Kelela is the mysterious R&B songstress from the DMV (Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia area) whose genre-melding sound has ushered in a new wave of musical possibilities. Known for pushing boundaries with her personal style as well, the Ethiopian-American beauty serves up a dreadlocked, half-shaven do and avant-garde sartorial choices that have earned her trendsetter status. Mischa Notcutt, a London-based stylist and creative director, is the mastermind behind Kelela’s ultramodern fits.
Kelela is a Matrix, Fifth Element futuristic deity, and we always like to keep an element of that in her styling.” —MISCHA NOTCUTT , STYLIST
From a disco ball–inspired Met Gala look to a Coachella cowgirl ensemble, some awe-inspiring moments have come from the stylist-star duo. “Kelela is a Matrix, Fifth Element futuristic deity,” says Notcutt, “and we always like to keep an element of that in her styling.” ESSENCE caught up with the fashion maven, who spilled the secrets to their magical partnership.
Her Deconstructed Suit
“Kelela is always up for supporting new designers. This look by A Sai Ta was for Paris Fashion Week. The ensemble has a feel of East meets West, with tailoring inspired by A Sai Ta’s Chinese and Vietnamese background paired with denim details on the trousers. Kelela wore jewelry from Alan Crochetti, who creates amazing pieces that sit in unconventional positions in your ears.”
That Foil-Bronze Getup
“This day was a stylist’s nightmare. Multiple pieces arrived, but nothing was working. The Sies Marjan outfit was the last to come, and when Kelela tried it on, it gave us that wow factor we needed [for the Parsons Benefit]. I loved the texture. It was perfect on her.”
The Futuristic Frock
“This ensemble was for the Rick Owens Fall 2019 runway show. It was the first time Kelela had attended multiple shows in Paris,
and we wanted to make it memorable. On this day she went to four, and at each one she wore something different. This dress was from her good friend Raul Lopez’s brand, Luar. We paired the dress with her staple, Maison Margiela Tabi boots.”
A Metallic Met Gala Gown
“Kelela had never gone to the Met ball before. Julien Dossena from Paco Rabanne invited her, and she was extremely honored, especially
because of the label’s history. It has included models of color since its inception in the 1960’s. We went through its archives to see past silhouettes and collaborated with the team for a fabulous result. It took us 120 hours to fabricate, and each metal disco bit was clasped together by hand. It was a true couture moment.”
The Coachella Cowgirl
“For her inaugural performance at the event, Kelela wanted to do something special. We elevated the usual festival attire by depicting her as a sheriff. I made a crystal chandelier cowboy hat with my wonderful assistant, Tyler Okuns. We paired it with a cool Christopher Kane piece, Adam Selman frames and crystal-detailed boots. It was a vibe.”