Star Stylist Niki Schwan
The breadth of Nicki Minaj stylist and Vibe Magazine Fashion Director Niki Schwan's experience working with everyone from Quincy Jones to Courtney Love compelled Schwan to leave styling in the late '90s to start her own brand, Lura Starr.
"I took a break from the music industry for a while," Schwan says. "I felt like it wasn't my number one for the long term, and I had an idea for a brand. So I started designing the brand and it somehow still brought me back to the music industry."
The marriage of a personal line and experience in music styling led her to one of her most memorable gigs. "I was approached to make a custom bikini for the David LaChappelle / Mariah Carey Rollling Stone cover. That cover was huge because that was a time when fashion was mixing with the urban market -- it was very crossover."
In 2009 Schwan was approached to help relaunch the magazine Vibe. "They came to me and said, 'We really believe that you are the person to rebuild this brand and the fashion department with us.'"
With the goal of putting Vibe back on the map, Schwan influenced cover concepts, resulting in one of the best-selling Vibe covers of all time -- the June 2010 shoot with NIcki Minaj. "I had never even met her and I made the costume exactly to her measurements and she was shocked. She said to me, 'I want this to be the costume that goes in my Hard Rock case.' Vibe has always been known for launching artists careers... and we were the first to do her in that way."
This initial collaboration with Minaj resulted in Schwan styling Nicki for her first album, "Pink Friday." "She wanted color and I made most of the 'Pink Friday' outfits. That was a magical day. Nicki really doesn't like to do fittings. She wont even do fittings for a video because her energy and moods change. You could fit an outfit for her and she could decide in two hours that she's not in that mood anymore. She's really artistic and creative to the umpteenth power."
Schwan continues to work with Minaj, most recently choosing Nicki's notable beige pantsuit at the VMAS. "She has a great sense of style and she's very avant garde. I really feel like it's obvious the times that I have done her in the last few months. People have been able to say on Twitter, 'Niki Schwan, where were you? I know you didnt do that!' The times when I have done her, people say it's had my touch all over it, and that's a good feeling."
Despite working with a diversity of clients and bodytypes, Schwan points out three important rules to follow as a stylist:
"Fit is essential. I think so many times people want to wear a certain look or a certain style but its just not right for their body. As women we are all paranoid about being fat. I really studied how vintage fashions are built out how the undergarments are supposed to work -- even before Spanx hit I was using girdles. If I have to take less money to have a tailor on site, I do, because I would sooner ensure that my fit is going to be right than not."
"Number two is that I really like to make sure that whatever we are doing is current so the artist can translate the look as a current trend as well as have a timeless, classic appeal. I really want someone in 20 years to look at this and say, 'That sh*t is FLY! Thats Hot!' Not like, 'What were they thinking!'"
"Some women are more patient to wear things that are less comfortable than others. Nicki Minaj always likes to be comfortable. She wont even squeeze herself into something even if she really needs to get into it. While some women are more like, 'OK, Ill wear those shoes even if they kill my feet because they are hot.' Comfort affects our mood. If you can't breathe or if your feet are killing you it translates in the pictures. I try and find ways that make the picture look really hot and dynamic while still being comfortable."