INTERVIEW WITH CRISTINA EHRLICH
Cristina Ehrlich has a gift for turning powerful women into dazzling red carpet stars. She has been an important figure in the world of fashion for more than two decades. During her successful career, she was named Celebrity Stylist of the Year in 2012 at New York Fashion Week's Style Awards and received a Marie Claire Image Maker Award in 2017. She plays to win in anything she does. With a list of acknowledged style stars as clients− Penelope Cruz, Mandy Moore, Greta Gerwig, Allison Williams, Laura Dern, and Tina Fey, to name a few, all eyes were on Ehrlich in Paris this season. She arrived in the City of Lights with singer-songwriter and actress Mandy Moore, her friend and a long-term client. Ehrlich was there to attend Paris Couture Week, a place where fashion is born from a place of imagination, as she once stated. I was there to do an exclusive interview and a photoshoot with the most prominent stylist of today.
„Mandy is just amazing! We have several shows to attend together this season and lots of fittings to do. I am looking forward to the days ahead“, she told me after we met in front of Le Petit Marché, a charming bistro where she just had dinner with Moore and some of her closest friends. Detail-oriented like a true Virgo, witty and ever-charming, she succeeded in her career because she is really good at putting the attention on other people, and has a gift for easily connecting with women and understanding them. „The beauty always comes from within“, said Ehrlich as we walked down the streets of Marais, her favorite Parisian quartier. „It's about wearing clothes that will make you stand out. Clothes should not swallow you up, nor overwhelm you. What you're wearing should be an extension of who you are and not the other way around.“ She has devoted her life to her career, always making sure to stay away from the spotlight. „The focus is not on me. When I am working with someone, I always want it to be about them, who they really are. I want them to stand out, I want them to shine. I think I'm good at understanding what women want. I work with a lot of comedians, actresses, writers and directors, true power figures of today's Hollywood. All of these women, especially in the aftermath of the Me Too movement, want to be perceived as powerful, but elegant and fashionable at the same time. It's not about looking and being sexy, it's about being your true self.“
Everything about Cristina Ehrlich is unpredictably wonderful. As we continued our walk, she often stopped to admire the cafés, the people on the streets and new Instagram filters that allow her to take retro photos of the corners that inspire her. “I love Paris! Isn’t it beautiful? You can find everything you need in this city, even great perfumes for like… six euros”, she said and took out a small perfume bottle out of her bag. “It’s Roger Gallet, so fresh and gingery! You should definitely try it. Here, put some on. You’ll love the scent”, she insisted and continued with a question: “So, what do you want to know about me? Ask away. Did you know I was a dancer?” There was a point in Ehrlich’s life when the spotlight was entirely on her. Born in New York and raised in California, she was fascinated with the art of movement from an early age.
She studied intensively at both the Martha Graham School and Alvin Ailey Academy, and she seemed to be enjoying dance so thoroughly that it led to her the New York University where she majored in contemporary dance. At the age of 27, she quit dancing and turned to her other passion− fashion. “Do you know Martha Graham? She’s fascinating. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being a dancer. Look at my body. I’m still a ballerina! I haven’t danced in years, but I still perceive dancing as the truest form of expression. I might start dancing at the photoshoot, so don’t be surprised”, she smiled and started to cambré holding on to the sidewalk pole. As we danced the night away, we agreed to meet three days later at the photo studio.
On the day of the photoshoot, I witnessed a powerful synergy between Ehrlich’s two passions. Stepping through the door, we entered a light-filled space. Ehrlich, an ageless beauty, told me she prepared some stunning outfits. She took out a long Oscar de la Renta gown from her suitcase, the one she wore the night before at the Valentino show. The bright fuchsia gown in wool crepe looked divine. It could be the choice of color− bright and unconventional, or the way Ehrlich holds herself− with a confident attitude, that made it stand out. „All of the clothing I brought to Paris, including the two gowns I'll wear today represent my style, a sleek and timeless aesthetic“, stated Ehrlich. „Let's lose the jewelry. I think I'll just keep the earrings. Don't you think the dress itself is perfect?“, she asked as I realized that fashion to Ehrlich, just like a dance, is a form of expression without the use of words. It's personal, real and raw. It's about storytelling, her own form of escapism. „Okay, I need some music and we can start. Let's find Pina Bausch, she is my life!“, she stated as I searched for Jun Miyake's composition Lilies of the Valley.
As she started dancing, I noticed something ethereal about her being able to express herself emotionally. Her body told a story that is difficult to put in words. Her fragility was also her strength. Her movements were indescribable. As fashion and dance collided, I witnessed the art to enchant.
For the next outfit, she opted for another Oscar de la Renta gown, this time a black one with elongated straps embroidered with gleaming gold leaves. Both gowns come from the Pre Fall 2019 collection. „I'm an Oscar girl, what can I do!“ As I approached the end of Ehrlich's fantastical performance− as this was more than just an editorial shoot, there was one more outfit for her to wear, the one styled by a fellow celebrity stylist Cedric Haddad. Haddad chose for Ehrlich an oversized white shirt and classic elongated black pants. „Let's put some rings on, and loosen up the hair. We don't want to over-accessorize you. You look so beautiful as it is“, said Haddad before the two stepped in front of the camera to make a couple of photos together. There was instant compatibility as they portrayed the Yin and Yang of fashion.
The editorial was shot by a Sarajevo-based photographer Almin Zrno. He beautifully managed to capture the essence of a woman whose charisma, poise and charm inspire everyone to dream a dream of fashion beyond ephemerality.
(Interview was originally published in CIIN magazine, July 2019.)