Friends before they were fashion co-conspirators, Mukamal first met the singer-actress nearly a decade ago through his boyfriend. “A mutual friend of ours suggested that I help her with some things and we developed a really easy way of working together . . . it’s never really felt like work, fortunately,” he says.
Born in New York and raised in Westchester, Connecticut, Mukamal says he “always loved the power of clothes, and how you could really define yourself without saying anything or anyone ever knowing anything about you.” But it wasn’t until he returned to New York after studying history at the University Of Virginia that he began immersing himself in the style industry and honing his editorial chops.
“My friends were at NYU, Columbia, Barnard, New School and they had the luxury of living in New York and getting to intern throughout college. The day after I graduated my friend was like, 'Hey, will you come help us with this shoot for Vogue Russia at Milk Studios?' And I was like 'What’s Milk Studios?'" Mukamal recalls with a laugh. “That moment was kind of the beginning and the end in a way. I basically did not stop working after that. I was in the right place at the right time.”
Mukamal recently reflected on his work with Kravitz as both of their careers have burgeoned. Below is an excerpt from that conversation as part of Billboard's Stylist Spotlight series:
Among all of the incredible looks you’ve put Zoe in, which remains your favorite?
One of the very first things we did together. Zoe was going to the Venice Film Festival in 2014 and the look had to be something that was obviously pretty major. So I put her in a red Armani Privé gown. Her hair was straight then, and we slicked it back. I still think we are constantly trying to outdo that moment—she really came out of her shell in that one. It has kind of just snowballed since then.
The Oscar de la Renta gown and cape she wore at the Met Gala in May was spectacular. What was the collaboration like between you and the fashion house’s newly minted creative directors, Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia?
I loved their first collection for Oscar, and I actually have a very preppy side of me even though people think I’m very black and dark in how I dress. I have a great appreciation for the Oscar history, language and legacy. When the offer came in for the Met, I was super excited about it because I had already been dressing Zoe in some of the new collection. There was a look from the Fall collection that was a silver and red floral brocade top and pants, so when we had our first meeting with Fernando, I referenced that look but brought up the idea of using real flowers. Fernando’s eyes lit up and we just kind of went from there.
The black and pink color combination was a different direction for Zoe.
I didn’t want her wearing black because she wears so much of it. I through out the idea of pink and Fernando was like, “What if we did black roses with it?” Two hours later he sent me a couple of sketches, but the first one was that pink dress she wore with the cape—that first sketch is exactly what she wore. We spent the next month-and-a-half doing fittings and bringing it all to life.
The Oscar team is really beyond. They showed up with 15 colors of pink fabric and got right in touch with Barbra Scott, who does preserved flowers. At the second fitting, we had boxes and boxes of 10 different types of flowers dyed and placed perfectly. The night before the Met, the Oscar team also showed up with a full dress with embroidered black flowers on the bust just in case we weren’t feeling 100% confident that the real flowers would survive or that they’d fall apart. They had their bases covered.
For the first time in a while, ODLR truly has a presence on the carpet. It’s exciting seeing the brand return to the spotlight.
Oh definitely. And I think it’s a strong, biting presence. A lot of the other women that I keep my eyes on in terms of what they are wearing, and who’s getting the look I wanted Zoe to wear in a month from now—a lot of them are wearing Oscar.
Who are some younger designers you are interested in?
I’m very excited by people like Matthew Adams Dolan, Martine Rose, and Y/Project, but they are essentially impossible for Zoe to ever wear on a red carpet. I do a lot of editorial work, so my brain is split between the paragraph of looks that create a person’s red carpet style and how they are being presented to the world. And then the editorial, fantasy side of things where it’s more about re-imagining things.
Do you work with Zoe on looks for her band Lolawolf?
Not a ton. I am starting to work with her on a couple of things coming up, but traditionally in the past, she is the most stripped back version of herself for all of that—which is very much in line with the music and her. There is such a raw honesty to the sound and her performance, but I think there will definitely be opportunities coming up to collaborate with her on that without changing the essence of what she has already created.
Her new bleached pixie haircut is incredible, were you there when it happened?
I wasn’t there when the braids got cut. But her hairstylist, Nikki Nelms, posted a picture of the braids on the floor on Instagram, and I was like, “shit it happened!” It was a long time coming. She had been talking about getting rid of the braids and she had a role she wanted to have shorter hair for—and the timing was right. Honestly, it’s the kind of thing where I don’t know if I’ll ever want her to have long hair or braids again. When I look at her now, you see so much more of her. She’s already so petite and her features are so gorgeous—it’s almost as if it looks like a weight was lifted off of her. It opens up her face, you see more of her bone structure; it matured her in the best way.
Do you work with Future at all? We’ve seen him on your Instagram feed.
No, but I love him! I was brought on two years ago to work with a young men’s brand called Palm Angels. I do the shows and consult on the collection, and Future has been a big supporter of the brand. When I see him wearing stuff that I worked on and rep-ing the collection in an amazing way, I get really excited by it. The same thing goes for some of Alex Wang’s collections that I consult on. I posted a photo of The Rock wearing a shirt to the Bay Watch premiere that I consulted on. It’s an Oxford shirt with bikini babes all over it and I think it was just kind of perfect placement. So whoever styles the rock: mad props.