It's a sentiment that many a more disingenuous winner might espouse at an awards ceremony, but Formichetti's surprise – and indeed, his win – is evidence of a rising tide of recognition in the fashion industry for those whose intuition and visual flair manage to keep it fresh.

Working on magazines such as Dazed & Confused and Vogue Japan, as well as styling the singer Lady Gaga, Formichetti's visionary talents and fashion eye have become an international phenomenon. It was he who put the outré style icon in her gigantic pompadour at this year's Brit awards; he who convinced her to wear a phone on her head; and he who dresses her in her now standard-issue uniform of S&M bondage gear for many of her music videos.

Formichetti, who was born in Japan to an Italian father and a Japanese mother, has also worked as a consultant for fashion brands, including Prada, D&G, Missoni, Adidas, Nike, Uniqlo and MAC.

"Stylists are facilitators," says the fashion commentator Caryn Franklin. "They channel energy, they pick up on trends way before they happen on the catwalk. They're the key people in the industry who have something to say."

And they're coming more and more to the fore, as Formichetti's award proves. Last year's recipient of the same award was Grace Coddington, creative director of American Vogue, whose body of work and shoots for the magazine comprise some of the most elegant and inspirational fashion imagery of the late 20th century.

But stylists have been helping designers and creating magazines' personae for decades. The term was coined in the 1920s, when department stores began hiring individuals on the merit of their sartorial flair to try to link the disparate elements of the modern wardrobe into something more accessible and, importantly, commercial.

"The post of 'stylist' has been created in some of the better American stores," reported the Daily Express in 1928. "The duties consist of informing the bag department of the trends in the shoe department, and the glove department what is happening in the costume department."

The role has come a long way, with stylists now indispensable both on the high street, where they help customers with personal shopping advice, and at high-end labels, where they consult with designers to create a suitable feeling or mood for their seasonal catwalk show. Stylists such as Formichetti and Coddington, as well as the editor of LOVE magazine, Katie Grand, French Vogue's editor, Carine Roitfeld, and the senior fashion editor at US Harper's Bazaar, Melanie Ward, work alongside designers as consultants.

"In the Nineties, as fashion became more democratised, stylists began using streetwear to up the ante," says Caryn Franklin. "They made very high-end ideas available to the mass market, in a combination of visual marketing and just knowing the right elements. People like Simon Foxton [who styled Levi's campaigns in the Nineties] gave denim a sense of personality."

Personality is key, of course, with latter-day stylists making their mark by dressing celebrities. Rachel Zoe became a high-profile name after dressing starlets including Nicole Ritchie and Mischa Barton in the mid-Noughties; her signature look – a size-zero frame accessorised with boho curls, enormous sunglasses and a maxi-dress – became so widely imitated that her fans became known as "The Zoebots". Zoe herself has in the past year made the leap to designing her own range of clothing, as has Melanie Ward. Nicola Formichetti, meanwhile, was in September appointed as creative director at the French label Thierry Mugler.

Where stylists have more usually worked alongside designers, they are now emulating them. One of fashion's most influential names, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons, began her career as a stylist, and turned to designing when she found that she couldn't express herself fully through extant fashions. They may not have the technical expertise but they have the vision.

"A good stylist is worth their weight in gold," Ms Franklin continues. "You can put yourself in their hands and know that they are highly visually sophisticated and literate."

Behind the scenes, behind the styles

Grace Coddington

The creative director of American Vogue shot to fame after the documentary The September Issue showed a behind-the-scenes glimpse of her daily travails as one of the fashion industry's most influential stylists. Her shoots range from elegant and romantic to modern and avant-garde, and are characterised by a minute attention to detail.

Melanie Ward

Ward's urban-grunge style embodied the zeitgeist of the mid-Nineties, when she worked with the designer Helmut Lang to develop a sleek, minimal modern aesthetic. A senior fashion editor at US Harper's Bazaar, she is one of the first stylists to have dictated a mood not only in high-end fashion but also on the high street.

Rachel Zoe

Celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe caused a stir in the mid-Noughties with her extreme "skinny and sunglasses" trademark look, favoured by the likes of LA starlets Nicole Richie and Mischa Barton. She became a celeb in her own right, and has since starred in the reality TV show The Rachel Zoe Project and launched her own line of clothing last June.

Arts and Entertainment
arts + entsWith one of the best comic roles around, it's no wonder she rarely bothers with films
News
people
News
i100
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
ebookAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
News
i100
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
News
i100
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    (Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

    Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

    £55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

    £60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Principle Geotechnical Engineer

    £55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Day In a Page

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup