Celebrity stylist Maher Jridi has a special task at hand. After styling high-fashion editorial shoots on and off for eight years and completing two stints at both a modeling and a photography agency, the Parisian stylist decided it was time to settle down. And for about a month now, that’s meant working with rap-pop diva Nicki Minaj, helping transform her sartorial image from bougie Barbie to sexy bombshell.
Billboard spoke with Jridi about his love of tailors, how he hopes to meld his European sensibilities with Minaj’s urban roots, and, of course, that boob-baring moment at Paris Fashion Week.
How did you and Nicki first connect?
I’ve been styling on and off for about eight years now and during that time worked for a lot of great publications like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, as well as agencies like Art Partner and DNA Models. Helena Suric, the casting director at American Vogue, and also one of the best people I had the chance to work with at DNA Models and in general, referred me to Wilhelmina Agency, and they connected me with Nicki’s management team.
And you’ve only been working together for about two months now. What has the experience been like thus far?
We started working together two weeks before Paris Fashion Week, shooting videos in Miami. She had already planned to travel to Paris for Drake‘s concerts, so I thought it would be nice to fly a few days earlier for her to see shows that are considered a bit more “underground,” such as Rick Owens and Haider Ackermann; brands who have their own world and identity and are so creative.
Our first job together was also my first time seeing her perform on the set of a music video, and she made everything look so easy. Nicki really is a true professional and performer, and I’m learning new things every day thanks to her. The music business is a bit different than the fashion/editorial world.
How collaborative is the styling process between you two?
She’s very open to new ideas and I feel like she trusts my taste. Of course, she has her preferences, but she never opposes anything just because she’s never done it before.
You told Vogue that you’re “taking another direction” with Nicki. What does that mean and how would you describe that direction?
I see fashion as an art, particularly because I was professionally raised in the city of Haute Couture: Paris. There is such close attention paid to the quality of fabrics, designs, seamstresses, tailors and the singular “spirit” of each fashion house. I’m just aiming to bring my clients up to those standards.
What’s it like finding pieces to fit Nicki’s iconic hourglass shape?
Yes, most of the runway looks are sample sizes, so things are very straight along with fitted cuts. Nicki is a sexy, curvy woman, which I love, so to amplify that we tailor everything to make sure each piece sits perfectly on her body and every outfit complements her in the best possible way.
We know Nicki loves Balmain, Alexander McQueen, etc., but are there any rising designers you are excited to dress Nicki in?
Nicki loves to support up-and-coming designers just as much as I do. We love Unravel, Fear of God, Wanda Nylon and Ellery. We’re actually always on the lookout for new, creative and cool emerging designers.
How do you meld your French/European sensibilities with Nicki’s innate sense of hip-hop culture?
In this case, it’s just about taking everything to another level. Of course, everything has to be visually appealing and sexy, but sexy doesn’t always mean showing skin; sometimes it’s a little more subtle, or a bit more masculine and in your face. Most of all my attention is focused on the quality of the designs and that Nicki feels comfortable and feels like herself wearing them.
Speaking of sexy, tell us about that now-infamous Mugler asymmetrical top that bared her naked breast (nipple covered with a diamond-shaped pasty) at Paris Fashion Week.
To me, fashion is about having fun, trying new things, but most of all owning who you are and your body. We were getting ready the morning of the show, and Nicki saw that Mugler vintage top and liked it. I just so happened to have metallic Agent Provocateur nipple covers, and we just went for it. There wasn’t a big discussion; this was another one of those moments where things were just happening organically. I believe women should feel free to show skin without worrying about anyone’s opinion, I find confidence very sexy, but also respect and understand modesty at the same time. Freedom and acceptance is key, especially in the world we live in right now!
What’s one accessory you think will always complete Nicki’s look?
Her perfume (from her own line) and her smile. That goes beyond anything she could ever wear.
Describe Nicki’s style in three words.
Sexy, confident and daring.
What can we expect next from you two?
You will just have to wait and see for yourself…