Secrets of a Stylist: Alicia Keys’ Go-To Girl Fills Us In On The Star’s Favorite Designers

Spencer Cain

During the past year, Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys has been hitting the red carpet in edgy, chic, and sophisticated looks, and for that there’s one person to thank: her stylist Laura Jones. The duo clearly work well together, and they’re taking the collaboration to the next level, as Jones has styled Keys’ international Set the World on Fire tour, which began on March 7.

We caught up with Jones to discuss the differences between styling for the red carpet and a major tour, as well as what it feels like when Keys hits the red carpet and critics respond to her look.

StyleCaster: You’ve been working with Alicia for about a year. Does she give a lot of input, or does she let you take control?

Laura Jones: Quite honestly, the process with her has been super-collaborative, which I really enjoy. We have a constant dialogue going on about inspirations for fashion, and new designers that she might like, or looks that we’ve seen. We discuss feedback after we’ve done a really big appearance, like what we loved about it and what to change for the next time. Alicia really likes clothes, and she really likes to be super-involved in the process. We really enjoy having that creative dialogue, and talking it through and pushing each other, making sure that we’re always trying something new and building on what we’ve done before.

You’re styling her tour, which is awesome. What’s different about styling a celebrity for a red carpet than a tour or a concert?

The differences are mainly in the aesthetic, but there are also of course practical differences. The costumes have to last a long time onstage and be able to endure high energy performances. For the tour, we had to find a way to blend practicality with the aesthetic. On a red carpet, the celebrity is very stoic and relaxed. You arrive at the event and you sit down—it’s all gentle and sophisticated. When you’re performing, there’s a movement element, and there’s also the very important aspect of making sure every look feeds into the overall vibe created by the performance and the music. A red carpet look is a fashion moment—literally. A tour is a series of looks and you have to find the perfect blend and make sure it all goes together in one cohesive package and that one look doesn’t stand out from others.

Did Alicia come to you with ideas for the tour? Did you guys have an initial vision, and how did you execute it?

The tour is something we’ve been thinking about for a very long time. We have been taking notes throughout the year and having a constant dialogue. We’d see a look and say, “I love this element. It really works. It could be something we should consider for the tour.” Then we’d email the designers and see if we could work with them. Alicia definitely had a vision for it, and we developed it together. It happened quite organically. We had an arsenal of creative ideas behind us that we went through, edited, and built an aesthetic that we were both thrilled with.

What designers did you use for the tour?

We used Michael Kors for the closing look. After we had such a great experience working with him for Alicia’s Inauguration dress, it really made sense for us to close the tour in the same spirit. And for the majority of the show, we worked with Albert Kriemler of Akris, whom we both just adore. He has this wonderful way of melding functionality and simplicity and chicness with a sexy, sophisticated edge that works super well for Alicia. It suits her aesthetic, as well as the vibe of the tour. He did a lot of custom looks for her. As the tour progresses, we’re switching in different looks to keep it feeling fresh.

Over the past year, Alicia has really stepped out in some edgy, higher-style looks. Do you have a personal favorite?

That’s hard. That’s like choosing a favorite child. We have had a lot of fun, and we’ve really been trying to explore new looks and take risks. It’s good to see that people are noticing, and feel the same way. We have a really wonderful relationship with Alaia. We met with him in Paris last fashion week, and he’s really a divine person, and his clothing is just so gorgeous, so I have to say that anything that we’ve done that involves him has been such a pleasure from beginning to end. I think the Grammys look in particular in Alaia was really striking, and really beautiful.

For people who don’t have stylists, do you have a few simple styling tips that they can incorporate into their everyday wardrobe?

I honestly think that one of the most important things is to be realistic about your body and your shape. Simplify your pieces and simplify your look before building too much on it. Don’t cater to trends. I think that someone can fall into the trap of switching the silhouette or the shape of their clothing according to a trend rather than what’s the most flattering. Women look the most chic and beautiful if they’re catering exactly to their shape and ignoring trends. Something that looks beautiful is always going to stay trendy.

Are there three staple pieces that you think everyone needs to have in their wardrobe?

Definitely a great pair of stilettos, the perfect tailored pant, preferably a cigarette-pant, and a really perfectly tailored shirt.

As a stylist, you’re working so hard on a look to get it out there. How do you feel once she’s finally out there, and when you see coverage in the press?

I guess that’s the moment that you live for. That’s the end goal, so it’s always incredibly exciting, and when we have great feedback, and when we have great press, even if it’s just a moment where Alicia comes to me afterwards, and says, “I felt really amazing,” then we’ve done a really good job. That’s a really rewarding feeling, and it kind of propels you to move forward and try harder, making sure that you’re always hitting that bar every single time.